The good old days… Remember when the wackjob conspiracy theories mostly came from right-wingers who cautioned that seemingly everything that drew national attention was a “false flag” set up by a shadow government to fool us and suppress the “sheeple”? 9/11 was an inside job. School shootings were faked and contained crisis actors. Contrails from airplanes were actually dangerous mind-control chemicals being sprayed on the population. A massive pedophile ring was being operated out of the basement of a pizza shop (that didn’t actually have a basement if I remember correctly). The government is causing natural disasters using weather weapons. All of these far-fetched theories came from right-wing sources like Infowars, QAnon, or other outlets preying on gullible people who long to be insiders with access to information the rest of us don’t have. Coincidentally, the information they found from these sources curiously supported their preconceived view of a malevolent government out to harm its people. Shocker.
Well, with the apparent suicide death of Jeffrey Epstein in a NY federal prison, the conspiracy theories have been flying. And it’s not just from the right. People on the left side of the aisle have been falling all over themselves to piece together their version of what happened to Epstein, even though limited information has been released so far. Epstein was killed by the Clintons. No, Epstein was killed by the Trumps. No, Epstein was killed by a number of influential people he was going to testify against. No, Epstein was switched out for a body double who was killed, and now he’s living on his private island. Ugh. None of these insinuations is based on any evidence whatsoever. It’s all speculation, yet people are so convinced there’s an alternate explanation that they’re detaching themselves from any semblance of rational thought just to adhere to their theories and purport them as the truth.
The reality is that we have limited information so far. We know he’s been reported dead. We know those reporting his death say they found him hung in his cell. We know he was not on suicide watch, despite what many of these conspiracy theorists allege. We know he was previously considered a danger to himself. That’s pretty much it. So if we’re being rational and basing our view on the available evidence thus far, we would conclude that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself. But being the rational, scientific thinkers we are (right?) we would be open to changing that view based on the release of further evidence that suggests otherwise. That’s how rational thought works. That’s how evidence-based reasoning works. That’s how the scientific method works.
But for some reason, many who identify themselves as rational thinkers and science-minded individuals have tossed that aside in favor of unsubstantiated conclusions that likely support their own worldview — Trump is evil, the Clintons are evil, the DOJ is corrupt, etc. I’ll use my own Facebook feed as an example. I have two accounts — one that I open up to real-world friends and family and one that I open up to anyone who requests me, as long as we have a lot of mutual connections. Depending on the week, it ranges from 4,900 to 5,000 friends. I unfriend people often if I see them post something that is really off the wall or offensive, and so I make room for others. So at this point, that account is connected with mostly nonreligious and/or left-leaning folks. Most of these people claim to be members of the rational, science-minded group I spoke of earlier.
But on Saturday morning, just hours after the Epstein news broke, I started seeing many of my Facebook friends sharing conspiracy-related comments and memes. So being the bear-poker that I am, I posted a status update: “Here we go with the asinine conspiracy theories…” And wow. Hundreds of comments followed, many of which were an attempt to explain why their particular unsubstantiated theory was undoubtedly the truth and that I’m one of the “sheeple” or somehow not rational for siding with the currently available evidence. This is how conspiracy theorists operate. They suggest an alternate reality and then support that position with questions, not answers, because actual evidence is not important.
For example, Epstein was obviously murdered by the Clintons because, “why did they take him off suicide watch? Explain that!” There are several possible answers to that question, but just because we don’t yet have that information doesn’t mean it logically equates to evidence of murder. Other craziness that has been asked to support a conspiracy is, “why haven’t they released photos of the body? Because he’s not really dead!” Um, no. Since when does the medical examiner’s office owe the public photos of a dead body? Did we get photos of a dead Jeffrey Dahmer? How about Ted Bundy? No and no. So does that mean they’re still alive? This is not CSI. This is not a blockbuster movie. This is real life, and no one owes you a body.
Then there’s that “anonymous” message board post from someone who claims to work at the prison and saw Epstein get “switched out” by an unmarked van with a mysterious military outfit-wearing person in the back. And they’re believing this unverifiable anonymous message board post over multiple news sources, the medical examiner, and the prison itself. If that’s not the suspension of rational thought, I don’t know what is.
So sadly, it seems that some of the things we used to make fun of far-right wingnuts for, we’re now guilty of on the left. The only rational position to have at this point is one that’s based on the available evidence. Right now, that evidence points to a suicide — the evidence being a dead man hanging in his locked cell all alone. If more information is released that contradicts that position, then a rational person should adjust his/her view to align with the evidence. But suggesting it was anything other than suicide without facts to support that is antithetical to rational thought and a scientific mind.
You may proceed with your comments calling me one of the “sheeple.” Just know you’re going to look like a crazy person.
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