On Saturday morning, news surfaced that convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, while being held in prison in Manhattan awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking of minors, was found dead in his prison cell. Within minutes of the news breaking, the social media world descended into a chaos rarely seen. As news outlets, rather bizarrely, instantly started describing the death as an ‘apparent suicide’ (such language is usually withheld for a time to allow investigations and autopsies to be performed), life online was utterly overwhelming. Anything else being discussed was summarily sidelined, and cries of conspiracy came ushering in from all corners of the digital world. As numb as many of us are to the ceaselessness of newsfeeds and Twitter threads, there was something so strong in the way this came at us, that it was difficult to not feel a sort of disorientation. After all, Epstein’s death creates for us all, thousands of questions. Our justified sense that those questions will go unanswered, or at least obfuscated to the point of confusion and uncertainty, only compounds the feeling that something has gone completely awry.
There’s little point in going through the particulars of the various conspiracy theories that have been brought forth, all you have to do to be immersed in those is to, well, immerse yourself in them. The idea of Epstein’s death as conspiracy is the only thing that you won’t have any trouble finding. Rather, what is so tragically fascinating about this is how many of the people and institutions routinely discussed as conspiratorial actors have been pulled into this thing. Epstein’s longtime and widespread sex–trafficking ring has implicated some of the world’s most powerful people, either directly through testimony, or indirectly through the connecting–of–dots. Whatever you make of his death, it’s quite clear that Epstein’s operation went right to the top. It is this confluence of wealth, power, and influence, that makes the simple explanation that Epstein killed himself rather difficult to swallow. After all, even that possibility is nothing like simple.
In order to go along with the idea of Epstein having just managed to sneak in a moment to end his own life, you would have to confront a series of questions themselves are difficult to answer. Why was a world–infamous prisoner who had supposedly attempted suicide a couple of weeks previously taken off of suicide watch? Why was he allowed a cell all to his own, in clear contradiction of the policy of the prison itself? How did he manage to get what he needed to hang himself with enough force to die? Why was he not checked on, as reported, for hours? Why was he being ‘attended’ to by a guard working overtime, and a temp staff member who wasn’t even a qualified prison guard? How could all of this happen in a case of such magnitude?
Of course, none of those questions, nor the lack of answers to them, prove some sort of global elite conspiracy. Nor do they disprove one. They do, however, illustrate the scale of this crisis. For, what this case shows us is that around the world in general, and in America in particular, there has been a fundamental breaking down of trust, between people, institutions, wealth and power. Consider this: let’s say there’s an investigation into Epstein’s death. Who could be put in charge of such a thing and actually be seen as credible when they release their findings? The FBI, the Department of Justice, the Media, the American prison system, Congress, none of these institutions hold the trust of anything close to a majority of Americans. Beyond that, how could the findings be seen as legitimate in the eyes of people who have already decided on their narrative? If an investigation determined it really was just a simple suicide, who would actually believe that conclusion? Likewise, if for some reason, an investigation revealed some conspiracy and coverup, those implicated within that would simply say they were victims of a witch hunt, or fake news.
Whatever the answers, whatever we learn, whatever we don’t learn, all of it will live on in the cacophonous news and information landscape we have imprisoned ourselves in. What they won’t do is bring back Jeffrey Epstein, and they won’t put him in a courtroom to face justice in front of the victims who have bravely stepped forward. The likelihood of others being held to account has also plummeted with Epstein’s death. We are sadly well on the way to seeing the rich and powerful criminals skate once again. Hopefully, the obsession over this case can be about more than a grand conspiracy, and put enough focus on the real work of making sure that some brand of justice is given out. V