We received an anonymous submission that raised new questions with regard to the infamous image of Dzhokhar, a suspect in the Bostong bombing, “fleeing the scene”. Every news organization interpreted the picture differently but many arrived at the same general observation: the suspect, Dzhokhar, is seen fleeing from the explosions without his backpack.

Interestingly enough, several psychologists who were interviewed by leading media outlets came to the same conclusion but with a different emphasis on the way in which their observations were presented: the body language and facial expression as seen on Dzhokhar from this image mirrors the cold and calculated reaction of a killer, as if it were all part of the “plan”.
Picture
Photograph: David Green via WCVB
Above is a copy of the image from which the media and general public have formed these opinionated observations, or, assumptions. What were your assumptions regarding the suspect when you first saw this image? Now, hold that thought.
Scientists of mass (or, crowd) psychology recognize this phenomenon as “collective panic”. According to Britannica.com, there are four distinguishing features to collective panic:

  • First, several persons in social contact with one another simultaneously exhibit intense fear and either flee (or demonstrate disorganization leading toward flight) or remain immobile. Second, each individual’s fear and his evaluation of the danger are augmented by the signals he receives from others. Third, flight is indicated as the only conceivable course of action by the signals each is receiving from others. Fourth, the usual rules according to which individuals adjust their behaviour so as not to work at cross-purposes are nullified. In the more dramatic instances of collective panic, people trample one another in vain efforts to reach safety.

The consequence can be described as a cocktail of emotions and perceptions, which leads to individual reactions, such as panic and irrational behavior. The operative word is individual. Even the most experienced psychologist cannot analyze an individual reaction from just one photo taken from just one second in time.

Initial presumptions made by media outlets about Dzhokhar’s flight behavior based on this single photo should be examined and presented for discussion. The media has a responsibility to present clear, concise, and investigative information to the public. However, at least in this regard, the information was purely opinionated. 

Were your assumptions any different upon first seeing this image of Dzhokhar? Were those assumptions at all affected by the context in which they were presented?


Sources:


Marie
5/27/2013 10:40:03 pm

He looks no more or less concerned than the man directly in front of him. Or the one that was standing behind him, somewhat calmly staring off in the direction of the blast. And let's not forget in the wider shot of this picture there's an elderly man standing and appearing to be smiling (does anyone have a link to that picture?). In my humble opinion, Dzhokhar isn't reacting abnormally or looking guilty. When I first saw this, he didn't stand out to me any more than the others in the picture. I don't really see what makes him appear so guilty (other than he doesn't appear to have his bag). And even that is a weak argument as try said they recovered hundreds of bags left behind when people fled. I don't know. Those are just my random thoughts.

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Olivia
5/27/2013 11:01:09 pm

I agree with Marie & I have a copy of the picture with the elderly man smiling in it (he's definitely smiling), but I don't have a link to it.

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TruthNow88
5/28/2013 07:09:58 am

Here is the highest resolution version I am able to find of the image in question.
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/thelede/posts/suspect-number-2.JPG

I find it kind of funny that if you zoom in on Dzhokhars left hand in this image you can visibly see the photoshop editing where his fingers are cut off and are in the hair of the woman on front of him... what a sloppy job... kind of obvious to see when you have the high res version of this picture. Anyways this "arm" edit was done to moved Dzhokhars arm back & up, to cover the backpack he is still wearing... you know the one they say was exploded just minutes before this picture was taken.

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TruthNow88
5/28/2013 07:24:52 am

Correction: His sloppy photoshoped fingers aren't quite in her hair, but are just above her left shoulder. You can also see a piece of Dzhokhars original wrist position and a faded piece of his original arm position.

You can zoom in fairly close on this image but if you zoom in even further using a photo editing program it is fairly obvious (as I said they did a sloppy job).

TruthNow88
5/28/2013 07:25:04 am

Correction: His sloppy photoshoped fingers aren't quite in her hair, but are just above her left shoulder. You can also see a piece of Dzhokhars original wrist position and a faded piece of his original arm position.

You can zoom in fairly close on this image but if you zoom in even further using a photo editing program it is fairly obvious (as I said they did a sloppy job).

Marie
5/28/2013 07:41:30 am

Thanks for the high res version. It gives a great view of the entire scene. Something I find interesting, though I'm not sure what if anything it means, is the woman on the far right in the blue hoodie I would argue is the same woman standing fairly close to Martin and his family in that one picture of them with Dzhokhar in the background. Again, not sure what that means if anything, but it's interesting that she is all the way there. I'll try to find a copy of that picture. But again, just my opinion.

5/27/2013 11:58:43 pm

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/assets_c/2013/04/boston-marathon-suspect-runner-cropped-proto-custom_28.jpg

^^Link to the wideshot.

And everything I was thinking, Marie said.

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Marie
5/28/2013 01:09:24 am

Katie, thank you! That was the exact copy of that one that I was looking for too. I appreciate it. In that view, it's pretty clear that Olivia is right that the elderly man IS in fact smiling. How is that not more suspicious than running away (allegedly) without his backpack? I just don't see how they picked him out of this shot as the most suspicious looking young man. Again, thanks for the link!

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Prudence
5/28/2013 03:46:17 am

To be fair, he was already identified as a suspect when they released this photo to the public. Granted, he's running away just like everyone else. This photo never screamed suspicious to me. They merely wanted to make a point that it appears he is without his backpack post bombing.

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Anon
5/28/2013 04:44:18 am

You take any innocuous photograph and charge it with negative emotions, insinuations - people respond by taking sides, yes or no. But we're all trapped in the same paradigm, the wrong paradigm - no one's questioning the underlying assumptions or the culpability of the media.

The same goes for Jahar's tweets. I watched a criminologist on television deconstruct his tweets and conclude his guilt "his target was America". How any self-respecting criminologist would base his assessment on twitter feed is beyond me. Just saying.

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Marie
5/28/2013 05:44:01 am

(I'm commenting so much lately, geez. Not to dominate the conversations or anything, I just have a lot of thoughts on these topics.)

You bring up some great points, Anon.

-If I put a picture online and told someone what to see - good or bad - it would be hard to UNsee whatever it was I planted in your mind with my words, regardless of what was really being shown. Everyone said Dzhokhar looked guilty as he calmly left the scene, so that's what people see him as being/doing.

-Also, my POV is if we can't conclude Dzhokhar's innocence through his tweets about being lifeguard, in the Big Brother/Best Buddies program, being captain of his wrestling team, or being a scholar then I don't see how we can use his song lyrics to conclude his guilt. Either way, a Twitter account is no way to judge someone's innocence or guilt. However, if you're going to go one way, you need to enable the other as well. Either you use the tweets for both showing his positive AND "negative(?)" sides or just leave the tweets alone. My thoughts.

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TruthNow88
5/28/2013 06:57:21 am

I find it interesting that no one seems to be talking about the discrepancy with Dzhokhars hat at the marathon.

Ralph Lauren Big Pony Polo Cap - http://www.newpoloralphlaurenshirts.com/images/2013%20new%20Polo%20Ralph%20Lauren%20AAA%20quality%20washable%20snapback%203%20graphite%20big%20pony%20chino%20cap%20white.JPG
(all white, black polo player on front, black #3 on both sides)

Suspect 1A - White Hat with [Black #3]
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/thelede/posts/suspect-number-2.JPG
http://static4.businessinsider.com/image/5170689169bedd2712000000-300/fbi.jpg
http://25.media.tumblr.com/d01d53261868cc1291f91079a47dd1b9/tumblr_mnafu7aEo11sp3rjao1_500.jpg

Suspect 1B - White Hat with [Black #2]
http://static5.businessinsider.com/image/51706a646bb3f7ca4b000010-960/screen%20shot%202013-04-18%20at%205.48.19%20pm.jpg
http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20130425/NEWS04/130425015/Bomb-suspects-planned-second-attack-Times-Square?nclick_check=1
http://biblicaltruth.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/boston-28_2540936b.jpg
http://english.ahram.org.eg/Media/News/2013/4/24/2013-635024009643702559-370.jpg

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Anon2
5/28/2013 03:34:13 pm

What about the hat in the pic where he is watching the marathon by himself.I don't know the link for that pic...anyone? His hat has writing (polo branding) on the back of the hat-he is wearing the back of the hat on his forehead. It is not the same one as in the pics where he is with his brother.

http://www.ralphlauren.com/product/index.jsp?productId=11363357&cp=1766205.3512715&ab=viewall&view=all&parentPage=family

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Anon2
5/28/2013 03:48:56 pm

ok, just got feedback from someone (anonymous) that the branding is there when you zoom in closely (which I did and can I can sort of make out some black pixels). It should have been more obvious and now I'm assuming that it was photoshopped out in order to protect the brand...thoughts, thoughts

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Anon
5/28/2013 08:30:25 pm

Sorry I can't provide the link because I don't have it at hand but there is also a photo of his face up close, while watching the marathon, but the edge of the hat is within the his hair, if that makes sense. In short it suggests the hat was digitally put on his head- thoughts? Was that photo of him fabricated to make him look like he was there?

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Marie
5/29/2013 12:14:38 am

This picture? http://media2.wptv.com//photo/2013/04/23/Dzhokhar_Tsarnaev_20130423071204_320_240.JPG

I don't know what to make of it because it does look quite suspicious that his hair tufts out that way where his hat should be covering it. The unfortunate part is we have no way of knowing exactly who tampered with the photo, but I think we can agree that something WAS done to it.

Another thing I noticed was just how white his hat appears. That could be my personal opinion, but looking at other things that are white fabric in the bigger picture of this one, his hat just seems much brighter (if that makes sense at all).

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