There seems to be good evidence that pro-Russian conspiracy theorists often utilize what I call “weaponized suicide”. As I think of it in ‘information warfare’, it is not like someone who walks into a crowded market with a bomb vest and detonates it. It is rather how actual suicides of controversial figures associated with sex crimes can be turned into populist conspiracy narratives which undermine the political establishment (in this case, the US government).
I think these kinds of conspiracies have interesting features to discuss because the ones I’ve observed affect both ‘left’ and ‘right’ political conspiracism. This is the kind of ‘divide and conquer’ or ‘schizowarfare‘ approach to conspiracy I often observe with Russia and their useful idiots.
Although I suppose this theoretical tactic of weaponized suicide would not be limited to an association with sex crimes (such as the case of Vince Foster, which would be more associated with financial conspiracy), perhaps in a Freudian sense in the modern day, the sex-linked conspiracies have better potential for mainstream virality and mass-appeal.
Here, I’ll touch on three examples, two of which I have previously written on. 1.) The case of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called DC Madame, 2.) the case of Anthony Bourdain, and 3.) the case of Jeffrey Epstein.
Deborah Jeane Palfrey (“The DC Madame”) hung herself around May 1, 2008 following a federal conviction for money laundering on April 15, 2008. Palfrey was significant as having a list of high-profile government clients for sex work, including former US Republican Senator David Vitter.
Reprising the role they’d played around Bob Livingston (and perhaps Jimmy Hoffa), in 2007, Larry Flynt’s investigator Dan Moldea found Vitter’s phone number in a 2001 call log to Palfrey’s escort service, leading to a scandal (although following a mea-culpa, Vitter was eventually re-elected in 2010. Also see “Draft Stormy”, where Stormy Daniels sought Flynt’s help to defeat Vitter as a candidate in the Louisiana US Senate election).
Palfrey, appearing on ‘The Alex Jones Show’ before her death claimed that the government was going to have her “suicided” and that: “No I’m not planning to commit suicide”…“I’m planning on going into court and defending myself vigorously and exposing the government.”
Despite her protestations to the contrary on The Alex Jones Show, investigations confirmed Palfrey died by suicide. She also left hand-written notes to family affirming there was “no way out…other than the one [she had] chosen here.” Moldea, who was working on a book with Palfrey also said she confided in him that she would rather commit suicide than go back to prison.
Just to sort of state the two-sidedness of this phenomenon: we have a left political instigation which comes from the ‘dirty tricks’ campaigns of Larry Flynt and Dan Moldea — but we also have a right wing version cultivated by Palfrey and Alex Jones. Either way you slice it, you have government workers implicated in illegal sex for money on the ‘left side’ and some kind of murderous plot to hide the sexual and financial malfeasance of the government on the ‘right side’.
When you put Larry Flynt-style left activism and Alex Jones together, you may easily be talking about full spectrum information war (against the establishment center) I think.
The June 18, 2018 suicide of Anthony Bourdain fed into the QAnon conspiracy theory and was spread virally in association with outlets associated with 2016 anti-Clinton election disinformation (‘Pizzagate’) as well as the Infowars / Alex Jones organization.
Anthony Bourdain’s politics were harshly anti-establishment, influenced by an apparent pro-Communist upbringing, and at the end of his life he was highly agitated by the “Me Too” movement. Many speculated that his suicide was a result of a broken heart by his girlfriend Asia Argento – who had been an early accuser of Harvey Weinstein. (Similarly Argento came from a family with a strong Communist propaganda background.)
Bourdain was a major critic of Hillary Clinton as well as Donald Trump, and previously spread anti-CIA conspiracy theories about US imperialism (by my measure anyway). (Interestingly he was also very close to the film maker Jack Bryan and the legacy of the ‘Siberia’ bar in New York City.)
Altogether, the Bourdain conspiracies once again attack the ‘soft underbelly’ of US establishment by inflaming public outrage over illegal sex (left wing) and sexual conspiracy theories about elites (right wing, esp. Hillary Clinton). (I will also assert that Donald Trump’s incredibly poor public position (at least in the left wing perspective) on gender and women’s issues played well into the Me Too movement and kind of activist feminism popularized recently by Pussy Riot).
I strongly believe that Trump’s history of sexual misconduct colliding with the Me Too movement (and ‘believe all accusers’ narratives) post election has contributed heavily to the toxic political climate in the US. This would have at least been convenient from an information warfare perspective, even if Russia had nothing to do with #metoo, as they do seem to have something to do with Pussy Riot.
To make it a triad of observations, I would now point to the August 10, 2019 suicide of Jeffrey Epstein as being another apparent example of a suicide which was weaponized in order to serve conspiracy narratives most likely attributable to Russian influence.
It has become hard to avoid the ‘Epstein didn’t kill himself’ memes. In the words of NY Magazine, it “has gone mainstream”. Amazon is full of EDKH merchandise, and it is even playfully appearing on the bottom of beer cans.
Overall, it seems that acceptance of the meme in the general population is partly due to absurdity. Despite Infowars consistently telling its audience there was clear evidence of murder, it seems factually confirmed that Epstein committed suicide. Most people probably accept this, even those who spread the meme. Even Bill Barr agrees. However, it is clear that some people do take it seriously, and the idea that “Epstein didn’t kill himself” continues a long line of conspiracy theories about suicide popular with the right wing which are relatable to sex scandals originating with left wing sources.
Similar to the instances of Palfrey and Bourdain, following a legitimate suicide – we see explosions in the public imagination of a sexual conspiracy narratively involving financial and political elites which has at least a partly-factual basis. Importantly, including Epstein’s supposed close ties to people like Bill Clinton. Indeed, there was an allegation of a close connection between the trending #clintonbodycount hashtag and Epstein’s death (argued in part to be the work of Russian bots which Republican Senator Marco Rubio agreed were a cause of the conspiracy spreading).
Alex Jones seems to be a major factor in spreading the three examples I’ve touched on here as well.
Whereas Moldea and Flynt had the appearance of politically assisting the Clintons during late 90’s impeachment in the Livingston example, we can see more of a case in the latter 2 examples (Bourdain and Epstein) where the disinformation seems to have made the Clintons a target rather than beneficiary of the conspiracy.
This also seems to be in line with known Russian efforts to denigrate Hillary Clinton in 2016 (in a way which has fed into the public dissatisfaction with Trump’s record on women and the trend in sentiment careening towards impeachment subsequent to his election. I think it was also supported in 2016 by ‘Tulsi Gabbard-style’ Democrats (eg. ‘Bernie Bros’) reactions to Russian election hacking which also undermined Hillary Clinton’s campaign arguably to the benefit of Russian efforts to elect Donald Trump.
That being said, and despite my then vote for Hillary Clinton, I’ve since come to think that no matter who got elected, Russia was going to keep attacking us. Russia has achieved maximum division using both candidates rather than preferring one over the other, from what I can see. I am not convinced the US would be any more civil of a place had Clinton been elected. In fact, sadly, I’ve come to think the opposite.
My guess would be that we can expect to see more of this kind of thing in the future, probably involving people that Russia has cultivated (and then ‘burned’) in order to undermine the US political center (consider Harvey Weinstein’s downfall after for example being behind many of Michael Moore’s films). Sex seems a very powerful lever for rumor-mongering and influence across all-strata of society and death is apparently similarly powerful. Combining them together with weaponized information deployment, it seems you have an effective full-spectrum propaganda approach.