What happens when the truthers were right? It’s a question we never want to ask, or even consider worth posing — and yet, in the case of Jeffrey Epstein, the truthers were right.
As leftists, we do not claim total knowledge of the systems which traffic people, goods, and services or the full complexities of the power dynamics which inform each exchange on either a granular or global scale; this would be hubris. After all, we know that the capitalist class engages in coverups all the time. If not, people like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, who have bravely exposed the abusive machinations of the military and federal government, would not be enemies of the state.
Simply, the reason we cannot know everything, is because the people in power can, and do, keep secrets. Nonetheless, we hold fast to our political understandings and our ethical systems: our general sense of the way the world works. Our political imperatives are counterposed against billionaires, capitalists, the elites and their monopolies over power, and the exploitation and dehumanization of normal people, especially women, poor, and nonwhite people. Nothing about our principles ever prevented us from abhorring Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire “financier” (with untraceable finances) and his network of high-power pedophiles.
Yet the people who have sounded the alarm over Epstein, for years before his arrest in July of this year and renewed media attention, by and large, were not leftists. They were truthers: fringe right-wing antisemites, basement-dwelling or shotgun-toting Alex Jones or Rush Limbaugh listeners. And, as recent history has shown, they were right.
They were right that Jeffrey Epstein was trafficking children: between his homes in Manhattan and Florida, his ranch in rural New Mexico, and his private Caribbean island replete with obelisks, sundials, and a mysterious gold-domed blue-striped Ancient Mesopotamian revivalist temple (please google this, folks).
They were right that the political elite, across ideological and national lines, were implicated in his trafficking ring. Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, the UK’s Prince Andrew, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen, and CEOs of international fashion modeling and talent firms, have been documented attending parties at Epstein’s various residences, for years, or in the flight logs of Epstein’s private jet, known for years in the press by the charming moniker Lolita Express.
They were right that Jeffrey Epstein’s power came from more than his money. After all, Alexander Acosta handed him a shockingly lenient plea deal in 2008, the first time criminal charges were brought, because he was “told Epstein belonged to intelligence” and was “above his pay grade.” We don’t get statements this candid often — Epstein was either a CIA asset, or something even crazier.
And the truthers’ skepticism — a skepticism that we certainly share — toward the corrupt justice system and media was obviously vindicated when Epstein died under circumstances that we would generously call “mysterious.” Barbara Sampson, medical examiner for the state of New York, who ruled Mr. Epstein’s death a suicide a few days later, following an autopsy. Journalists with any integrity should have hounded the authorities with the eminently obvious question: how? Mr. Epstein was a large man. How did he manage to strangulate himself in a room where the only fixture one can hang anything from is a five-foot tall bunk bed? There is simply no satisfactory explanation.
A few other questions that have never been addressed by the authorities: why was Mr. Epstein’s cellmate transferred from their cell the day before Mr. Epstein’s death? Why, despite being kept in MCC’s Special Housing Unit where protocol mandates inmates are checked on every 30 minutes, wasn’t Mr. Epstein checked on for as many as 3 hours before his death; and where is the relevant video footage? If there was no foul play, where is the evidence nobody entered his cell? Why did not one but two cameras “malfunction” outside of his cell that day? Is it possible that all of this is due to mere dysfunction and mismanagement at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center? If so, it’s conspicuously well-coordinated dysfunction; one might call it convenient.
However, you wouldn’t know much of anything was fishy from the authorities. The New York Times, America’s “gray lady” of journalism, reported simply that “Mr. Epstein hanged himself” in an article published on the day he died, with the headline “Jeffrey Epstein Dead in Suicide at Jail.” He hanged himself! In a suicide! Nothing to see here, folks, move along.
Ultimately, we should have expected this miscarriage of justice. Here was a man, not only a known, repeat, and unrepentant pedophile, but one who literally connected other business magnates with child sex slaves. And, before his mysterious “suicide” in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center — a facility administered by the U.S. federal government — he could have exposed each and every one of his clients at will. What reasonable person thinks these clients are not literal world leaders, former and current? A-list celebrities? To say nothing of the business magnates like Les Wexner and Jean-Luc Brunel, whose hoards of wealth, and connections to international capitalism, bespeak their centrality to patriarchal, oppressive systems?
Jeffrey Epstein should have been public enemy number one for leftists who care about defeating rape culture, who abhor the nihilism and the hedonism of the 1%, and who care deeply about the numerous tendrils connecting patriarchy and capitalism. We should have been pushing for his prosecution long before the Southern District of New York brought new criminal charges this year, resulting in his recent incarceration. At the same time, we should have known that the justice system, with its glaring ties to Mr. Epstein’s clients, would never have put him in a position where he might name names.
Leftists tend to resist this manner of “trutherist” thinking. After all, our conception of the world makes clear that rape and capital go hand in hand and reinforce each other on a daily basis, on a granular scale, in the realm of normal people, not just the tabloid-ready world of billionaires, private jets, Byzantine international coverups and dark money. Why focus on something so insane as a cabal of conspiratorial lunatic perverts when rape culture is already in our communities, at hand? Why focus on unprovable conspiracy theories when the horrors of reality are already so banal? Why focus on one man, or a handful of his conspirators, when there are more than 3.7 billion of them on the planet?
More so, if we hop on the Epstein truther bandwagon, we risk aligning ourselves with some genuinely reprehensible elements of political society: right-wing truthers. Not only are they typically wrong in their political analyses, but they are usually in the moral wrong. These people tend to think that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake, that the Sandy Hook and Parkland shootings were false flags, and that George Soros is funneling money into Antifa’s coffers. The current truther movement is rife with antisemitism, Islamophobia, and right-wing reactionary ideology of every variety, as even a cursory look at #QAnon twitter will confirm.
All the same, we may take a few hard but necessary lessons from trutherism. First and foremost: shadowy, gothic conspiracies run the world. The evils of global capitalism are not only diffuse, ideological, and banal, but also directly set up to inflate a handful of raging, sociopathic libidos. These images resonate with people of many different political persuasions, firstly because they are empirically correct, secondly because they are indisputable moral outrages. If we engage in a trutherism thoroughly informed by our progressivism, it will bring a contingent of outraged and motivated political communities into our fold. Excluding them from our leftism is our own detriment.
Second: it’s on us to not only agitate, but to investigate. This is where trutherism really must inform leftist praxis — the media has no substantial commitment to truth, and will not do the crucial work of investigating the coverup. We must do this work ourselves.
Jeffrey Epstein’s murder, and the lack of media scrutiny around it, ought to be a lightning rod for our anti-patriarchal anti-capitalist political program. It was a moment when our justice system, our media, and our society utterly failed us in a publicly visible way: when the fact of the moral rot of the ruling class was, for a fleeting moment, nakedly obvious. It should catalyze a new “woke” trutherism on the American political scene: a trutherism with a firm, class conscious basis.