During the last two years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the news media focused on one story: the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The developing and probably lingering story that may dominate the news cycle for the remaining 18 months of Donald Trump’s first presidential term may turn out to be another sex scandal: the Jeffrey Epstein affair. It even promises to dig up dirt on two presidents — Trump and Clinton, who may come back for an encore.
The Epstein scandal has already become more spectacular since it includes the death of its eponymous hero — suicide or murder? — and stratospherically more sex than Clinton’s timid shenanigans in the Oval Office could offer the public. Better still, it promises to bring a long list of celebrities into its reckoning, including British royalty. This fact alone has stirred speculation about why, with such strong motives for so many powerful people, the thesis of remotely “assisted suicide” should not be excluded.
Trump himself jumped in with his own typical gratuitous and inane cui bono conspiracy theory: that it was Clinton who did it. We call it inane because the same reasoning applies to Trump himself, whose relations with Epstein were more obvious than Clinton’s. For the moment, however, the multiple investigations that will be feeding future headlines are only just beginning.
Interactive: The Timeline of Jeffrey Epstein
The conditions of Epstein’s demise in prison appear to be louche, to say the least. The New York Times cites Attorney General William Barr’s observation about the conditions that permitted Jeffrey Epstein to expire in prison long before his future trial: “We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation.”
Because it happened in a prison facility directly under the Justice Department’s authority, Barr also made this promise: “We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
A behavior that deviates from an established norm that is sufficiently ambiguous in terms of contributing causes to divert attention from the fact that it may indicate criminal intention
Barr has every reason to demonstrate his resolution to reveal the truth and to apply the full force of the law. Already accused by Democrats of misrepresenting the conclusions of the Mueller report over Russian interference in the 2016 election, Epstein’s death falls under his responsibility. To show he’s in control, Barr announced: “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it.” President Trump has already applauded the determination of “our great attorney general.” “Murder will out,” and so will suicide and sex trafficking, we are invited to believe, thanks to the nation’s supreme legal authorities, who will resolutely pursue the truth and dedicate all the resources necessary to it.
Whatever the Justice Department manages to do, the race is already on in the media to find out, Agatha Christie-style, which political and business celebrities were most likely to benefit from Epstein’s extinction. James B. Stewart, a New York Times reporter who interviewed Epstein a year ago, provides the best evidence, though of a general nature. He recounts how his conversation and the corroborating photos served to reveal the “astonishing” number of rich and influential people that apparently gravitated toward Epstein.
Stewart writes that the convicted pedophile “claimed to know a great deal about these people, some of it potentially damaging or embarrassing, including details about their supposed sexual proclivities and recreational drug use.” He also notes that Epstein appeared, like Trump, to be very skilled at lying. How depressing! We don’t even know if we should believe the words Stewart has reported. In today’s world of politics meets sex (and drugs), whose word can we trust?
After his conviction in 2008 Epstein had become toxic to his former A-list friends. All those who had cozied up to him in the previous years, including Trump, claimed that their relationship had ended well before 2008. Stewart writes that Epstein “said this was something he’d become used to, even though it didn’t stop people from visiting him, coming to his dinner parties or asking him for money.” This tells us a lot about the moral judgment of an entire class of people.
Because of the number of influential people known to have been associated at one time with Epstein and because of the mystery surrounding his death, former prosecutor and defense attorney David Schwartz predicts that “there will be a massive investigation.” It now appears that “one of Epstein’s guards the night he took his own life was not a regular correctional officer,” a fact that makes it sound like one of the standard subplots in “The Godfather” or other mafia movies, where the criminals manage to replace the assigned security officer with either the murderer or the person who lets the murderers in. The Washington Post learned that the guard “had been pressed into service because of staffing shortages.” The question may come down to: Who did the pressing?
Anyone alive at the time will remember the shock of waking up on November 24, 1963, to learn that the presumed and designated killer Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot while in the custody of the Dallas police. The assassin, Jack Ruby, committed the act in front of television cameras, but years later, even after a “massive investigation” and the voluminous Warren report on the Kennedy assassination, the mystery of how someone in police custody could be murdered and his story suppressed — including Ruby’s motives and the truth about his relationships — was never elucidated.
To this day, most Americans believe, rightly or wrongly, that because of the high profile of those who may have wished John F. Kennedy dead, there was a conspiracy and a coverup. The best evidence in favor of that hypothesis was the fact that Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, appointed former CIA chief Allen Dulles — whom Kennedy had fired after the Bay of Pigs fiasco — to take charge of the collection and organization of evidence that would support the commission’s findings.
Was there a conspiracy? There can be no doubt that people with money and power will twist anything they can twist —- and often work together to do so — to prevent any of their shameful acts or crimes, major or minor, from being revealed. That appears to be human nature. It applies to the lowliest citizen guilty of speeding on the highway, but the laws of human nature are amplified astronomically by the effect of money and power.
There can be no doubt that extinguishing the life of someone capable of revealing seriously uncomfortable truths about one’s crimes is a temptation that most guilty parties resist. But, as Niccolò Machiavelli observed, those who wield great power have, throughout history, proved its efficacy and even understood that assassination can be used to demonstrate that their power goes far beyond the law. In the age of political marketing (which Trump has revealed should be called “political prevaricating”), there can be absolutely no doubt that strategies of damage control and plausible deniability echoed by the media are part of the highly-professional toolbox used by all influential people in the world of politics and business.
None of that proves that Jeffrey Epstein was assassinated. It simply underlines the fact that his death was welcome news to some powerful people. What should be clear, as the evidence surrounding his death unfolds, is that, more in the pattern of the Monica Lewinsky scandal than the Kennedy assassination, the media will run for months to come with a titillating story full of gossip and scuttlebutt about a wide range of celebrities. They will direct their efforts not at establishing any kind of truthful perspective or to throw light on the inner workings of the national or even global power structure, but simply to ensure maximum nightly ratings. The show must go on, at least until people stop caring.
With the impeach or not impeach drama stuck in a stalemate, the Epstein mystery may be the unexpected windfall for the media, permitting them to transition between the now stale drama of Russiagate and the Mueller report to the upcoming free-for-all slugfest of the Democratic presidential primaries, followed by the 2020 fight of the century: the wrestling match to oust Trump from the White House or confirm him for four more years.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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