If you wanted to purge your social media accounts of those
who push conspiracy theories, this weekend was your opportunity. The sudden
death of billionaire pedophile and friend to the rich and famous, Jeffrey
Epstein, brought the tinfoil hat crowd out of the woodwork and into plain view
on the internet.
Within a few hours of the news of Epstein’s death on Saturday,
keyboard warriors were advancing theories that reflected their political biases.
Rather than a suicide, Epstein was killed by the Clintons, the Trump Administration,
Russia, or the British royal family, depending on who you don’t like. And that’s
if you think he’s dead at all. Some woke users advanced the idea that Epstein’s
death had been faked so that he could be inserted into the witness protection program.
The fact that there is so far not a shred of evidence that Epstein’s death is
anything other than what it seems has done nothing to stop the conspiracy theorists
who knew from the moment that they read the headline that their suppositions
While Epstein’s death seems convenient to numerous powerful
people on the surface, the reality is different. While Epstein won’t be around
to name names, he leaves behind a mountain of evidence. A search
warrant had already been served on the accused sex trafficker’s Palm Beach home
and investigators likely have incriminating photos, videos, and documents that can
be used to indict co-conspirators. A potential murderer would have to know that
Epstein’s death might not be the end of their own problems.
Epstein’s death might actually mean more trouble for co-conspirators
who were caught on film or mentioned in his papers. Adam Klasfield of Courthouse
News pointed out on Twitter that “no one else will have the standing to challenge the search warrant on his
house. Everything will be admissible against any other defendant without
possibility of a motion to suppress.”
Throughout the weekend, people asked the question of how
Epstein could have committed suicide while on suicide watch from his previous
attempt. The answer turned out to be that he was no longer on suicide watch. The
question then became who removed him from suicide watch and why. It seems very
suspicious until you find out details of how suicide watches work.
An interesting Twitter thread by C.Z. Edwards, who has experience with suicide watches in clinical
facilities, explains the procedure. Inmates are typically not kept on suicide
watch for more than 72 hours because it entails many things that could actually
drive a person to want to kill themselves even more. Suicide watches include
checks by guards every 15 minutes, having the lights on all day, no clothing other
than a safety smock, no linens for a bare vinyl mattress, limited reading material
with no other media allowed, and no privacy. Even bathroom breaks are
supervised. She notes that about a third of in-patient suicides occur while the
patient is on suicide watch. In other cases, inmates convince doctors that the
danger is over and then bide their time until they have another chance to
attempt suicide. That seems to be what happened to Epstein.
There is also evidence that guards at the prison dropped the
ball. The New York
Times reported today that a procedure that required guards to check on Epstein
every 30 minutes was not followed the night before his death. The jail also allegedly
transferred out his cellmate and allowed him to be housed alone two weeks after
being taken off suicide watch, another violation of procedure.
Epstein certainly had reason to want to kill himself. Up
until a few months ago, he had the world at his fingertips, but in his last
months, he had totally lost control of his life. He was at the mercy of the
judicial system and would likely face a humiliating public trial to be followed
by spending the rest of his life in prison.
Even though Epstein had the means and the motive to want to
kill himself, it isn’t impossible that he was murdered. If we assume that
Epstein was murdered, what about the difficulty of covering the trail of an
assassin who just killed the most infamous inmate in America? Epstein’s death
was certain to invite close scrutiny and a jail is a closely monitored facility.
There are cameras, guards, locked doors, and records of who goes in and out.
Any murderer would leave a trail that could be quickly followed.
Among the most unlikely suspects for a murder attempt would
be the Clintons. The #ClintonBodyCount meme is a long-running joke that applies
blame to the Clintons for pretty much any death within six degrees of
separation. The Clintons are blamed for suicides and deaths from natural causes
in addition to actual murders such as that of Seth Rich. Yet, to those who bother
to look at the actual facts of the cases, the conspiracy claims don’t stand up
The Clintons are said to have a motive because of Bill’s
relationship with Epstein, yet the fact that we already know about their friendship
cancels out the motive. The Clintons are said to be so sinister and sly that
they have killed as many as 100 people and never been caught (even though everyone
except law enforcement seems to know that they are guilty), yet Hillary was so
incompetent that she forgot to visit the Rust Belt in 2016. The contrast between
the two claims, which are often made by the same people, strains credulity.
Further, the allegations against Bill Clinton were made by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a former Epstein
employee, rather than by Epstein himself. Yet Giuffre, an easy target outside of
the prison, remains alive while Epstein does not. Likewise, Ken Starr, Juanita
Broaddrick, and Monica Lewinsky are all still breathing despite crossing the Clintons.
President Trump retweeted an allegation by a follower that blamed the Clintons for Epstein’s death yet it
is Donald Trump’s Justice Department that will investigate. If there is evidence
that the Clintons are complicit in Epstein’s death – or anyone else’s – it would
give the president a good reason to “lock her up,” but he hasn’t done so.
And speaking of Trump, the president also makes a poor suspect.
Although Mr. Trump also seems to have a motive in covering up his associations
with Epstein as well as the opportunity to clear a path for the hit by virtue
of his control of the Department of Justice, this also seems farfetched when
examined more closely.
Fresh from the Russia investigation, Mr. Trump hopefully learned
from the experience that it isn’t a good idea to flout the law. The Mueller
report revealed the president to be willing to order aides to disobey the law,
but, when they refused to follow illegal orders, the president did not force
the issue by firing those who refused to fire the special counsel. It seems
unlikely that he would act more forcefully to order a hit on a federal inmate. Trump
would have to assume that anyone who received such an order would be quickly writing
memorandums to memorialize the occasion in case there is another investigation
if not to leak the information directly to the press.
The royal family and the Russians also don’t pass the logic
test. The royal family might have a motive, given the allegations that Prince
Andrew had sex with Epstein’s girls, but lacked an opportunity. Such an
assassination, if it went bad, would jeopardize relations with Britain’s
closest ally at a time when it is trying to develop closer trade ties due to
the looming Brexit. The Russians have less to lose and fewer inhibitions about assassinations
but lack a motive. Putin’s intention seems to be to weaken the US by wreaking
political havoc. To that end, Epstein was probably more useful alive and able
to spin yarns about everyone from the president on down.
As I write this, information is just coming about Epstein’s
Occam’s Razor is a principle of logic that holds that when
there are two possible explanations for an occurrence, the simplest one is usually
correct. In a case like this, that means that the probability that the prison
personnel messed up and unintentionally allowed Epstein to kill himself is the
most likely explanation. If there was a conspiracy, evidence will probably surface
given the tightly-controlled nature of prisons and the propensity of people to
talk and make mistakes that leave a trail. My favorite aphorism, Hanlon’s Razor,
puts it more succinctly: “Never attribute to malice that which can be
adequately explained by stupidity.”
A lot of people posting conspiracy memes probably don’t
really believe them. Many of the memes are funny and are probably shared in a
spirit of fun. Nevertheless, as we’ve seen in recent years, conspiracy theories
can be taken seriously by the suggestible people and can sometimes lead to real
violence. We’ve seen time and again in recent years how heated
political rhetoric can spur radicals to resort to violence. A lot of people
that I thought were reasonable and sensible have jumped on the conspiracy
bandwagon over the weekend.
The one thing that both sides seem to agree on is that they
believe the other side to be capable of anything, including murder. In an already
tense political situation, spreading conspiracy theories only serves to further
inflame political passions. We should all sit back, take a deep breath, and wait
for the facts before we make up our minds rather than squaring facts with what
we want to believe.