Ace has a smart post about leftist contrarianism to the point of nihilism that springboards off of this, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.

A group of about a dozen supporters cheered as the motorcade carrying Tsarnaev arrived at the courthouse. The demonstrators yelled “Justice for Jahar,” as Tsarnaev is known. One woman held a sign that said, “Free Jahar.”

Others held signs claiming Tsarnaev’s innocence, while suggesting elaborate conspiracies surrounding the bombing and Tsarnaev’s arrest.

“I’m here to show Dzhokhar support, to let him know there are thousands of people worldwide that do believe his innocence,” Mary Churback of Freetown told WBZ-TV news.

I don’t think the “Free Jahar” cranks are liberals trying to one-up each other on how transgressive they can be, I think they’re a combo of (a) teen girls/young women who find Tsarnaev’s doe-eyes too dreamy and vulnerable to have evil in them and (b) the Alex-Jones-ish conspiracy true believers who have seized on him as as a target of opportunity. If this were mainly about contrarianism, we should have seen similar protesters chanting “Free Najibullah” when this turd got pinched four years ago. We didn’t. Why? Because he looked the part in a way poor little mop-top Dzhokhar doesn’t and his road to capture was too low-profile to give conspiracists any public traction by making a stink about it.

If you’re looking for a deeper social pathology here, I’d look at the quasi-mainstreaming of conspiracy theorists via people like Jones. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but it’s harder to imagine this scene outside the courthouse playing out before 9/11 than it is now even though nihilistic counterculturalism was alive and well then too. Could be that 9/11 shook something loose in the public by exploding the illusion of U.S. invulnerability, and/or it could be that the government’s reaction to it ever since has nurtured paranoia. And, to repeat a point made many times before, the Internet (which came into its own only after 9/11) helps these people find each other in a way that would have been more difficult before, which makes it easier for them to organize. It’s a bad stew, and maybe ostentatious contrarianism is enabling it. But I don’t think that’s what’s driving it.

Anyway. Tsarnaev ended up pleading not guilty to all charges, which is good because it means the death penalty is still on the table.