I was delighted recently to receive an email from my younger brother John that began: “I was really pleased this morning to see you’re not on board with the conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s death. I agree with your reasoning. Unlike you, my first blush reaction was that it was a suspicious death. But, unlike almost everyone else, apparently, I took a few seconds to think that through, and that quickly dissolved the notion.”
It was in “thinking things through” that John, by following the evidence, arrived at some very nice arguments. They were created in furtherance of a debate he was having online with an Epstein conspiracy promoter. I suppose it runs in the family. Anyway, I reproduce some of his arguments, augmented by my own observations along the way. John began:
First, Epstein had attempted suicide already. That was either a failed ‘hit’ or he was suicidal. If a failed hit, Epstein was alive, conscious, and capable of speech afterward, and perfectly capable of reporting it as a botched hit. If he feared retribution for being a snitch, he could have *at least* told his lawyers, perhaps in a sealed letter, to be opened after his death. There is no plausible scenario that his first attempt was a failed hit. Epstein was factually suicidal.
I’d wondered about that myself. The eagerness of the conspiracy crowd to recruit the failed first suicide attempt into their conspiracy baffled me, too, the first time I encountered it. I always thought Epstein’s first suicide attempt was more a problem for the conspiracy types than a thundering indictment of murder most foul.
Second, he was not on suicide watch, as has been reported some places in the press. He was taken off suicide watch. More about that below.
Third, he was alive for some time afterwards [after having been discovered unconscious in his cell] and rushed to the hospital. Murderers don’t leave their victims alive.
And there’s the rub. Funny how conspiracy theorists want to have it both ways when it comes to their villains, they want them highly sophisticated, covering their tracks with ease, and yet they bungled the murder. Epstein was still alive, and he could have exposed them all. That he was unable to was something they could not possibly have known.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, criminal trials can drag on, and Epstein was the only person alive who had standing to fight use of and release of evidence. The possible fellow criminals around him have *more to fear* now than they did before.
If you want to argue that authorities were unbelievably incompetent to put him in a cell where he was capable of killing himself, that’s not unreasonable. You can even speculate that they encouraged him to kill himself by so doing.
But try to at least give some weight to the possibility that incompetence and coincidence happen in real life all the time without malicious intent. If you don’t include those possibilities in your calculus, you are too biased to have an opinion. The idea this was a hit is Alex-Jones-scale nonsense.
Yes, a government bureaucracy (and a prison, ultimately, is a government bureaucracy) that could be both incompetent and inefficient should come as a surprise to nobody.
Perhaps the most precarious fallacy of the promoter of conspiracy theories – apart from the reckless acceptance of the preposterous notion that all participants in the conspiracy will remain silent forever – is their failure to actually think the conspiracy through from start to finish. This is a frequent feature of people who begin with a “stunning” conclusion and then find themselves later in the uncomfortable position of having to logically work forward from the beginning of the conspiracy to its end. They avoid this embarrassment, of course, by simply never doing it.
For example: you want to crash planes into prominent buildings? But first you want to spend months seeding those buildings with high explosives? While those buildings are being guarded 24/7? So it will look like a controlled demolition? So you can have a rationale for invading Iraq? You see, when you look at something like the 9/11 “Truther” conspiracy from the beginning to its logical conclusion it sounds simply idiotic. Or, “Gentlemen, we misinformed the president. We do not have the technology to make it to the moon. So, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna shoot him and fake the moon landing. Who’s with me?” Pretty embarrassing exercise, yes? Best to avoid thinking about it and focus microscopically instead on bias-confirming evidence.
It should come as no surprise that such an exercise, imagining how a conspiracy comes into being, will expose many such absurdities in other cases. The Epstein case is no exception. The first problem is, they must have known, in advance, that an Epstein suicide would create an instant furore. Within 30 seconds of hearing of it, I knew Epstein’s death would generate a firestorm of conspiracy theories. If I could see that so quickly, so must have they seen it too. Everyone involved would be an immediate murder suspect. Now, I don’t know about you, but I am capable of killing another human being only under circumstances of self-defense or defense of another. Murder is not part of my makeup. But if it were, I think I would steer clear of any murder in which I was a guaranteed instant suspect.
Apart from that, what could the putative murderers of Jeffrey Epstein hope to gain? If Epstein has evidence of wrongdoing by powerful parties capable of silencing him, why would they kill him? Why not just try to get rid of the evidence? Then it’s their word against Epstein’s, and who’s going to believe the word of a sleazy, criminal rapist of young girls? Who’s going to risk a murder rap to get rid of him? Killing Epstein won’t get rid of the evidence, and if the evidence is there they are going down whether Epstein is alive or not.
I’m not advocating that suicide is the only explanation for Epstein’s death, I’m just suggesting that it is the most likely explanation. In the absence of real evidence to the contrary, there is nothing wrong with being cautious. Leave incaution and wild accusations to Trump and his gang. After all, are we not better than that?
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.