Epstein didn't kill himself

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Graffiti featuring the phrase on an overpass on Interstate 71 in Cincinnati

"Epstein didn't kill himself" is a phrase that summarizes various conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Jeffrey Epstein that dispute the official ruling of suicide by hanging. Epstein was an American financier and convicted sex offender with connections to powerful and wealthy people, and his reported suicide led to numerous hypotheses about the nature and cause of his death. The phrase became an Internet meme, gaining traction in November 2019 as more of the circumstances around his death became public. The most common theory asserts that the true cause of his death was homicide via strangulation, arranged by one or more co-conspirators to silence him. As a result, some people have used the phrase "Epsteined" to refer to reported suicides that they believe were feigned.

The meme "Epstein didn't kill himself" is often inserted in unexpected contexts like a photo caption of the painter Bob Ross[1] or at the end of a social media post as a non sequitur.[2][3] The meme has appeared at multiple televised sports games in the form of signs and painted bodies.[4][5][6] Several people have also randomly interjected the phrase at the end of interviews.[1][7] It is used by individuals on all sides of the political spectrum without agreement on the specific details of Epstein's death.[6][8][9]

Background[edit]

The Metropolitan Correctional Center where Epstein died.

On August 10, 2019, American financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was found unresponsive in his Metropolitan Correctional Center jail cell, where he was awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges. According to the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons official statement, "He was transported to a local hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries and subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff."[10] The New York City medical examiner ruled Epstein's death a suicide.[11] Epstein's lawyers challenged that conclusion and opened their own investigation.[12] Epstein's brother Mark hired board-certified forensic pathologist Michael Baden to oversee the autopsy. In late October, Baden announced that autopsy evidence indicated homicidal strangulation more than suicidal hanging.[13] Both the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice's inspector general conducted investigations into the circumstances of his death, and the guards on duty were later charged with conspiracy and record falsification.[14]

Due to violations of normal jail procedures on the night of his death[note 1] and Epstein's claimed knowledge of compromising information about influential people, his death generated doubt about his apparent suicide and speculation that he was murdered.[4][17][18]

Mainstreaming[edit]

"Epstein didn't kill himself"

Seemingly overnight, those last four words, or something close to them, were everywhere: Belted out in videos posted by teenagers to TikTok, the social media platform beloved by Generation Z. Hacked into a roadside traffic sign in Modesto, Calif. Uttered by a University of Alabama student during a live report on MSNBC, hours before the president was set to appear at the school's football game.

Teo Armus, The Washington Post[19][20]

The meme on a sticker at a bus stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Epstein didn't kill himself graffiti

At the end of an interview with Jesse Watters on Fox News, former Navy SEAL and founder of the Warrior Dog Foundation Mike Ritland asked if he could give a "PSA". After being told that he could, he stated, "If you see the coverage [about combat dogs] and you decide I want one of these dogs, either buy a fully trained and finished dog from a professional or just don't get one at all. That, and Epstein didn't kill himself."[21][22] Ritland later stated his purpose for suddenly mentioning the phrase was to keep the Jeffrey Epstein story alive.[4][23] According to The Washington Post, the meme gained a large amount of attention in the immediate aftermath of this interview.[19][20]

Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar shared the meme in a series of 23 tweets where the first letter of each tweet spelled out the phrase.[4][24] Australian rapper Matthew Lambert of Hilltop Hoods, after winning the 2019 ARIA Music Award for Best Australian Live Act, included the phrase in his acceptance speech.[25]

2020 Golden Globe Awards[edit]

In his opening monologue at the 77th Golden Globe Awards, host and comedian Ricky Gervais joked that the suicidal character of his show After Life will come back for a second season. He added: "So in the end, he obviously didn't kill himself — just like Jeffrey Epstein. I know he's your friend, but I don't care".[26]

Platforms[edit]

The meme has been shared by individuals on a number of platforms including Facebook and Twitter.[27] Podcast host Joe Rogan and Internet personality Tank Sinatra used Instagram to spread the meme to their followers,[28] which in Rogan's case had included Mike Ritland.[23] The "Epstein didn't kill himself" meme has also appeared in TikTok videos,[1][20] which notably is frequented by a younger user base.[20]

Several users on dating apps, such as Tinder and Hinge, have written in their profiles that whether or not someone accepts the premise of the meme is a relationship deal breaker.[29] In the 2020 Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, a Le Krewe d'Etat parade float featured a large float with effigies of Epstein and Hillary Clinton.[30][31]

Products[edit]

Two beer companies, the Michigan-based Rusted Spoke Brewing Co.[32] and the Californian Tactical OPS Brewing,[33] advertised specialty-branded beers in connection to the meme.[21] Rusted Spoke's operations manager told the Detroit Free Press that people just thought the meme was funny.[34] In Switzerland, the Zürich-based company Kaex printed the meme on promotional material for an anti-hangover product.[35]

Swiss anti-hangover company sets up "Epstein didn't kill himself" billboard in city center of Zurich

Computer programmer, businessman, and presidential candidate John McAfee announced the release of an Ethereum-based token named after the meme. He had previously expressed doubts about Epstein's death.[36] 700 million tokens of the cryptocurrency were released to 8,000 users following its airdrop.[2] Following McAfee's death, many, particularly followers of QAnon, started using "McAfee didn't kill himself" in reference to the meme, the similarities of the reporting, and the fact that McAfee was an outspoken supporter of the phrase.[37]

Holiday-theme merchandise, such as Christmas jumpers, which prominently feature the phrase also became available for sale through several online retailers.[28][38] In an interview with Slate, independent merchandisers indicated that the Christmas/Epstein product lines were selling comparatively well and cited the mashup's dark humor for its internet popularity.[38] According to Variety, the Christmas-themed paraphernalia was reportedly outselling Game of Thrones merchandise.[2]

Vandalism[edit]

The phrase has been connected to several incidents of vandalism including its appearance "on road signs and overpasses around the country."[2] One specific incident saw the meme painted on 7-foot-high boulder and visible to travellers on Washington State Route 9 in Snohomish,[2] causing a bit of controversy in the local community.[39]

The site of a popular art piece at the Art Basel in Miami, Comedian,[note 2] a banana that had been duct-taped to a wall, was vandalized when Roderick Webber of Massachusetts wrote "Epstien [sic] didn't kill himself" in red lipstick on wall which Comedian had previously occupied.[2][40] Webber was arrested for criminal mischief,[41] and he reportedly spent a night in jail.[42]

Reactions[edit]

NPR's Scott Simon compared the bait-and-switch aspect of the meme to rickrolling.[8] He also worried that doing a news story about the meme could spread misinformation.[8] Federal prosecutors have tried to discourage the spread of the theory, but the Associated Press reported, "[t]he phrase 'Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself' has taken on a life of its own—sometimes more as a pop culture catchphrase than an actual belief."[43]

Writer James Poulos cited the advancement of social media and growing populist sentiments for the meme.[3] Commentators have also suggested that growing distrust of government and the elite played a large factor in its popularity as well.[5][9][28] Jeet Heer with The Nation has expressed his worries that this could lead to the meme becoming a useful tool for recruitment for the far-right;[19] but Adam Bulger, in a featured article for BTRtoday, dismissed Heer's concerns and encouraged the Democratic Party to embrace the meme.[44]

In an article for Mel Magazine published shortly before the Fox News interview, Miles Klee wrote that there were numerous factors for the meme's rise online; among these included a "simmering resentment" and a lack of justice for Epstein's victims.[45][46] He further explained that a large attraction of sharing the "Epstein didn't kill himself" meme was it served as a method to keep the Epstein story within the news cycle.[27][46] Author Anna Merlan has instead argued that the meme over time tends to trivialize the concerns of Epstein's victims.[1] However, she mentioned that Jane Doe 15,[note 3] who on November 19, 2019 publicly alleged that Jeffrey Epstein had raped her,[note 4] wore a bracelet featuring the phrase "Epstein didn't kill himself" at a public press conference to possibly indicate her belief in the theory.[1]

The season 4 finale of US TV drama The Good Fight had the title "The Gang Discovers Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein". In this story, it was discovered that Epstein had arranged for his body to be moved to an island where he had built an Egyptian-style mausoleum, and, parodying the end of Citizen Kane, the final shot shows a hidden passage containing machinery keeping organs alive.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ E.g. the removal of his cellmate without a replacement, the falling asleep of two guards who were meant to check on him, and the malfunction of two cameras in front of his cell.[15][16]
  2. ^ The exhibit previously featured a banana duct-taped to a white wall and had been sold for $120,000, but the banana was consumed by a performance artist the day before.[40][41]
  3. ^ Jane Doe 15 did not publicly reveal her name, and only said that she was 15 years old at the time of the recounted events from 16 years ago.[47]
  4. ^ Doe also called on Prince Andrew and any others with relevant information about Epstein to testify what they knew about his criminal conduct while under oath.[48][49]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Poisson, Jayme; Merlan, Anna (November 20, 2019). "Understanding the 'Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself' meme" (Audio). CBC News. Front Burner. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Khawaja, Jemayel (December 10, 2019). "'Jeffrey Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' Is Peak Meme After Art Basel Prank". Variety. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Poulos, James (November 15, 2019). "'Epstein didn't kill himself' and the decline of the elite". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Raymond, Adam K. (November 11, 2019). "The 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' Meme Has Gone Mainstream". Intelligencer. Vox Media. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Goggin, Benjamin; Tenbarge, Kat (November 19, 2019). "Why you're seeing Jeffrey Epstein murder memes everywhere". Insider. Archived from the original on November 10, 2019. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Ellis, Emma Grey (November 15, 2019). "'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' and the Meme-ing of Conspiracy". Wired. Archived from the original on November 29, 2019. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  7. ^ Flood, Brian (November 12, 2019). "'Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself' meme pops up on MSNBC". Fox News. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Simon, Scott (November 16, 2019). "Epstein's Death Becomes A Meme". NPR. Weekend Edition Saturday. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Rothschild, Mike (November 7, 2019). "Epstein died, but 'Epstein didn't kill himself' memes are alive and well". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  10. ^ Hallemann, Caroline (November 20, 2019). "Prince Andrew Says He Regrets His "Ill-Judged Association" with Jeffrey Epstein". Town & Country. Hearst Digital Media. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  11. ^ Sisak, Michael R.; Balsamo, Michael; Neumeister, Larry (August 17, 2019). "Medical examiner rules Epstein death a suicide by hanging". AP News. Archived from the original on August 16, 2019. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  12. ^ Frias, Lauren (August 16, 2019). "Jeffrey Epstein's lawyers blast 'medieval conditions' at federal jail where he died by suicide and say they are launching their own investigation". Business Insider. Archived from the original on August 18, 2019. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  13. ^ Leon, Melissa (October 29, 2019). "Jeffrey Epstein's autopsy more consistent with homicidal strangulation than suicide, Dr. Michael Baden reveals". Fox News. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  14. ^ O'Brien, Rebecca Davis; Ramey, Corinne (November 19, 2019). "Jeffrey Epstein's Jail Guards Charged With Conspiracy, Records Falsification". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  15. ^ Benner, Katie; Ivory, Danielle; Oppel Jr, Richard A. (August 11, 2019). "Before Jail Suicide, Epstein Was Left Alone and Not Closely Monitored". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 11, 2019. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  16. ^ Hosenball, Mark (August 28, 2019). "FBI studies two broken cameras outside cell where Epstein died: source". Reuters. London. Archived from the original on August 29, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  17. ^ Stewart, James B. (August 12, 2019). "The Day Jeffrey Epstein Told Me He Had Dirt on Powerful People". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 13, 2019. Retrieved August 22, 2019.
  18. ^ Stockler, Asher (August 27, 2019). "Epstein Lawyers say evidence 'far more consistent' with murder than suicide". Newsweek. Archived from the original on August 27, 2019. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  19. ^ a b c Heer, Jeet (November 18, 2019). "Jeffrey Epstein Isn't Going Away". The Nation. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d Armus, Teo (November 14, 2019). "A GOP congressman hid a meme about Jeffrey Epstein's death in his impeachment tweets". Washington Post. Morning Mix. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  21. ^ a b Castrodale, Jelisa (November 13, 2019). "This Beer Says 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' on the Bottom of Its Can". Vice. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  22. ^ Hein, Michael (November 3, 2019). "Fox News Guest Sneaks in 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' Comment During Live Segment". PopCulture.com. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  23. ^ a b Shultz, Alex (November 5, 2019). "Why "Jeffrey Epstein Didn't Kill Himself" Started Trending Almost Three Months After His Death". GQ. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  24. ^ Colasimone, Dan (November 15, 2019). "A US Congressman sent out a series of coded tweets pointing to a rapidly spreading conspiracy theory". ABC News. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  25. ^ Rahman, Khaleda (November 27, 2019). ""Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself," rapper declares during award acceptance speech". Newsweek. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  26. ^ Amatulli, Jenna (January 5, 2020). "Ricky Gervais Says Epstein Didn't Kill Himself, Drags Felicity Huffman At Golden Globes". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on January 6, 2020. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  27. ^ a b Royse, Dave (November 5, 2019). "Why 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' Has Taken Over Memes, Social Media". Yahoo! Finance. Benzinga. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  28. ^ a b c Dougherty, Michael Brendan (November 13, 2019). "'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself'". National Review. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  29. ^ Shultz, Alex (November 13, 2019). "Why on Earth Are People Talking About Jeffrey Epstein in Their Dating Profile?". GQ. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  30. ^ Wright, Robert J. "'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' Float Shocks Mardi Gras Goers". News Radio 710 KEEL. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  31. ^ "'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' Mardi Gras Float Featuring Hillary Clinton Effigy Rolls Through New Orleans". uk.news.yahoo.com. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  32. ^ DeVito, Lee (November 11, 2019). "Michigan brewery reminds us that Jeffrey Epstein probably didn't kill himself". Detroit Metro Times. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  33. ^ "Clovis brewery prints 'Epstein didn't kill himself' on the bottom of cans". KUTV. Clovis, CA. FOX26 News. November 7, 2019. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  34. ^ Morris, Taylor Nichole (November 11, 2019). "Mackinaw City brewery names beer after Jeffrey Epstein conspiracy theory". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  35. ^ Blum, Pascal (December 10, 2019). "Wahnsinnig lustig". Der Bund (in German). Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  36. ^ Chung, Frank (November 11, 2019). "John McAfee says Jeffrey Epstein was probably murdered". NZ Herald. News.com.au. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  37. ^ "QAnon followers are already spreading Epstein-like conspiracy theories about John McAfee's reported suicide".
  38. ^ a b Mak, Aaron (November 15, 2019). "The Latest Conspiracy Theory Merch Craze Is Jeffrey Epstein Christmas Swag". Slate Magazine. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  39. ^ Brown, Andrea (November 18, 2019). "A cryptic meme splashes the usually benign rock of Snohomish". HeraldNet.com. Snohomish: Sound Publishing. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  40. ^ a b Ocasio, Bianca Padró (December 8, 2019). "Wall of banana exhibit vandalized with lipstick at Art Basel: 'Epstien didn't kill himself'". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  41. ^ a b Dickson, EJ (December 8, 2019). "Art Basel Miami: 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' and the $120,000 Banana". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 14, 2019.
  42. ^ ""Epstein no se mató": la polémica frase que pintaron donde estaba el plátano de 120 mil dólares". La República (in Spanish). Mundo. December 10, 2019. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  43. ^ Sisak, Michael R. (November 24, 2019). "'Epstein didn't kill himself': Feds fail to snuff out conspiracy theories". Hartford Courant. New York. Associated Press. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  44. ^ Bulger, Adam (November 15, 2019). "Democrats Need to be The Party of "Epstein Didn't Kill Himself"". BreakThru Radio. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  45. ^ McCarter, Reid (November 4, 2019). "Man helpfully declares "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself" at the tail end of a Fox News interview". The A.V. Club. G/O Media. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  46. ^ a b Klee, Miles (October 31, 2019). "Memes Are Keeping the Jeffrey Epstein Story Alive". MEL Magazine. Dollar Shave Club. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  47. ^ Marcin, Tim (November 19, 2019). "New Epstein Accuser Says He Raped Her When She Was 15". Vice News. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  48. ^ Pierson, Brendan (November 19, 2019). "'Jane Doe 15' urges Prince Andrew to tell authorities what he knows about Epstein". Reuters. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  49. ^ "Alleged abuse victim wearing 'Epstein didn't kill himself' bracelet says Prince Andrew needs to talk to US authorities". ABC News. Reuters. November 19, 2019. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.

Further reading[edit]