by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It’s hard to look at social media these days without seeing some reference to the sentence “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” Michael Brendan Dougherty of National Review Online explores the ubiquitous meme.
Signs saying “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” are springing up on highway overpasses. Popular podcast host Joe Rogan is spreading jokey “Epstein didn’t kill himself” memes on Instagram. He’s aided by other big Instagram personalities, such as Tank Sinatra. My own family-and-friend chats started to fill up with them over the past ten days. You can even buy Ugly Christmas Sweaters with the message “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” knitted into them.
For those puzzled, Ritland (and everyone else) is referring to Jeffrey Epstein, the known pedophile and suspected hedge funder who palled around with a few heaping handfuls of other hedge funders, as well as Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Bill Gates, and occasionally Donald Trump. …
… Epstein was found dead in his prison cell in August, a few weeks after his arrest. The cause of death was ruled a suicide by crude hanging. …
… An Occam’s Razor explanation of Epstein’s death is that he killed himself because his life of getting-away-with-it was over and he was facing the unpleasant reality of a trial in which his life as a pedophile would be exposed, and his powerful friends would be humiliated with him. And I would estimate that at least half of the people sharing different Epstein memes with me are sharing them in jest.
But jest can have a serious point. Sharing “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” memes because you believe paranoia stands to reason, or because you think they are funny, is a kind of practice for saying, “I think our leadership class and our institutions are capable of every corruption and depravity.” It signals to the world that you are willing to be caught saying this, which is now and in all times one of the more subversive things that can be thought or said.