TRIBAL DECLINE: "Wild speculation is warranted!"


The New York Times signs on:
The first reports of Jeffrey Epstein's death appeared on Saturday, August 10.

Instantly, the nation was confronted with the idiocy of Donald J. Trump.

In the absence of any evidence, Donald J. Trump encouraged the rubes to believe that certain events had occurred. That was typical, destructive conduct by Trump.

That was a typical gong-show coming from Trump. That said, Walter Kirn had actually beaten him to it!

According to the leading authority on his life, Kirn is a 57-year-old Princeton grad. Beyond that, he's "an American novelist, literary critic, and essayist.

"He is the author of eight books, most notably Up in the Air, which was made into a film of the same name starring George Clooney."

Kirn is also a bit of go-to guy at the New York Times. Next Sunday (August 25), this double review by Kirn is scheduled to appear on the front page of the high-profile Book Review section.

Yesterday (August 18), this intriguing essay by Kirn appeared in the high-profile Sunday Review.

The essay is intriguing because of what it says about the Times, our liberal tribe's paper of record. In Kirn's essay, he rants and raves about Epstein's death. The Times ran the unintelligent and thus illustrative piece beneath this unusual headline:
Why I Dabble in Jeffrey Epstein Conspiracy Theories
A person could imagine an intelligent essay appearing beneath a headline like that. That didn't happen in this case—but then, Kirn had beaten Trump to the punch in the matter of Epstein blather.

In yesterday's essay, Kirn says he does believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Beyond that, he describes himself as "a lifelong journalist who believes in waiting for the facts before reaching grand conclusions."

We're not sure why he describes himself that way. Way back on Friday, August 9, one day before we were told that Epstein had died, Kirn had managed to tweet this out, offering no source for his statement:
KIRN (8/9/19): So Jeffrey Epstein, among his many lucky breaks, “won” a 29 million dollar Powerball lottery. Nice. Someone has to, I guess. May as well be the billionaire providing you the politician/CEO with children to have have sex with. I mean, favors cut both ways.
As we said, Kirn provided no source for this exciting factual claim. By the next day, the world had been told that Epstein was dead. Apparently in response to this report, Kirn thrill-tweeted this:
KIRN (8/10/19): My only problem with ‘conspiracy theories’ is that they don’t go far enough.
The next day, Kirn retweeted his wife, Amanda Fortini. As retweeted by Kirn, Fortini had offered this:
FORTINI (8/11/19): Today is maybe a good day to remind people that the first officer who breached Paddock’s room after the Las Vegas shooting neglected to activate his body camera. We are always missing the key footage.
The key word there is "always." In reality, we're always missing the key footage, except in the million and one cases where, alas, we aren't.

As Trump began to toy with the gullible, Kirn complained that conspiracy theories don't go far enough. In some cases, this will turn out to be true.

In other cases, though, it won't. Consider that Powerball haul by Epstein, the score you'd never heard about right to this very day.

Did Epstein win a Powerball lottery, as Kirn excitedly tweeted? If so, what might it all mean?

As noted, Kirn gave no source for the thrilling claim—so yesterday, we turned to the Google machine. The few links for "JEFFREY EPSTEIN POWERBALL" tended to go to sites like Free Republic and The Daily Stormer, but one link went to Bloomberg News, where we found Joe Nocera, back in July, chuckling and rolling his eyes in the manner shown below.

In a lengthy report, Nocera had tried to determine where Epstein got all his money. He wrote his piece in a Q-and-A format. Chuckling, he ended with this:
NOCERA (7/17/19): Did Epstein win the Powerball lottery while he was in prison?

It’s not a completely crazy question. In August 2008, shortly after Epstein began his 13-month prison sentence in Florida, an entity called the Zorro Trust submitted the winning ticket for an $85 million jackpot. The ticket had been bought at a convenience store in Altus, Oklahoma. (The trust took the money as a lump sum, which came to $29.3 million after taxes.)

As it happens, Epstein had an entity called the Zorro Trust; he used it to make donations to politicians in New Mexico, where he had a ranch called—yep—the Zorro Ranch...

A few years ago, a lawyer representing some alleged victims took the prospect of Epstein winning the lottery seriously enough that he brought it up during a deposition with Epstein’s former pilot. But the Oklahoma City newspaper, the Oklahoman, did a little more digging and discovered that the anonymous winner worked in a grocery store across the street from the convenience store where the winning ticket was sold. Apparently, she decided to use the same name for her trust as Epstein did for his.

Not everything’s a mystery. Sometimes, it’s just a coincidence.
Nocera said the claim was bunk. Did Epstein suspiciously score all that lottery dough? Nocera says he did not.

That doesn't mean that Nocera is right, of course; he could always turn out to be wrong. It could even turn out that Nocera is part of a widespread plot to keep us from knowing the truth of these matters. It's possible that Ivanka Trump was holding a gun to Nocera's head as he typed that passage out!

Alternately, Joe Nocera could turn out to be in charge of the world! As Descartes showed us long ago, everything you've always thought about the world could turn out to be totally wrong, except for the undeniable fact that you're thinking about it.

Walter Kirn's essay in yesterday's Times is highly unintelligent. Perhaps for that reason, the essay carried high appeal for the people who select the articles for the Sunday Review.

This doesn't mean that we know the truth about what happened to Epstein. As Descartes tells us, it could be that Hillary Clinton navigated various drainage pipes to enter Epstein's cell and strangle him as he slept. Then too, he could be somewhere in Argentina, living with Hitler's great-grandkids, or even with Hitler himself!

If you can dream it, it could be true, as with that Powerball score. That doesn't mean that intelligent people are supposed to flip out and start typing confessions like this:
KIRN (8/18/19): I should say here, for the record, that I believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I believe that Qaeda terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. And yet I count myself as the next thing to a conspiracy theorist on Mr. Epstein, who himself appears to have been mixed up in mind-bending perversions that even I have trouble fathoming, including one to seed the world with many thousands of his genetic progeny. It seems I’ve been mugged by unreality.


On the internet, where this story is being arbitrated in lieu of our court system, which lost control of it, I’ve ventured a few distrusting comments recently about Mr. Epstein’s befuddling demise. Under the circumstances—someday I hope we’ll know what, exactly, they are—I feel that some wild speculation is warranted, if only to preserve one’s mental health by releasing built-up intellectual pressure.
In that second passage, "mental health" enters our story again, just as it ever was. This time, it's the mental health of Kirn himself, who says he's engaging in "wild speculation" to release the "intellectual pressure" he's been feeling of late.

Simply put, this isn't intelligent stuff. We don't say that as a way to prejudge what may turn out to be true in this case. We say that because it doesn't make sense to engage in wild speculation, in a high-profile public forum no less, every time a person like Kirn finds himself under stress.

Kirn was tweeting the idiocy even before Trump got started! But this isn't a story about Walter Kirn. It's a story about the Times.

The New York Times is aggressively marketed to our tribe as our nation's most intelligent newspaper. But how typical! When it found Kirn "dabbling in conspiracy theories," the Times decided to rush his thoughts into print, on one of its highest platforms.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is said to have said. The tribal decline found all around us helps us see that, at least in this case, the gentleman got it quite wrong.

We'll examine that tribal decline all week. If you're willing to let yourself see, the examples are all around.

Tomorrow: "Jargony" chaos in Cali!


  1. "This doesn't mean that we know the truth about what happened to Epstein."

    You don't know, dear Bob, and you will never know for sure.

    But from what you do know, dear Bob, and based on your experience and on your cognitive abilities -- you could make a guess.

    Humans are known for making -- and publicizing! -- hypotheses about phenomena they don't have the complete knowledge about.


    And there's absolutely nothing idiotic or destructive in any typical "conspiracy theories" inspired by this event.

    What really is idiotic, imho, it's your zombie outrage. Sad.

  2. “doesn't make sense to engage in wild speculation, in a high-profile public forum”

    Except that Kirn isn’t actually speculating about what might have happened to Epstein. He is pointing out the madness of a society in which someone like Epstein could not only exist, but thrive, being given the barest slap on the wrist by a government charged with providing justice to the victims of men like Epstein, where the guy that engineered that slap on the wrist became the Secretary of Labor, where a man who palled around with Epstein for years, calling him a “great guy”, with questionable behavior of his own, becomes president, where the government agency in charge of Epstein’s safekeeping for a second chance at justice somehow, through a perfect storm of “accidents”, loses Epstein, and that agency (DOJ) is headed by a man whose father employed the unqualified Epstein (among other conflicts of interest), etc, all of which renders the rendering of justice in this case far less likely...

    Kirn’s op-Ed is not actually speculation, but a lament. A careful reader, or one without some preconceived agenda (tribal decline!) like Somerby, would understand that.

    1. He was speculating.

      Btw. Exactly when did Epstein become a "convicted pedophile"?

      I keep reading this, or see "troubling" pictures of him with women who are clearly in their middle to late 20s, and I'm wondering what's going on with the news media today, let alone people in general.

      The Europeans are right. Americans are clearly crazy.

    2. "Exactly when did Epstein become a "convicted pedophile"?"

      When he agreed to the initial plea bargain. It is perhaps more accurate to say "convicted sex offender" since some pedophiles like to argue about whether very young girls are children or not.

      "On July 8, federal prosecutors charged financier Jeffrey Epstein with one count of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking."

      "The non-prosecution deal with federal prosecutors allowed the hedge fund manager to plead guilty to two state prostitution charges and serve just 13 months in prison."

    3. He was not a pedophile.

      What's the big need now to want to call everyone this? Does it make people feel better about themselves or something? More moral?

      Pedophilia is sexual interest in pre-pubescent children. Big difference.

    4. Big difference? Not to the child!

    5. Not a child. Big difference.

  3. Leave it to Somerby, who in this post is implying an equivalence between what Kirn is doing, who is supposedly a representative of the “liberal tribe”, and the baseless conspiracy-mongering that Trump is engaged in re Epstein.

    See, libs? You’re no different than Trump and the right-wing.

    1. He thinks liberals would be better off if they saw the ways their conduct resembles Trump's.

    2. It's more Right-wing schtick from Sometby.
      Call me when our tribe suppresses the white vote.

  4. Isn't there some more objective way of figuring out whether our tribe is in decline than the NY Times Opinion page?

  5. My theory is that Somerby is preoccupied by mental health these days because he is worried about his own mental decline. Naturally, that is too scary to think about directly so he is projecting that concern onto everyone around him, from Kirn to Trump.

    1. Why would a columnist speculate so crazily?

      Bob brings up a good point. These people are terrifically unreliable.

    2. This wasn't a "columnist" speculating. It was an op-ed written by a by-stander, not a member of the journalistic staff of the NY Times.

  6. While you all are debating one conspiracy theory, our very stable genius Acting President has uncovered another blockbuster, hold the presses, major conspiracy perpetrated against our Dear Leader, His Royal Fat Ass, Donald J Chickenshit.

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump

    Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election! This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump Supporter! Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought! @JudicialWatch

    I wonder if DinC will find that "charming"?

    1. Silver lining to the Trump disaster, he just may have sparked a long term progressive movement.


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