In 1999, immediately after Vladimir Putin came to power, there was a series of apartment bombings in Moscow. Before that, Russia was a declining power, mired in the second Chechen conflict and a growing Islamist insurgency within its borders. The apartment bombings led to a stern reaction from Putin, a re-ignited national effort against the Chechens, and boosted and consolidated Putin’s popularity after the terrible days of a habitually drunk Boris Yeltsin.
The bombings were also perhaps an inside job, probably done by a Putin-supporting FSB, as brilliantly documented by Scott Anderson in a GQ article titled “None dare call it a conspiracy,” which was of course banned in Russia. You see, the most brilliant part of a great conspiracy is when it is so absurd, ambiguous, and in your face that normal people would never want to believe it can exist. Ambiguity and absurdity are the key to success.
On that note, one of the counter-arguments already floating in the air as Jeffrey Epstein apparently killed himself alone in a prison cell awaiting justice is that it signals the endemic corruption and incompetence of the American prison system. I am not sure that is as comforting a thought as it is portrayed to be.
After all, in a prison of the most powerful nation of the world, a prisoner who already tried to commit suicide once and thus was apparently under a suicide watch, which ended mysteriously just before he committed suicide; who was charged with multiple abuse allegations; who was known to have run a pedophile ring that might implicate the who’s who of British and American elite, from princes to former presidents, suddenly dies.
If no one finds anything to wonder about here, society deserves what’s coming for it. Making sure to fully investigate and prove exactly what happened should be a top priority of the U.S. criminal justice system, not brushed under the rug with acceptance of press releases from the institutions involved in these failures.
Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine a similar situation in Russia. What would your first instinct be—self-satisfied ennui? I hope not. No, we would see it as a sign of how corrupt Russian society is, and how everyone at the top is connected. You wouldn’t be satisfied without a full investigation by disinterested parties.
Incidentally, this time also, some in the media are blaming Russia. I guess blaming Russia for everything does not fall under the category of conspiracy theories.
Epstein was a financier whose murky business empire was shrouded in mystery. How he accumulated so much money is still a cause of mystery, but his connections were well known. Prince Andrew of Great Britain, for example, was allegedly involved in indecent acts fostered by Epstein, an allegation strongly denied by Buckingham Palace.
That is just one of the minor cases. Epstein’s death came days after documents were unsealed detaining his serial abuse of minor girls, for which he was once arrested and got off easy in an unthinkable guilty plea deal. But the allegations kept coming until it was impossible to keep them hidden.
Charged again, Epstein promised $100 million bail, which was refused, and then pleaded for house arrest with personally paid bodyguards. That was also denied by the court. He then apparently tried to commit suicide and was found with a neck injury and unconscious. Then he was put on suicide watch, from which he was removed just one night before he attempted suicide again, this time successfully.
This is incredible. The reactions were swift, as well. U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr is “appalled,” whereas former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara claimed the video of Epstein’s alleged suicide must be there and should be thoroughly investigated.
This should not be normal. Unthinking respect for authority, Albert Einstein said, is the greatest enemy of truth. Most humans, of course, are unthinking, because thinking and questioning take time, effort, and most importantly, a spirit of independence and skepticism. Yet these are ancient, pre-Socratic Greek traditions, which are long gone in our complicated lives. Nearly no schools teach logic as a subject anymore.
That has led to a society that loves to watch Jason Bourne movies, but in which large numbers believes Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and that Russia put President Trump in power. The official explanation always provides the easier, believable answer for unthinking and unquestioning minds.
Add to that the gatekeepers in media, who are supposed to be the leading skeptics. How many never questioned the official Russia collusion conspiracy story, the Brett Kavanaugh accusations, or the Covington kids narrative, and how many in the media asked tough questions about U.S. interventions in Iraq and Libya? We clearly cannot trust them to get this right. Nor can we trust the authorities with which they have a symbiotic relationship. They have both whiffed too many times before.
“[R]eaction from the online fever swamps was predictable enough.” McKay Coppins writes of the Epstein suicide theories, in the same publication that hired and fired Kevin Williamson for something he never said. “I considered trying to reason with them, to explain that they were misreading what I’d written. But I suspected engaging would be futile. Their trust in appointed gatekeepers and other people in power—from the media to government officials to the worlds of Hollywood and high finance—has been too fully eroded.”
Ah, yes, the common people’s eroded trust in institutions is the bigger story here. Coppins then goes on to give examples of Joe Scarborough hinting at Russia for Epstein’s murder.
That there need not be a “conspiracy” to think that this entire thing stinks to high heavens. There need not be a ninja garroting Epstein as he sleeps at night. A decline of watch over a man accused of running a pedophile chain is enough for him to try and take the easy way out over days and months and years in trial and punishment. Even failures of normal protocol for bringing an alleged child rapist to justice are bad enough to warrant investigation, censure, and reform.
Consider the official narrative in Sweden about violent crimes by Middle Eastern and African refugees. Consider how the British police during the Tony Blair years turned a blind eye to complaints after complaints about Pakistani grooming gangs, while media and nongovernmental organizations and government agencies designed to protect vulnerable kids from broken single-parent families instead merely try to contain the fallout. With public institutions as degraded as these, one cannot blame people for wondering, nor for demanding improvements.
In the paraphrased words of Valery Legasov from the HBO series “Chernobyl,” a just world is a sane world. But there is nothing sane about it.
Trust in institutions is broken by corruption. When the media tries to sell another military intervention, collusion narrative, or hate crime hoax, people remember that a wealthy dubious financier who could have blown the lead to an internationalist elite group of pedophiles living in broad daylight was found dead after being on suicide watch in a federal prison, which will now be investigated by… federal investigators.
All the while, the investigative journalists who are supposed to hold powers responsible will take it upon themselves to unquestioningly sell the official narrative. There’s no need for “conspiracy theories” when real life itself is stranger than a political thriller.