“Luuuu-cy, you have some esplainin’ to do!” Americans heard Ricky say this almost weekly back when the world and television were young. Folks at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan have some serious esplainin’ to do now, and we can pray they come up with something better than Lucy usually did.
In the affairs of men, especially governmental ones, when the latest major cock-up or failure surfaces we rarely need to go further than indifference or incompetence for an answer. One or the other of these may well explain why Jeffrey Epstein entered eternity last Saturday from a cell in a federal prison that was supposed to be “secure.” So secure, in fact, that it is said to be tougher than the federal B&B for Jihadist terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
But conspiracies are much more fun. Many (though not all) readers and viewers of news enjoy them. They find them a titillating alternative to yet another mundane day. Mainstream journalists, who always seem to get ahead of their skis on controversial stories, like conspiracy theories because stories based on them are easy to put together. They’re certainly a lot easier than solid reporting, which requires talent, insight, often courage, a bit of distance, and more effort than most reporters are willing to put out. Sloth, one of the more widespread of the seven deadlies, is not unheard of in newsrooms.
Candidates also like conspiracies because they can often be used to suggest that the candidate’s opponent is the lying, thieving, treasonous low-life that the candidate has always said he is. Now, predictably, it’s popular in the circus that is the hard left — a circus featuring everything but a bearded lady and the guy who bites the heads off chickens — to suggest, or flat-out assert, that Donald Trump had something to do with eliminating Epstein. It was feared JE had embarrassing information about the Donald and other wealthy and powerful men who were frequent flyers on the Lolita Express. If not Trump, then perhaps Vladimir Putin and his merry men. “Is Russian,” Joe Scarborough quickly assured us while the news had barely made it across three time zones. The Donald didn’t help matters by tweeting a hint that the Clintons had put out a hit. I’d not be shocked to learn that there was great relief around Chappaqua on learning of Jeffrey’s passing. But there’s a hell of a long way between learning that the Clintons sent out for champagne on Saturday to suggesting that they have hit men with access to Metropolitan Correctional on speed dial.
It’s early days (daze?) in this story, and for the thriving speculation industry that is helping to boom it along. Right now the most popular conspiracy theory might be that Trump and his Russian pals canceled Epstein’s ticket. But in time I wouldn’t be surprised if the more imaginative of the boutique conspiracists — some of them shut-ins who wear tinfoil hats — might inform us that the job was put through by a tag team of Elvis, Jimmy Hoffa, and Butch Cassidy.
For the minority willing to wait for a thorough investigation of Epstein’s death, the obvious questions are going to be difficult to answer. There are real difficulties with both the suicide or the murder explanations of the man’s undoing.
First, suicide: Suicide is hardly unheard of in the snake-pits that prisons are. It’s hardly shocking that a man like Epstein, used to living the very high life with the best of everything, might rather put an end to things than exist the rest of his days with some very un-charming people and none of life’s pleasures. But if he did off himself, how did he do it? Prisoners are relieved of their belts, even their shoelaces, and are kitted out in jump suits. In a piece yesterday in TAS, George Parry referred to a New York Post article quoting a former MCC resident saying that the sheets inmates are given there have about the tensile strength of paper and could not support Epstein’s weight even if there was something to attach it to. But there isn’t. We’ll eventually learn if this is correct.
Murder seems a bit outlandish, too. Possible suspects would seem to be limited to prison officers or other inmates. The first, even if promised some great reward by an outsider interested in shutting Epstein up permanently, would be running a terrific risk of committing a capital crime in a facility where said crime could easily be investigated and the culprit identified. If it was another inmate, how did he get access to Epstein? And what would his motive be?
Too often prison suicides receive a cursory investigation by not-all-that-interested officials. That won’t happen here. The host of very important officials who are very interested in this one includes Attorney General Bill Barr, who doesn’t strike me as a cursory kind of guy. So we’ll almost certainly, in the fullness of time (and time can be very full when dealing with lawyers), find out what put an end to Jeffrey Epstein. But, of course, a final and credible explanation will not put an end to the conspiracy theories, some of which many folks will find too useful to give up. (See the “Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin stole the 2016 presidential election” delusion.)
In the meantime, if any of you hear from Elvis or Butch, please keep your tinfoil hat on and don’t tell me about it.