A meme about Jeffrey Epstein.
@HauntedToilet / Instagram
A meme referencing Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide, which people dispute. The Impact of the meme can stretch to the media and cause more harm than good.

You know the Epstein coverage is bad when you’re listening to FOX News trying get information. It’s even worse when FOX News doesn’t even report on Epstein’s death, and instead bashes other news stations for not talking about it

Jeffrey Epstein died on Aug. 10—three months ago. For some time, his death exploded on Twitter and in the news. It seemed like everyone was talking about it. Two weeks later there was little to nothing. People moved on to the next thing. Yet recently, Mike Ritland, a former Navy SEAL, was invited to talk on FOX News about the adoption of military dogs. At the end of his segment, Ritland suddenly stated, “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” This caught the news presenter, Jesse Watters, off guard. A tweet which has since been removed from Twitter, went viral and sparked #EpsteinCoverup to appear on the trending page. 

This is an interesting phenomenon because political trendiness has always been a reality in our media consumption. We become aware of an event or a scandal, tweet angrily about it for maybe three weeks tops arguing why people should be talking about it, then something else happens and we are suddenly stuck in an endless cycle of forgetting. 

Epstein has come back to the front page though. We’re talking about it again, but not in the same way. It has now become a meme we don’t take seriously. This is detrimental to our democracy because we, as the consumers of media, have subconsciously decided that this whole thing is a joke. Creating and liking memes about it shows our government and political leaders that it is not something to look that deep into.

I am guilty of this too. I have retweeted the occasional “How to eat candy corn” meme which is basically an image of a piece of candy corn with this written on it: 1. Open bag, 2. Pour candy corn into trash and 3. Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself. I understand that making fun of something makes it easier to deal with, but it doesn’t accomplish much. It instead harms the victims of Jeffrey Epstein and his circle. This minimizes their story and potentially makes it more difficult for them to get justice. 

Now, it can’t be good when Jesse Watters is one of the few to dedicate an entire segment to call for an investigation into why ABC News scrapped their report on Epstein. I think it is a good thing that he is doing this, but I don’t think we should leave it all up to him. Especially when his segment touches very little on Epstein’s actual death and instead focuses on criticizing other news stations in true FOX News fashion.

I’m calling for an end to the #EpsteinDidn’tKillHimself meme and a rise in activist anger at the lack of decent investigation. Political meme culture should cease when it hurts those affected. I think it is essential that we keep discussing it, but the meme trend has to stop if we are going to get anything done.

Sarah Strang can be reached at sstrang@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @sarahstrang100.