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Jeffrey Epstein’s Death Is Testing the Limits of Our Intolerance for Conspiracy Theories

Pass me the ball of red string.

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein

Convicted child abuser and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in his jail cell this morning, bringing an unexpected end to one of the most notorious child sex trafficking cases ever. While Epstein’s trial had yet to start, it created shockwaves in the media as details emerged about the multi-millionaire’s sordid history and his overly lenient Florida sentence from Alexander Acosta, which later caused the Labor Secretary to resign just last month.

After journalist Julie K. Brown broke the story of Epstein’s absurdly lax 2007 plea deal in the Miami Herald last year, which lead to his indictment on sex trafficking conspiracy charges by New York federal prosecutors.

In the wake of his arrest, Epstein’s inner circle of wealthy and influential friends have come under scrutiny, which include Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, among others. Just yesterday, unsealed court documents revealed sexual misconduct allegations against Britain’s Prince Andrew, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former US Sen. George Mitchell, modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, financier Glenn Dubin, late MIT scientist Marvin Minsky, in addition to “‘another prince’, the owner of a large French hotel chain and a Spanish president.”

Many powerful people had a lot to lose in the wake of Epstein’s exposure, which naturally has people speculating on whether Epstein’s suicide was in fact a suicide or a murder. Epstein was previously found injured in his cell, which authorities described as a suicide attempt. Epstein was placed on suicide watch, which was lifted before his death.

The FBI will investigate Epstein’s death in what they call an “abundance of caution”. Attorney General Bill Bar released a statement saying, “I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody … Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”

So how does one of the most high profile prisoners die after a previously recognized suicide attempt? Why was the suicide watch lifted? While Occam’s Razor suggests that Epstein likely died of suicide, the circumstances of his death are ripe for conspiracy fodder. After all, many powerful and influential people stood to have their lives ruined by the revelations of Epstein’s inner circle.

Conspiracy theories about the government and the wealthy elite have reached a fever pitch in the past few years, thanks to the rise of social media and our conspiracy-loving president. While conspiracy theories have existed since time immemorial, our current political climate has become a hotbed for the trend.

And as these conspiracy theories get validated by the government, they are inspiring a host of domestic terrorism incidents, from Pizzagate to QAnon.

But what else can we expect from a government that regularly gaslights the American public and allows baseless fringe theories, to enter the mainstream conversation? How do we objectively view and process an event like Epstein’s death without the lens of conspiracy and corruption?

It’s impossible to retain a rational viewpoint when our government is ruled by wildly irrational people. Add to that the influence of social media (both by real people and conspiracy-driving bots), and we have no more impartial baseline to lean on. We are through the looking glass, people. Who knows what awaits us on the other side, and we’ll ever return to some sense of normalcy. I consider myself a rationalist and a realist, but events like these have me reaching for my tinfoil hat.

Do you think there’s an Epstein conspiracy afoot or have we all fallen prey to conspiracy mania? Let us know in the comments or send us a coded message based on the iconography on a one dollar bill!

(via HuffPost, image: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.