The big picture

You want a pithy summary of why so much noise is being made about Jeffrey Epstein? Here’s a good one.

The sprawling connections between Epstein and the nation’s intellectual and scientific elite — the full extent of which may still be ripe for exposure, Buzzfeed suggested — raised questions not just about individual judgment (Harvard biochemist George Church chalked it up to “nerd tunnel vision” in early August), but the enduring exclusivity and chauvinism of power networks writ large. “After the revelations of abuse and rape,” Adam Rogers wrote in Wired magazine this week, “the most frightening thing the Epstein connections show is the impregnable, hermetic way class and power work in America.”

It’s not that we have a particular animus against this one guy, or his coterie of clients, but that it’s a reflection of a deeper problem — the artificial hierarchies that afflict the whole system. Men vs. women, white vs. black, rich vs. poor, the ranking of colleges, the phony misrepresentation of what the wealthy colleges are for (it’s not for a better education, it’s for networking with other rich bozos), it’s all one big ugly structure that impedes the advancement of merit, and gives the privileged the ability to prey on the less well off. Sometimes the system of oppression is laid bare and exposed, and this is such a case.


  1. says

    “the most frightening thing the Epstein connections show is the impregnable, hermetic way class and power work in America.”

    I was thinking a bit after HJ’s post about gender quotas, the fight for merit isn’t over until people outside the social network can get in too. And perhaps this sharpens it, I can imagine gender quotas being filled by women who are already part of “the right families” and such.

    Although my concerns here are speculative, I don’t know if that problem is actually happening (or if it will in the future).

    This is a bit personal for me, because I really really do not have “the right family” or network connections, and I have to wonder how much of a factor that is in the waste of my engineering degree, among other things.

  2. unclefrogy says

    I agree completely. He is slightly different from some of the others who have surfaced lately only in the circles he inhabited and the people he befriended. So now it is headlines and the outrage and the titillation are running high will anything come out of this or will it just subside back in to the secret interior behind the barriers of class and privileged where it normally lives? ( a typo on my part let spellcheck suggest barrio for barrier I almost accepted the suggestion)
    I’m hopping to be surprised but not expecting to.
    uncle frogy

  3. devnll says

    “It’s not that we have a particular animus against this one guy, or his coterie of clients, but that it’s a reflection of a deeper problem”

    I object to that depiction a bit. It’s true that I think that the deeper problem is the bigger issue of the two, but I do very specifically dislike this guy, and everything that I’ve learned about him.

  4. VolcanoMan says

    I understand why it’s important to dissect Epstein’s web of power throughout the scientific community. My question though, is…how is it possible that this whole fiasco is a SURPRISE to people? I mean, it’s great that with this, and with the college admissions scandal earlier this year, people are finally becoming aware of the way power protects itself, the way it keeps and expands its influence, but nothing about this should be particularly explosive news. This is what America is. This is how it was built, paying lip service to equality while enshrining inequitable hierarchies into its founding documents. And it appears to be impossible to change it, to make it truly equal and fair; the people who are enjoying the fruits of their unearned, undeserved power won’t let that happen, and they have more than enough control of the institutions of power to enforce their will on everybody else. Every little improvement that is made can be easily reversed, necessitating political capital be spent protecting things like gay marriage and abortion rights, and when our primary goal is to defend the things that have already been achieved, we focus less on pushing for further improvements.

    For some reason, some people just want to have power over everybody else, want to be able to control what you can and cannot do. I’ve never understood this impulse…I am personally repulsed by the thought of having that kind of control over people, most of whom I don’t even know…but for some people, that kind of power is the only thing that will ever make them happy (or so they believe). So to tear down America, to END the system of self-destructive capitalism protected and perpetuated by America (a VERY worthy goal), there must first be a plan in place to ensure that people who want that kind of power can never get it, that in fact, NOBODY has access to that kind of influence.

    The liberal (not liberal redefined by conservatives to mean left-wing, I’m talking OG liberal, which is really not that far removed from “conservative”) impulse is to protect the system because it fears the alternative more than it fears capitalism (nevermind that capitalism is poised to end the world as we know it). I understand why people go down this path…the unknown is scary. CHANGE is scary. But I still think it’s better to TRY to prevent the destruction of humanity by revolutionary means than to keep sleepwalking towards a cliff. Unfortunately, the VAST majority of Americans are perfectly happy to keep sleepwalking. Waking them up must be our most pressing goal. Perhaps the very public downfalls of the likes of Epstein are necessary to show Americans just how fucked their system truly is. And perhaps millions of Americans need to die from climate catastrophes (famines, floods, hurricanes, etc.) before they will wake up to the need for drastic change (at which point it will probably be too late).

  5. DanDare says

    Its not a surprise. Its a chance to highlight something already known by many of us and to point out its details. It is a surprise to the wider audience perhaps.

  6. unclefrogy says

    how could it be a surprise when it is often the subject of prime-time major TV dramas?
    when it is the subject of irrational conspiracy theories? a Mozart opera
    the only surprise is how common and mundane it is. The subject, the “perp” turns out to not be someone hardly anyone ever heard of, but a beloved comedian, a powerful Hollywood producer, a rich highly connected investor. real people
    uncle frogy