After accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his jail cell conspiracy theories have been in abundance. As I see progressives go into conspiracy theories akin to conservatives, Nietzsche’s quote rings true. “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…for when you gaze long into the Abyss. The abyss gazed also into you.”
A Rational Response On Jeffery Epstein’s Death
Epstein’s death demands an investigation. An autopsy has been completed and we are awaiting results. As of this writing, an autopsy has been performed and we are still awaiting the results. The cause of death will be determined there. We will know if there were signs of struggle, likely time of death, toxicology reports and other important data. This is science.
There are multiple calls for an investigation into his death. As a response to these calls there are multiple investigations beginning. These will answer important questions. Was he supposed to have closer monitoring? Why was he pulled off suicide watch? Is there video footage outside his cell during the likely time of death? Was anyone on the grounds who should not have been? Were guards or other inmates connected with anyone who could have had motive for wanting him dead?
Investigations such as these is an applied science. Forensics and a study of facts that includes evidence collection, interviews and preservation of anything deemed important. No one is denying that there are questions that need to be answered. Those questions are being asked and most will likely be answered in this process. A process seeped in multiple scientific disciplines.
Trump has started and perpetuated many conspiracy theories that his followers and supporters believe and also perpetuate. Some of the more popular ones are the suggestions that Obama was not born in the U.S., climate change is not happening, vaccines cause autism and various lies about immigrants and Muslims.
“Fake News!” This is a cry that is often made by Trump and his supporters. If something is reported in the media, despite being well sourced, transparent and following all the rules of journalistic ethics it is cast aside if it does not meet confirmation bias. As we have seen during the Mueller investigation, there is also a distrust with law enforcement when it does not meet desired outcomes despite facts.
Since President Trump’s election, the divide between conservative and liberal has grown exponentially. Virtually every progressive and liberal wants Trump out of office. Many want him impeached and see him as a criminal and a dangerous racist. He and his followers have become the monsters that people fight. Enter Nietzsche.
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.”
Liberal Op/Ed media commentators many look to for news have succumbed to the behavior of the monsters. Joe Scarborough was one of the first when we tweeted, without any evidence, a Russian link to Epstein’s death. His exact quote was, “A guy who had information that would have destroyed rich and powerful men’s lives ends up dead in his jail cell. How predictably Russian.” Journalists have been critical of his tweet. Instead of taking this criticism to heart, he doubles down while criticizing Trump for his conspiracy theory that the Clinton’s are behind the death.
Instead of using the truth when Trump lies, citing sources when Trump says fake news and using reason and science to combat conspiracies, liberals and progressives are succumbing to conspiracy theories of their own. They are taking on the characteristics of the monsters they have fought.
The Abyss and the Danger of Conspiracy Theories
There are many theories into what Nietzsche meant about staring into the abyss leading to the abyss staring back at you. The thought I find most intriguing leads to the cause of religion. If you stare into nothingness long enough and hard enough, something will be created by our imaginations. So if we are to fight the monsters that create things like Pizza Gate with no proof, it will create something. In this case, it created an armed man who went to the pizza place with dangerous intentions.
If in our frustration and hatred of something, we will begin to do the same and produce things that do not exist that will have dangerous consequences. As dangerous as a man who was convinced there was an invasion of America by Mexico and took it to himself to drive 9 hours to kill and injure people in El Paso.
Conspiracy experts Nancy L. Rosenblum and Russell Muirhead were recently interviewed by the Economist. In the article, “Conspiracy Theories are Dangerous-Here’s How to Crush Them”, they point out the dangers that the radical conspiracy theories of the right do to our nation, our children and our society. So how do you crush these dangerous and unfounded ideas?
They say that to fight fire with fire (conspiracy theories with more conspiracy theories) will only make things worse. The best way to fight this fire is with water. In this case, the water is “scrupulous recourse to argument and evidence and explanations that are available to everyone and above all, subject to correction. We expect that most citizens will fight the disorientation of conspiracist unreality and stand by the common-sense world of reliable facts and arguments.”
Logic, reason, science and truth is what we need in this situation. We must not become the monsters we fight. We must not use their tools that have created the problems that threaten democracy, immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ+ people and so many more.
Most of what I do in journalism is Op/Ed and photojournalism. On occasion I also write news copy. I take all of these disciplines seriously. In photojournalism, I never pose what I want to create, I photograph what is happening. In op/ed, I have very strong opinions. But I base those opinions on facts as we know them to be in the news, peer reviewed studies and other valid sources. Others can look at this data and draw different opinions. We can have vigorous debates regarding these issues in a pluralistic society.
We have a responsibility to be mindful of facts and speculation. When we blur the line and present speculation as fact, there is harm.
My Op Ed On Epstein
I have opinions on Epstein’s death. There are questions that need to be answered regarding the death of Epstein. Those questions will be answered by autopsy, forensics, investigative procedures and interviews. They will never be answered by conspiracies. Conspiracies hinder truth, not uncover it.
My opinion is that he committed suicide. This is based on the fact that he was on suicide watch previously. My opinion is that he was not as well observed as he should have been based on the fact he was once considered a suicide risk. No conspiracy theory will change that opinion. A coroner’s report, a suspicious video, or an investigation that leads to potential foul play will change that opinion.
There are concentric circles of harm that come from accusations without evidence. Our responsibility is to not only fight the monsters that threaten to harm, it is to do so without becoming the same monsters we oppose in the process. We must not create something dangerous out of nothing.
Like This Column?
I am appreciative for the opportunity to write in these spaces, but it does take time and resources. Every Patreon and gift makes continuing this work possible. If you like what you read here and wish to support this work financially, I would appreciate it.
- Become a Patreon: Patreon is a space where you can support writers and artists much the same way many do PBS and NPR. You can go to my patreon at https://www.patreon.com/patlgreen and pledge monthly support for as long as you are able.
- One Time Gift: Feel free to go to my paypal at paypal.me/patlgreen to make a one time gift. Include a mailing address if you wish. I will be happy to send a handwritten thank you card, postcard, or maybe even send you a small thank you.