World in View: The many implications of Jeffrey Epstein

From the September-October 2019 issue of News & Letters

The Jeffrey Epstein affair is not just one more celebrity scandal, although it implicates famous names from show business, fashion, and high society alongside those from the top echelons of government power.

Epstein’s alleged suicide in New York City’s Metropolitan Correctional Center on Aug. 10 adds one more layer of obscurity to his twisted life story. There is much that will never be known about this wealthy man who raped and abused countless young girls yet mixed with some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world.

The known facts tell a larger story about the decadent state of capitalist society. In the words of one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, “Jeffrey thought it was absolutely brilliant how easily money seduced all walks of life. Nothing or no one that couldn’t be bought.”

The total corruption of the U.S. legal system was plain to see in the way his 2008 non-prosecution agreement landed Epstein a token sentence while slandering his underage, working-class victims as “prostitutes.” (A detail withheld from the girls themselves.) This happened despite the FBI, under then-Director Robert Mueller, having full knowledge of the extent of his crimes. Why?

Epstein’s social circle included figures as prominent as former President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew of Britain, and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, the current power behind the throne. His alleged accomplice was Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite daughter of newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell.

The many allegations of human trafficking now surfacing involve other wealthy and aristocratic names. There are perhaps parallels to the way the Panama Papers exposed the corrupt offshore banking practices of the ruling class, but even uglier.

One fascinating aspect of this story is Epstein’s courting of scientists, particularly those engaged with artificial intelligence and behavioral research. Why? It is reminiscent of capital’s embodiment in China’s high-tech surveillance state, the science fiction-infused caste politics of India’s Narendra Modi, and the planning of “smart” cities by Middle East oil and U.S. tech billionaires.

From echoes of the novels of Marquis De Sade to dystopian science fiction, this predator’s story touches on the past and future of class society.

Epstein took many secrets to his miserable grave. For the sake of his countless victims, these secrets—his collaborators and fellow abusers—should be relentlessly pursued and exposed. “Conspiracy theories” aside, he also left many harsh truths in plain sight.

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