- July 15, 2019
Many people will be familiar with the observation made by John Stuart Mill in 1867 that ‘Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.’ This is true as far as it goes, but there are also cases when the triumph of evil is not due to the passivity of ‘good men’, but to a wider systemic and societal amorality that enables bad men to get away with pretty much anything they want.
Take the billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who has just been indicted on charges of sexual trafficking of minors, thanks to dogged investigative journalism from the Miami Herald.
Many people will have heard by now that Epstein is a financier and hedgefund manager, with a history of sexual abuse of minors stretching back decades. Epstein was originally indicted in 2008, where he received an astonishingly lenient sentence of 13 months on charges of soliciting a 14-year-old girl for prostitution, even though 40 other girls had come forward to accuse him of rape and sexual assault – some of whom were as young as 13 or 14 when the assaults took place.
Some of these girls were recruited through modelling agencies – allegedly with the assistance of the socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. Others were young girls from poor, dysfunctional families, who recruited each other. Epstein also had girls flown in from Eastern Europe. All of them passed through his New York mansion, his house in Palm Beach, his New Mexico ranch and his Caribbean island, where they catered to the perverse whims of Epstein and his high-profile guests.
Epstein’s photos are very Ralph Lauren, with his long rangy look and the self-satisfied and vaguely enigmatic smile. He cultivated an image as a cultured philantrophist, with interests in evolution, physics and sociobiology. He became a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Few people understood exactly how he made his money, but he made a lot of it. His roster of powerful friends included scientists, lawyers, politicians and Hollywood actors. Woody Allen, Alan Dershowitz, Bill Clinton, Kevin Spacey, Ehud Barak, Prince Andrew – the list is long, and men who move in such illustrious circles will always be given a greater latitude then their counterparts in the world below.
In an unctuous hagiography of Epstein in 2002, New York Magazine oohed and aahed over the ‘man of mystery’ who ‘is frequently seen around town with a bevy of comely young women’, who collected both ‘beautiful women’ and ‘beautiful minds.’
One of these minds was Bill Clinton, who described Epstein as ‘both a highly successful financier and a committed philanthropist with a keen sense of global markets and an in-depth knowledge of twenty-first-century science.’
Epstein would have liked that article, but he was less keen on a Vanity Fair profile that came out in 2003, whose author spoke to two girls who had been sexually abused by him. Under pressure from Epstein, the editor of Vanity Fair pulled these references, and Epstein continued as before. Even when he was indicted in 2007, a battery of expensive lawyers – including Dershowitiz – worked with the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Alexander Acosta to have most federal charges against dropped and sealed.
Had it not been for the Miami Herald, he would be en route to rehabilitation. But now dozens of girls have come forward with accusations of rape and sexual abuse, and some of Epstein’s friends may be getting nervous. Already Acosta – the man DonaldTrump made his labor secretary – has resigned. Which brings us to Trump himself.
Trump is now at pains to distance himself from Epstein, claiming ‘I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I have spoken with him for 15 years. I was not a fan. A long time ago. I’d say maybe 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.’
As always, Trump is lying, and his lies aren’t hard to prove. In 1992 he and Epstein held a ‘calendar girl’ party at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in which they were the only two guests with 28 girls, for purposes one can only guess at. The 2002 New York Magazine piece carries the following quote:
‘I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,’ Trump booms from a speakerphone. ‘He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it – Jeffrey enjoys his social life.’
In 2016, a lawsuit brought by ‘Jane Doe’ against Trump and Epstein, described how both men enjoyed their social life together in 1994, by raping and sexually assaulting her on various occasions at Epstein’s house when she was thirteen years old. Even though her statement was supported by one of Epstein’s ‘party planners’, who witnessed some of these assaults, the lawsuit was dropped after Jane Doe’s attorney cited ‘numerous threats’ against her client.
So contrary to John Stuart Mill’s assertions, this is one man who was able to ‘compass his ends’, not because too many good men did nothing, but because too many men and women knew or suspected what was going on and did nothing. Some may have been directly involved in what Epstein was doing. Others may have been too dazzled by the money, wealth, power and celebrity that provides the dank froth on our 21st century plutocracies to give a damn about what was happening to people who did not have wealth or power.
Trump should have been nailed to the wall about that lawsuit. Instead he is in the White House, and the Republican Party continues to grovel to him and so do British politicians and celebrity-narcissists like Piers Morgan.
Not many people are groveling to Epstein. As Robert Wyatt once observed in a very different context, they now flee from him who onetime did him seek. But Epstein is is only back in prison because one newspaper had the courage to do what so many should have done a long time ago. Some of his friends will be nervous, and with good reason.
We can only hope that this time justice will be served, and well-served, not only to Epstein, but to the Orange Caligula and all the other big men who floated with them on the rancid surface of our new gilded age, basking in the impunity given to them by a star-struck and wealth-struck world that too often preferred not to look, or simply didn’t care about young girls who were considered to have no value at all.