Epstein’s death leaves unanswered questions

The real question that seems to go with Epstein to the grave is how he became friends with such a social network

August 12, 2019 16:37
U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein (C) appears in court where he pleaded guilty to two prostitution char

U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein (C) appears in court where he pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. July 30, 2008. Picture taken July 30, 2008. . (photo credit: UMA SANGHVI/PALM BEACH POST VIA REUTERS)

On Saturday, the same day we learned that Jeffrey Epstein had committed suicide, major media reported on new details of the disgraced financier’s “inner circle.” The reports about Epstein are always of the sort that make you want to turn away when reading them. Details from court documents always seem to get worse each time, with women claiming that as young teens they were treated as “slaves,” sent to have sex with powerful men, and subjected to abusive whims.

Epstein’s death will mean that many questions go unanswered. At the heart of these questions are not the lurid details about young girls lured to give “massages” or flown on a “Lolita express” to an “orgy island,” expected to read books about being “slaves,” taken to doctors due to “vaginal bleeding” and encouraged to give a power-mad man “three orgasms a day.” At the heart of the questions is really about how this happened in America, in an era when the country supposedly protects women’s rights and when the kind of powerful men named should have distanced themselves from this alleged conduct.

The recent CNN story about Epstein’s “inner circle” included names such as Ghislaine Maxwell, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, US Senator George Mitchell, Prince Andrew, US President Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton.

How did Epstein become friends with all these people?

The real question that seems to go with Epstein to the grave is how he became friends with such a social network. The fact that he sought out “sex slaves” is not so remarkable in a world where pornographic sites and bondage clubs cater to those with this fetish, and where novels like Fifty Shades of Grey offer some entry into this “world.” The fact that Epstein was accused of being a pedophile also puts him in the same category of accusations against R. Kelly and Michael Jackson.

But what about the world around him? How and why were so many powerful men linked to him? In most cases, major media have approached these men and their only reply is that they never saw young women, didn’t have sex with teenage girls, or didn’t go to Epstein’s island. The denial is never that they didn’t know him.

For instance, a spokesman for Clinton told CNN that Clinton had never been to Little St. James island, but that he had taken a handful of trips on Epstein’s plane. Trump, according to the same article, had a falling out with Epstein 15 year ago. Buckingham Palace also said that the Duke of York rejected as untrue “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors.” Governor Richardson had never been to “Mr. Epstein’s residence in the [US] Virgin Islands” and said he hadn’t met any of the women named in the documents.

It’s unclear why Epstein, who is portrayed merely as being “super-rich,” had this circle of friends and contacts. There are lots of rich people in America, and some of them own islands or have a townhouse in Manhattan. There are hundreds of billionaires in the US. Even if you got them all at a dinner, it would take a politician hours to meet them. Obviously some of them ingratiate themselves with politicians and people in power. But why Epstein?

In the focus on the sex crimes, the overall picture being presented of what took place and why is unclear. It is not a surprise, therefore, that some alleged that this was about more than just wealth and the abuse of women. From Iran to Turkey, and the UK to the US, media have suggested that there was “spying” taking place. An article in The Observer even claimed that Epstein “belonged to intelligence.” Another article in The Daily Beast alleged that “for some nebulous reason – whether to do with ties to foreign intelligence, his billions of dollars or his social connections – Epstein, whose alleged sexual sickness and horrific assaults on women without means or ability to protect themselves is well-known in his circle, remained untouchable.”

Sorry – what?

That theory doesn’t answer the question of how and why Epstein was connected to all these people. If the allegation is that there was some complex “honeytrap” involved, why would intelligence services need to use teenage girls and someone who might end up on the wrong side of the law because of it? And what was the point of it all, since some of those involved were former politicians or powerful men who knew Epstein before they ever ran for office, like Trump?

We will never understand from most of the powerful men around Epstein why he was so interesting to them. Where are the other indictments for those involved?

One man alone can’t operate what attorney Paul Cassell called an “international sex trafficking organization.” The Daily Beast has wondered where these other perpetrators and accomplices are. Well, the article seems to say that they are just doing normal things like working in interior design. Another woman who was accused of being part of the problem is now a commercial pilot. Most of the women named by The Daily Beast were assistants or even took part in the alleged crimes.

OVERALL, the allegations that led to Epstein’s arrest in July seem to portray a much larger series of serious crimes involving “sex trafficking” – which can’t take place by itself given the portrayal of Epstein as being at the heart of so many endeavors.

Vanity Fair says that he spent “most of his time off his massage table talking with important men.” On the one hand, major media portrays him as sending women to have sex with other powerful men, or at least providing the venue for illegal activities. Yet, it seems to also indicate that no one else was a co-defendant or charged perpetrator. Something doesn’t add up. There is always a money trail; there are always more people.

While many news reports name the women accusers, and their other lawsuits, few seem to indicate that the others in the “inner circle” will be charged or have spoken to authorities. Yet the FBI apparently identified 40 victims.

What and how did Epstein’s friends get out of all this?

Vanity Fair says that Epstein “seemed to be a cut above most of the older rich guys who were prowling the city’s models and bottles scene.” He collected rich friends. He was a “star-f**ker,” one model was quoted as saying. But he was also a friend of the academy. These friends, according to the article, included not only Clinton, but “Lawrence Summers” and others at Harvard. The Boston Globe said that Epstein became a “Harvard man” through his connections. Inside Higher Ed said that intellectual Steven Pinker’s photos with Epstein and connection has become “divisive.” The Verge reports about MIT professor Marvin Minsky’s links to Epstein. Minsky died in 2016.

The Guardian gives a more extensive who’s who of Epstein contacts. “Under the letter B alone are listed Tony Blair, Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson.” But these might have just been people Epstein called. The article focuses on Jean Luc Brunel, co-founder of a modeling agency. “The model scout’s name appears frequently in the flight logs kept for Epstein’s private jets, and prison records show he visited Epstein 67 times when he was in jail.”

The seemingly endless list of people linked to Epstein, from government to the academy to the modeling world, presents a larger question as to what it was about Epstein that attracted so many people. Was it just money? Was it women? It can’t be that he was the only one who had a nice place in the Virgin Islands. It has never been fully explained why and how all these people were linked to this one person. How does one person, in an apparently globalized world, become so central to so much that we know about?

Of course, wealthy people operate in wealthy circles, but the stories that have emerged about Epstein appear to be more than just some rich people rubbing shoulders. He took a keen interest in some of the lives of these people, whether academic projects or other details. And it’s never entirely clear what they thought about Epstein, especially because most of the responses to media are simply denials of having sex with teenage girls.

Is Epstein symbolic of a larger problem?

IN RECENT years, we have had an avalanche of stories about powerful men, often at the center of popular culture and accused of abusing others. From Harvey Weinstein to R. Kelly to Michael Jackson, to a once well-known rabbi caught placing cameras in a mikvah (ritual bath), there comes a point where we wonder if much of what was popular culture, music, movies and politics was created by men who are now accused of a series of misdeeds.

These misdeeds include serious accusations of rape, pedophilia and other horrid abuses that scar their victims for life. And yet, in most cases, a pattern emerges where the men were often accused many years ago and, only later, documentaries or new evidence and intrepid journalists led to their downfall. But these men, up until the moment of their downfall – and sometimes even after it – seem to operate in the same circles of power and wealth in which their friends find it hard to disown them. The larger problem is that we only tend to hear about it later that their friends knew. “He likes women on the younger side,” or “everyone knows about his behavior; we try to keep young women away from him.” Or “he was always creepy.”

And yet, again and again these kind of men don’t seem to have trouble becoming literally the beating heart of American culture. It’s not like these are fringe men, doing their alleged crimes far from view: It’s often almost in plain sight.

That leaves the biggest question of them all. These men are held up as particularly bad, but they don’t operate in a vacuum. They operate linked to other people who seem unwilling to call them out or nip their behavior in the bud. That means that these alleged crimes – or the sexual harassment and “me too” scandals we have become familiar with – are part of the larger problem of a sub-culture that is not willing to stand up to those in certain circles.

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