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Epstein suicide meme is a reflection on nation’s elite: James Miller

Posted 12/4/19

A friend recently asked me, “Why has Jeffrey Epstein become the Harambe of 2019?”

It’s a good question. There’s been a spike in “Epstein didn’t kill …

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Epstein suicide meme is a reflection on nation’s elite: James Miller

Jeffrey Epstein
Jeffrey Epstein

A friend recently asked me, “Why has Jeffrey Epstein become the Harambe of 2019?”

It’s a good question. There’s been a spike in “Epstein didn’t kill himself” memes floating around the Internet and social media. If you’re one of the few who has maintained their sanity by avoiding social media’s volute attention-sucking machinery, you may not be familiar with the latest meme fad, which has thronged into Facebook groups much like the untimely death of the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla in 2016.

Epstein suicide memes make light of a conspiracy theory: that Jeffrey Epstein, the well-connected alleged purveyor of underage sex slaves, did not die by his own hand in a Manhattan prison cell while under strict surveillance. He was given an expedited ticket to perdition, so as to not stand on trial and out his raffish associates who enjoyed his wares.

The meme, which has taken the form of everything from Target Christmas stockings rearranged to spell out “Epstein didn’t kill himself” to optical illusions, is now bleeding into real life. One Fox News interviewee blurted out the line at the denouement of his disquisition on military dogs. A University of Alabama funster nonchalantly listed Epstein’s suspicious demise as rationale for his Donald Trump support during an MSNBC interview. Another waggish student flashed his “Epstein didn’t kill himself” sign during ESPN’s pregame coverage. A clutch of young men painted their backs with the message at a Texas State basketball game.

Even a sitting U.S. congressman made an acrostic string of tweets spelling out the line.  The episode caused a chippy Barack Obama adviser to bleat, “The brain drain in the GOP caucus is a serious problem.” You’d think staff for the selfie-stick president would have a sense of humor.

Popular memes are representative of what Lionel Trilling called culture’s “buzz and hum.” The graphics and condensed messages are pliable enough to be applied to current fads, bringing lightness to heavy topics or ironizing serious events.

This is what my friend had trouble with: that people enjoying Epstein suicide memes, sharing a horse laugh with friends over them, are making light of his crimes, even suggesting he was unjustly murdered.

Spreading awareness of the questionable circumstances behind Epstein’s hyoid-bone fracture would seem to do that. After all, the meme doesn’t say, “Epstein didn’t kill himself — but he’s better off dead!” It’s an attestation of unproven extrajudicial homicide that anyone who’s seen an episode of “Law & Order” might suspect was carried out at the request of Epstein’s well-heeled clientele.

Here arises my friend’s confusion. It’s the latter — Epstein’s toney brotherhood — who are truly the focus of the meme, not the lecherous Epstein himself. The tout of underage trulls isn’t the point. Yes, Epstein apparently was a depraved individual who, with any justice, heeded the command “abandon all hope, ye who enter” before crossing the threshold into damnation. But the memes that bear his name are an indictment of something worse: an opaque cultural clerisy who allowed a fell man like Epstein to flourish.

As Michael Brendan Dougherty writes, those who share an Epstein meme with their closest 6,000 Facebook acquaintances, whether in earnest or in irony, “believe our leadership class is depraved and compromised.”

And why shouldn’t they? Epstein was the ne plus ultra coordinator of teen sex rings for elite enjoyment. His high-profile arrest was supposed to bring out troves of compromising information on his fellow moneyed degenerates. Yet he managed to turn his heavily monitored jail cell into a makeshift gibbet anyway.

Foul play or not, the penal system failed — all to the benefit of people who can afford to keep attorneys on retainer.

Epstein’s premature death was bad enough. But the Project Veritas hot-mic video catching ABC reporter Amy Robach admitting to banking fiery Epstein information for the sake of securing the Royal Family’s blessing hasn’t bolstered the official suicide narrative. The refusal of media to cover Epstein’s debauchery — Miami Herald notwithstanding — only sows further distrust in elites.

Some liberal journalists are now openly repining that the Epstein meme is giving rise to anti-social paranoia. One correspondent for The Nation claims that the meme’s message of institutional perfidy is “being used by fascists to recruit anti-system people.”

Even if that’s true, the culprit is misidentified. The failure to bring Epstein to true earthly justice is what gave rise to the meme — not the other way around. The ruling class failed in its duty to protect the vulnerable.

As Aristotle taught, elites are responsible for disseminating good cultural practices to the masses. They overlooked Epstein’s depredations, or even took part in them.

Without this shirking of society responsibility, there would be no Epstein meme. There wouldn’t be untold numbers of teenage and preteen girls forced to service the sexual needs of America’s most prominent men. There wouldn’t be a growing crisis of legitimacy for our institutions.

Epstein’s enablers are to blame. The meme’s purpose is to not let us forget that.

James E. Miller, a native of Middletown, lives in northern Virginia with his wife and daughter. He is the author of the novel “To Win And To Lose.”