Monday , October 14 2019
Home / Naked Capitalism / Jeffrey Epstein’s Death, Critical Thinking, and the Decline of Reporting

Jeffrey Epstein’s Death, Critical Thinking, and the Decline of Reporting

Summary:
It’s ironic to hear the FBI whinge about conspiracy theories as a danger to public safety, yet see the officialdom, and even the press, handle the untimely death of Jeffrey Epstein in a manner almost guaranteed to maximize salacious interest and speculation. The reason we are straying from our normal topics of interest to discuss Epstein is that the overarching mission of this website is to promote critical thinking. If you’ve been paying attention to news, it too often feels as if you’ve entered an informational hall of mirrors. Not only is the spin so heavy that it takes careful reading to separate information from innuendo, but with the rise in social media, the reaction to a news story often overwhelm the underlying event. For instance, witness the consternation about Bernie Sanders

Topics:
Yves Smith considers the following as important: , ,

This could be interesting, too:

Yves Smith writes Computer Science Now Counts as Math Credit in Most States – Is This a Good Idea?

Clive writes Old Toryism, Risen from the Crypt

Yves Smith writes Unsustainable California: No Easy Remedy for PG&E Blackouts, Fire Risks

Yves Smith writes Trump’s Withdrawal From Syria: Betrayal of Kurds or End to Endless War?

It’s ironic to hear the FBI whinge about conspiracy theories as a danger to public safety, yet see the officialdom, and even the press, handle the untimely death of Jeffrey Epstein in a manner almost guaranteed to maximize salacious interest and speculation.

The reason we are straying from our normal topics of interest to discuss Epstein is that the overarching mission of this website is to promote critical thinking. If you’ve been paying attention to news, it too often feels as if you’ve entered an informational hall of mirrors. Not only is the spin so heavy that it takes careful reading to separate information from innuendo, but with the rise in social media, the reaction to a news story often overwhelm the underlying event. For instance, witness the consternation about Bernie Sanders making a reasonable observation about the Washington Post’s coverage of his campaign, that it’s biased against him and Jeff Bezos’ ownership of the Post might have something to do with that. The indignant howls were a reminder of where the class interests of the press now lie.

With Epstein’s apparent suicide, it’s striking how none of the responsible adults have attempted to manage the press. Normally, in no less than 36 hours after an event like this, Someone Official holds a press conference. Even if they wind up saying almost nothing substantive, they make solemn reassurances about They Will Get to the Bottom of Things, and better yet, with some detail about the process (“The autopsy will be conducted by the office of X. We expect to receive a report by Y date, and to make key details public by Z date.”) Why hasn’t a such a basic move happened? It certainly suggests that the DoJ was caught with its pants down, and perhaps also that there has been serious turf war among the parties responsible for Epstein’s custody. (Attorney General William Barr did make some brief comments on the Epstein matter at a previously scheduled “law enforcement conference” in New Orleans).

There are more anomalies that reflect poorly on the caliber of reporting on this case, and we’ll highlight a few in the hopes that readers will discuss others. The coverage has had an epic level of opinion and fluff at the expense o gumshoe work to get at facts. Here it is, four days after Epstein’s demise, and there’s no timeline, no schematic of the prison, no details about what his cell was like. The closest we have is a single-source story from the New York Post, from a former inmate in the very same “9 South” cellblock for high-profile cases. This account curiously did not appear to lead to further investigation of these claims by Post or other venues. They should be verifiable or debunkable with interviews of other former inmates or guards, or alternatively, the slower route of FOIAs on the prison’s design and policies. Key parts of the August 10 article, which ran less than 12 hours after the time Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell:

There’s no way that man could have killed himself. I’ve done too much time in those units. It’s an impossibility.

Between the floor and the ceiling is like 8 or 9 feet. There’s no way for you to connect to anything.

You have sheets, but they’re paper level, not strong enough. He was 200 pounds — it would never happen….

Could he have done it from the bed? No sir. There’s a steel frame, but you can’t move it. There’s no light fixture. There’s no bars.

They don’t give you enough in there that could successfully create an instrument of death. You want to write a letter, they give you rubber pens and maybe once a week a piece of paper.

Nothing hard or made of metal.

This source also said those cells had one or two occupants, and he was skeptical of the idea that a guy like Epstein would have been housed with anyone else. So if this account is accurate, it makes the idea of taking Epstein off suicide watch seem like less of a stretch because there weren’t suicide makings in a regular cell or with regular prison garb. But the lack of camera monitoring of the cell proper (reported by the Post) lends itself to speculation about alternative scenarios…like the prison version of assisted suicide.

It’s important to be skeptical of single sourced accounts, as well as recognizing that more detailed accounts are seen as more credible, so the Post example is particularly appealing. But where are the other accounts? Why the lack of press probing into the routines for that prison? Has the New York Times abandoned its tradition of having reporters start out on the Metro Desk, doing gumshoe work on things like fires and babies in dumpsters?

Another striking anomaly came when the New York Times reported that one of the two Epstein guards was a temp assigned from another job at the facility. The Times had earlier reported on this practice as a response to under-staffing:

One of the two people guarding Jeffrey Epstein when he apparently hanged himself in a federal jail cell was not a full-fledged correctional officer, and neither guard had checked on Mr. Epstein for several hours before he was discovered, prison and law-enforcement officials said….

No correctional officer had checked on Mr. Epstein for several hours before he was found, even though guards were supposed to look in on prisoners in the protective unit where he was housed every half-hour…

This story has a single source reporting that Epstein hung himself with a bedsheet.

Today the Times reported that the two guards were sleeping for three hours and falsified records and the Associated Press added that the surveillance cameras showed the guards didn’t makes the rounds.

This is fine as far as it goes, but it is awfully thin gruel relative to the questions swirling over the weekend, like why the apparent considerable gap of time (by the standards of emergencies) between when Epstein was found and when he was wheeled into to the hospital an hour later?1

And then there’s the bizarre show of the raid on Epstein’s island. Was that displacement activity? If it was an important target, why after he was dead and not earlier?

This is a long-winded way of saying that I hope readers will identify other issues with what the public knows and doesn’t know about Epstein’s death, with attention to the caliber of the information behind what the press has reported and where there are gaps. If the government wants to put paid to some of the wilder theories, like Epstein’s death was a Mossad rendition (either on site or via extraction), coughing up more information would be a good place to start.

____

1 I am putting this in a footnote due to its speculative nature. A colleague who claims to know the operation of the Downtown Hospital says emergency arrivals never go in this way. The ambulance backs up and the gurney is hauled out and there’s no vantage point for a shot like this one. The prominent signs would make one think this contact has it wrong, so I will leave this for any readers familiar with this facility to pipe up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *