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On me, and the Media Lab (ethanzuckerman.com)
184 points by msghacq 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments



>I also wrote notes of apology to the recipients of the Media Lab Disobedience Prize, three women who were recognized for their work on the #MeToo in STEM movement. It struck me as a terrible irony that their work on combatting sexual harassment and assault in science and tech might be damaged by their association with the Media Lab.

Perhaps the anti-harassment movement should expand to also promote the fact that people's work (or person) should not be damaged merely by association?


Media Lab Disobedience Prize looks like the Aaron Swartz Prize.


The related Epstein-academia connection which deserves scrutiny is with Martin Nowak at Harvard. Certainly far more money involved in terms of donations. And many articles referenced him visiting with Epstein extensively, including his island.


As a follow-up to the Harvard connections that remain under-scrutinized, here’s an alarming tweet from a Caltech professor:

‘Around 2007 I attended a dinner at @Harvard during which someone told me about a professor who was flying to New York, and to some island, to visit a millionaire. With that millionaire, I was told, he was raping girls. "Everybody knows" they said..‘ https://twitter.com/lpachter/status/1163608101443928064?s=21


he was raping girls. "Everybody knows" they said

Again with the parallels to Harvey Weinstein. All the happy, smiling people photographed with him also scrambled to distance themselves once the allegations reached a critical mass, but they all knew all along what he was. And as long as it suited their interests they were perfectly willing to look the other way.


Really? How would they know?

I'm asking sincerely, I've not deeply read into this (or the Epstein story). I just always suspected that rich and influential people would generally be able to keep secrets under wraps.

I guess I just think it's kind of odd to assume that everyone who ever posed on a photo with Weinstein knew he was a rapist. That's quite a far stretch of "guilty by association"



If regular child rape trips of peers and colleagues really are casual dinner party conversation topics at top academic institutions like Harvard and common knowledge no one bothers to do anything about, one begins to wonder what else our betters are up to in broad daylight.


This rapidly veers into the realm of gross speculation and conspiracy theory. But the prospect that large elements of the ruling establishment (business, government, academic, possibly legal, certainly clerical) are kompromat, then the data custodian holding such information has immense power.

Oddly enough, this is largely the argument which was used from the 19th century through the 1990s to bar Communists and homosexuals from government and military service, and most privileged positions in business. It now seems to have hit the cis hetero community, hard.

There may need to be a widespread opening of books. Because if "they" have it -- where "they" is whatever adversarial power or authority you care to name might be, it's pretty certain that Home Team also have a strong idea of the same facts, though are less disposed to utilise them, generally.

This also raises an interesting characteristic of information and pervasive surveillance. It's already beyond bad for the ordinary public who can be scammed, harrassed, defrauded, or coerced through legal or business threats. There's little reason to think that anyone who is in a position power is immune, and very probable that they're even more subject to such surveillance, if not outright baiting.

And whilst I've my own theories over which political stripes are more involved in this, at least presently, I've got a very strong suspicion that none can claim to be fully comprised of innocents.

Which could explain numerous elements of both oddly cooperative behaviour and failure to respond.

Barbed wire is effective without being lethal, through knowledge of repeated pain.


And what did this Caltech professor do about it? Or even try to do?


Pachter has a tendency to libelous-seeming rhetoric but I can't imagine he wouldn't testify if subpoenaed, even over hearsay.


I'm so sad to see Nowak involved given that his lab's research on evolutionary dynamics is outstanding.

It's depressing too to see how many people Epstein influenced and was associated with. It's impossible that none of them knew about his sex abuse "habit." I guess it's just like with Ponzi-like financial bubbles and cooked corporate finance (e.g. Enron and now apparently GE): when the money is flowing people go along and don't ask questions. It seems to be even deeper though. I wonder if humans have a cognitive bias where when we're getting money/resources from someone we "un-see" things that could damage that relationship?

There's a character I've read about over in the UK named Jimmy Saville that seemingly got away with serial sex abuse (of virtually all ages) for his entire life. Same explanation apparently: he raised and donated a lot of money and generally threw a lot of money around.


>I wonder if humans have a cognitive bias where when we're getting money/resources from someone we "un-see" things that could damage that relationship?

Don't assume it's merely about the money. Many people respond equally well to offerings of sex servants...


To reinforce the lore (and spread some Twain), http://www.paulgraham.com/cornpone.html


Marvin Minsky is apparently another one.


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" -- Upton Sinclair

Money definitely influences peoples' perceptions and actions - if it didn't, we wouldn't have such societal institutions as salaries, bail, alimony, tax incentives, and campaign donations. People who don't play the reciprocity game ("if I give you something, I expect at least friendly relations") rapidly find themselves socially isolated.


I agree but this is also big. Joi Ito admitted to visiting Epstein's houses as well. He also let him co-invest in startups with him. It's unclear which startups in particular Epstein was an investor in though.


Yes I agree as well - did not mean to diminish this news. MIT Media Lab and Joi Ito are definitely more prominent. And the timing (post-2008) is rather damning. His history was a google search away..


Nathan Matias is also leaving for the same reason: https://medium.com/@natematias/leaving-the-mit-media-lab-ea3...


BTW, he already has a job at Cornell. He was already going to leave. I'm not sure he's sacrificing much of anything.


I hate to be cynical but someone who is a "visiting" appointment is going to be leaving anyway. This is a great way to virtual signal without giving up anything.


I like very much his addendum:

> So thank you for all the kind words about bravery. Truth is I’m privileged enough to afford to be brave. For those of you who love the Media Lab and want to see it sail through these rough waters, please take time to reach out to people who may not be able to be as visible in their next steps. Make sure they’re doing okay. Support them whether their decision is to leave or to stay. So many of my colleagues at the Media Lab right now are hurting, and they need your support and love too. Hope we can redirect some of that love folks are sharing with me to them too.


Yeah, I'd previously only heard about Zuckerman in passing, but that post really gave me the impression of highly empathetic and considerate person.


I'd love a brief explainer on why exactly Joi Ito and the Media Lab are supposed to be such a big deal.


My general impression is the Media Lab is sort of framed as the successor to the old AI lab, a kind of research crown jewel of MIT. Ito is its director and thus shares in its glory and builds on it. I've seen a variety of press releases over the years polishing and building that glory up. I've seen a lot of smart names associated with it over the years.

I'm not, professionally, interested in its research direction so I don't pay attention to its research really. :: spreads hands ::


It’s a fair question. Ever since the days of Nicholas Negroponte the Media Lab has been a triumph of style over substance. Nevertheless, it’s still an integral part of MIT.


Do you ever read the New York Times? He’s on the board. He’s also connected to half of SV. Check his Flickr account for the portraits.


I subscribe to the New York Times and still don't know how it was Joi Ito came to be so connected to it.



Dunno about Joi Ito - his biggest claim to fame prior to directing the Media Lab seems to be as a venture capitalist who invested in Flickr, Kickstarter, Twitter, Six Apart, etc.

The Media Lab has a long history of innovations that you've probably heard of: E-ink, Formlabs (3D printers), RockBand/GuitarHero, the touchstick on IBM Thinkpads, OLPC, Lego Mindstorms, and Scratch were all developed there.


The extent of the Rock Band / Guitar Hero connection is that they were made by a company (Harmonix Music Systems) founded by two people who had been grad students at the Media Lab. They did indeed work on music tech while at the Media Lab, and the first Harmonix product, The Axe, was an outgrowth of that tech, although it only sold a few hundred copies. Guitar Hero came eight years later.

(I worked on all three projects.)


Also the Echo Nest which was bought by Spotify, Affectiva, Little Bits (created by Ayah Bdeir just after graduating), expansion microscopy. Limor from Adafruit did her master's thesis there. There have also been many smaller but interesting projects by graduates.


Do you know if Epstein invested in any of those startups?


The red pointing stick in the ThinkPad was from IBM (or PARC), not from the Media Lab. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pointing_stick#History


It's a short list, and some "inventions" are dubious at best. OLPC for instance.


Those were the ones I've heard of - the actual list is quite a bit longer, but includes a lot of B2B technologies in industries I don't care about.

That's pretty good for an organization with a budget of $75M and a permanent staff of 80. I'd be hard-pressed to think of an organization of similar size that's had greater impact - maybe YCombinator or Stanford's CS department. Bell Labs was orders of magnitude bigger - in their 1970s heyday they had 24,000 employees and a budget of around $6B in today's money.


Bell Labs can just show up in this competition, say 'the transistor', drop the mic and walk out. Media Lab has always been, by design, about outreach and demos and fundraising as much as (if not more than?) about research. Comparing it to real research institutions on the basis of research is never going to come out flattering.


Wasn’t Bell Labs innovating before that? Presumably with a smaller budget and smaller head count? Maybe still bigger than Media Lab. But if Bell Labs did some of their impressive stuff at say 5x budget and head count of Media Lab (using only inflation to do budget differences also prob will lead to an uneven comparison that isn’t fair. Not sure which way it would swing though). Then Bell Labs id think would still take the cake.

EDIT: Bell Labs started out with 4K employees so it was always an order of magnitude bigger.

Maybe Media Lab is the biggest innovator for its size. I don’t know if that means much though if it is. Bell Labs gets brought up probably because their influence and what they’ve done far far exceeds the budget and head count advantage.


The parent tweet said "innovations" which is not the same thing as "inventions," the word you used.


Was the connection just that they took money from Epstein? Did they already know about the things he was doing when they took the money?


Literally the first sentence was that Marvin Minsky was implicated in his crimes[1].

> Did they already know about the things he was doing when they took the money?

Clearly yes: "Joi asked me in 2014 if I wanted to meet Epstein, and I refused and urged him not to meet with him." The first cases against Epstein were in 2008 and Epstein's reputation has been well known since then.

[1]: https://www.theverge.com/2019/8/9/20798900/marvin-minsky-jef...


Let’s not forget that it’s an allegation against Marvin Minsky, not a proved event. He’s not even alive to confirm or deny the charge. As someone who was around Minsky, I have a very very hard time believing this for a number of reasons.

Our culture has gotten to the point where an accusation is enough in the court of opinion. It’s good that these issues have brought awareness to places where victims have been otherwise minimized in the past, or have been proof less of the action despite it happening. And that’s a tough thing. But occasionally these accusations are proved to be false. I think we’re getting carried away here, at least as far as Minsky goes.


>Our culture has gotten to the point where an accusation is enough in the court of opinion

That's true. On the other hand, out culture was for far more decades (nay, millennia) to the point that people could not care less about such accusations, and the power figures could do whatever they liked...

Also, it wasn't just an accusation in the "court of opinion", but a deposition to an actual court.

"In a deposition, Giuffre, née Roberts, claimed she was trafficked to MIT professor Marvin Minsky, who died in 2016 at age 88, as well as former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, ex-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and money manager Glenn Dubin, whose wife, Eva, is an ex-girlfriend of Epstein’s."

Still, it's not proven and I'm against the "court of public opinion", at least in more shallow cases (e.g. Woody Allen). But here it's at Weinstein and worse level.

I can see some fake-victim badmouthing a powerful figure to bring them down. Or to blackmail them. Or for revenge (e.g. from a bad relationship, etc). So I'd understand it if e.g. it was fake accusation just against one person.

But it seems too much for a fake-victim to name names of several people, and powerful people at that, on top.


Not to mention that, if you believe Giuffre was grandstanding, why on earth would she name an academic whose name nobody outside of the CS world would recognize? If she was just pulling names out of thin air, how many famous names would the average person go through before they got to Marvin Minsky?

It's the very out-of-left-field-ness of the allegation that makes it seem credible.


Er, they aren't out of left field, any more than naming Steven Pinker or Dershowitz is 'out of left field'. Gosh, how many names would you have to go down to think about those guys? Well - not that many when you consider that she's just naming people who were already known to have gone to Epstein dinners etc. That's not that large a set of people, and why would you name random people who had never had any kind of association with Epstein when you can pick ones you knew were at least around at some point and thus plausible?


dershowitz is a public figure. he's constantly on national talking heads news type shows and has had very public spats (thereby making him more visible) with other talking heads.

Pinker, while not as famous as dershowitz, is also a public figure - he's published several pop sci books and also makes the rounds on various morning shows (to promote his books).

Minsky was purely an academic - as far as I know he never published pop books and only spoke at academic conferences. he's much much further down the list.

Furthermore this was admitted into the record as sworn testimony, lying being punishable by perjury laws. And note she gave the deposition before epstein committed suicide (so conceivably she could've proven to be lying). Who are you to cast doubt on criminal procedures simply because it suits some narrative of yours about perceived witch-hunts?


You are ignoring my point. No one is doubting that Minsky associated with Epstein. That is all that is necessary for her to know his name and be able to accuse him, and her knowing his name is not dramatic evidence of truth. What would be valid evidence of truth would be something like a third party (like, say, Greg Benford) confirming it.

> Minsky was purely an academic - as far as I know he never published pop books and only spoke at academic conferences. he's much much further down the list.

This is not even accurate. Minsky was the oracle of AI, the head of the MIT AI Lab. He influenced AI from the 1950s to the 1990s. Any pop article about AI might quote or interview Minsky. And what is 'Society of Mind' but a popularization, widely read?

> Furthermore this was admitted into the record as sworn testimony, lying being punishable by perjury laws.

Oh, well, that settles it. I'm glad we had this discussion about critical thinking.

Incidentally, for all your huffing about witch hunts and perjury law, I would point out that she could easily be telling the truth. The deposition only claims that she was told to have sex with Minsky, and not, as far as any media coverage I've seen goes, that she actually did, and Greg Benford states he was there and that Minsky turned her down: https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/339725/


>You are ignoring my point. No one is doubting that Minsky associated with Epstein.

i am not. your point is that since he was a famous academic his name was as easily recognizable as dershowitz and pinker, who are generally famous.

>What would be valid evidence of truth would be something like a third party (like, say, Greg Benford) confirming it.

sorry that's not what we as a society has deemed sufficient proof. though you are welcome relitigate literally all of common law dating back to the magna carta though if you believe it should be otherwise.

>Minsky was the oracle of AI, the head of the MIT AI Lab. He influenced AI from the 1950s to the 1990s.

means literally nothing to general public and therefore doesn't substantiate your claim.

>And what is 'Society of Mind' but a popularization, widely read?

i concede this one. i was not aware of this book.

>Oh, well, that settles it. I'm glad we had this discussion about critical thinking.

so do you then doubt all depositions or just the ones that implicate oracles of AI?

>The deposition only claims that she was told to have sex with Minsky, and not, as far as any media coverage I've seen goes, that she actually did, and Greg Benford states he was there and that Minsky turned her down: https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/339725/

my point was only about the validity of her testimony. yours (initially) was the defense of minksy.


[flagged]


My point is that there is nothing astounding and indicative of extra credibility due to the 'obscurity' of Marvin Minsky coming 'out of left field', when any accuser, either lying or honest, would of course be naming known associates of Epstein. It is an invalid argument.


But hey, look on the bright side! You've been promoted to a "powerful and important" person! :)


I wasn't last week - but better to be promoted after Epstein's death, I think. No risk of him inviting me anywhere for a dinner...


Trump was talking about him "liking girls on the younger side" in 2002. Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting an underaged prostitute in 2008, sane people had been distancing themselves. Anybody who had anything to do with Epstein after ~2009-2010 did so in the face of active public castigation.

The 2005 investigation stemmed from a mother bringing her daughter to the police station after she had been at Epstein's mansion. And the evidence included over 50 underaged girls, before the prosecution dropped it to two counts and then one count of assault... and NOT for lack of evidence. The girls' high school report cards were found in his house.

The man was a pedophile and a predator. The fact that anyone was willing to associate with him in any capacity after 2008 is just insane. In 2009 the flight logs were leaked and the smart people in that list cut contact. Anyone who continued to associate with Epstein after that did with the full knowledge of what he was, because people would actively reach out to them to ask about it.


Yes it seems bad that Joi had any involvement with him after these charges. Raising money is a powerful motivator, and that money is rarely clean. This is just more on the surface. The Media Lab was funded by Schlumberger when I was there, which is a big oil/gas company. Helping accelerate climate change is a horror to the world that might lead to the mass extinction of our species. Yet no one seems to resign over that.

But in terms of Marvin, we don’t know what his involvement was. Only an allegation in court. And from what I know about Marvin, I wouldn’t assume he would do research on someone like that before deciding to attend a dinner. More importantly, it’s completely inconceivable in my mind that he actually was involved any extra martial affairs, let alone a sex trafficked prostitute. He once told me “what’s the point of a body? We should all be heads on top of a cart.” He was already super old at that point. So to combine his higher plane of existence with the lack of hormones from an old age, it just seems extremely improbable to me.

I feel bad for all the woman involved with Epstein. He’s clearly done some really terrible things. But let’s not take down the character of others (who aren’t even alive to defend themselves) solely based on an accusation.


Joi Ito took money for MIT from Epstein after he became a convicted sex offender. He also allowed Epstein to co-invest in his startups and visited his houses (which were decorated with extremely provocative and possibly illegal photos). All investors do enough diligence that he would have known about the conviction before working and socializing with him.


No one is allowed to accept charitable donations from felons? Or they can, but are morally on the hook if the felon commits another crime?


I'm wondering why you merely couch this as accepting money from felons, when you know full well that Epstein was not only a pedophile, but ran an international sex trafficking ring.

We aren't discussing insider trading or possessing controlled substances.

You would have to decide if you find it immoral to accept a donation from a specific person, based on your own moral code and how the person behaves and live with that.


I'm trying to understand what general moral principle is that is being suggested. You can't accept money from sex criminals? Or only if you think they won't commit a future offense?

"You have to personally decide what's moral" isn't a very good response when a crowd is gathering to punish someone.


I would say taking money from, investing with and visiting the houses of a convicted child sex trafficker is a really bad idea if you want to keep your and your institution's reputation intact. It's also recently come to light that Epstein continued to rape children during this time period (post-arrest). Two new lawsuits were just filed against his estate for it.


Epstein wasn’t just any felon. He was someone who was systematically using his wealth and influence to rape children and get away with it. If you accept charitable donations from him, you are increasing his influence and assenting that his crimes were not a big deal.


> No one is allowed to accept charitable donations from felons?

No, but the charges merit diligence. The facts and circumstances of Epstein's settlement, even knowing nothing more than the suspiciously-short jail time, should have raised red flags.


One of the downsides of hosting sex parties with trafficked minors is when you get caught all your guests come under suspicion, even if the party they attended had no sex at all

Unless there's an official register of everyone who attended each type of party, which seems unlikely.


Fortunately there is an official register or everyone who flew on the Lolita Express.


There is, but unfortunately only one of three pilots recorded names in the flight logs. Still, there is a lot of documentation.


I'm not sure that people who host parties with trafficked minors care much about the reputation of their guests.


I'd argue it's at least morally questionable to assist in a convicted and apparently unrepentant felon's attempts to whitewash their reputation via large amounts of cash.


Charity and investments are two different things. Further there are felons who are particularly egregious, human trafficking of children for sex ranks up there.


>No one is allowed to accept charitable donations from felons

Of course they're allowed. It's a free country.

We're discussing how reprehensible it is, and we focus on certain kinds of felons (not some guy who once did a victimless burglary or a DIU), and also on cases where they didn't just "accept donations", but visited the felons to their private lair...


Sounds like he was closer to him than just accepting his donations.


I would say, in the sphere of public opinion, one should be cautious accepting charitable donations from felons. However, there's certainly precedent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Milken#Philanthropy


Well certainly the type of felon matters, no? Epstein's crimes are particularly heinous.


> are morally on the hook if the felon commits another crime?

In the Age of Outrage, yes, even though it's stupid.


Joi Ito apparently knew Epstein personally and offered Zuckerman to meet Epstein in 2014, which was well after Epstein's punishment (such as it was) for pandering.


He was already a convicted sex offender at that point.


I will probably be tarred and feathered for this comment as well but:

I think this whole thing has turned into a witch hunt / mob assault on anyone who has had any ties to Epstein. The attitude of many of the comments seem to essentially suggest that if one has been at the same party as epstein sometime in the past, such person must be a child molester.

Now people are falling over themselves trying to one up each other on who can display the most moral outrage.

It is an example of how public discourse has degenerated to the point where we are attacking people first and refusing to ask even some basic questions before branding someone as guilty by association.

(edited out "come on it is ridiculous" as it seemed unnecessarily inflammatory)


Odd take - almost all of the stories are about people who ended up engaging extensively with him after he'd already been convicted of being a sex offender.

Sure, you can associate with whomever you want to, but the media highlighting the fact that notable people continued to not only be friendly with, but often appear to be in the pocket of financially, someone rather heinous is not really a "witch hunt".

(Especially considering many of the allegations are of using this financial power as a pawn in a larger blackmail operation means those financial ties do have to be investigated)


For what it's worth,

> Odd take - almost all of the stories are about people who ended up engaging extensively with him after he'd already been convicted of being a sex offender.

When I engage with people I often don't do a search on them. Even if I did, I'm usually not fault someone for a past mistake; assuming I think they have changed.

That being said, I think the OPs take was that simply funding or working with a research group, doesn't make the research group guilty by association. Perhaps some investigation is warranted, but if you're doing research you're typically not going to turn down funding. How many research groups take funding from the DoD to literally build weapons to kill people?

That's likely worse than this association. I don't think that was the MediaLabs purpose, it was an unfortunate relationship.


Do you raise money for things? That’s a very different world, and anyone who does it should be aware that they’re engaged in a project of laundering wealth into reputations, and act accordingly.

It’s a sad reality, and we’d probably be better off it wasn’t reality, but high-profile academics need to be aware of it.


> Perhaps some investigation is warranted, but if you're doing research you're typically not going to turn down funding

As the linked post suggests though, building the relationship wasn't without warning in this case (as in, he asked Ito not to take the meeting due to the history involved).

An unfortunate relationship, but I don't believe the outrage is unwarranted (or, as implied by the OP, merely virtue signalling).


Agreed, an odd take given the circumstances.

> Now people are falling over themselves trying to one up each other on who can display the most moral outrage.

> It is an example of how public discourse has degenerated to the point where we are attacking people first and refusing to ask even some basic questions before branding someone as guilty by association.

The gist I get from OP's comment is that they are more frustrated with the generalized trend of "outrage culture", and referenced this Epstein story as a current example (despite being an ill-fitting one).

OP's point would probably resonate better with a different example, though the sentiment does bring up an interesting tangential conversation.

Feeding the fire is self-serving for many stories and comments once a controversial/multi-faceted story hits and the gates open. It's an easy way to get overly caught up in the weeds obsessing over the noise of a story that the signal gets drowned out. Those that have a vested interest in keeping a fire from extinguishing obviously want to add more kindling with "SHOCKING NEW DETAILS"-type stories that are less informationally relevant to the main events and more borderline conspiracy-theory or clickbait.


I have befriended and helped (provided housing and other support) convicted felons who have done their time. Where do you draw the line?

Edit: I agree with those who have replied, and appreciate that my question was answered with genuine effort.


The actual crime matters. "Felon" has no moral meaning, just a somewhat arbitrary legal classification. He also did not "serve his time" in the sense that the phrase is typically understood (a person who made mistakes but has atoned), especially when you consider the fact that he used his money and influence to evade the consequences at every turn and also continued to commit more sex crimes during the time he was supposed to be imprisoned.

How many convicted child sex traffickers get to spend 16 hours a day at home instead of a prison cell?


It's not about "drawling the line" - child sex offences are often "lifetime convictions" in that they don't come off your record (and for those in the public eye, would be impossible to shake in any case). Therefore they will often come up as part of criminal records checks, and if you have direct ties with felons of that nature, it could impact on you.

Getting to the bottom of these ties is important, especially given that there are many alleged crimes he didn't "do his time" for or will face potential justice for.

You can be friends with a convicted child sex offender, sure, but building close financial ties with (to the extent of essentially being a co-founder or co-host of a lot of different events) should draw some scrutiny, given there's an alleged pattern of behaviour that's been followed.


I think this is very simple: if the person has cleaned up their act (Epstein was dismissive of issues with his behaviors) and your judgement isn't clouded by dollars (Ito's / MITs were).

If those things aren't both true, you're not supporting someone who's done their time, you're being greedy and/or complicit.


If you've befriended and helped a convicted felon who has served his/her time, is repentant, and presumably is on a path to rehabilitation, then that's laudable, even if that person were a murderer.

If you've befriended a murderer who is unrepentant, who managed to avoid any real punishment because of his wealth and connections, and who is rumored to still be engaged in the things he was accused of, I'd say that's a huge moral failing on your part.


Did Epstein finish doing his time before these people were willing to recieve investment money from him?


No, but that’s sort of my point. Ambiguity and fear shouldn’t be used to dissuade helping those who did do their time, so it’s important to point out exceptions and why they are exceptions (Epstein was unable to be reformed IMHO, which is both tragic and a cautionary tale).

It’s hard to discern the reformed from the monsters sometimes, but the reformed still deserve another chance.


Your point was that you assisted people after they did their time.

Epstein did not do his time. He did not go through any reformation process. People were willing to take his money and his professional connections even knowing his recent conviction for which his time was upcoming.

This isn't a case where someone is reformed and people aren't forgiving them. Epstein was not reformed, did not serve his time, and people were still actively engaging with him. Those people were not engaging with a reformed man. They were engaging with a predator.

I entirely agree with you that reformed felons deserve a chance after they serve their time. Epstein was not reformed and he did not serve time, therefore what chance did he deserve on account of these people?


Aren’t we debating how to determine if someone is reformed? I thought we were, and if not by judicial process (prison sentencing), what? I absolutely agree Epstein wasn’t reformed, and that the challenge is to suss out who is and isn’t a danger to society any longer (“reformed”). I don’t know how to do that besides gut feeling and guardrails to minimize blast radius when poor judgement has occurred.


Yes he was a sex offender. Lots of people are, including 17-year-old boys who have sex with their underage girlfriends. The sex offender laws in the US are so draconian that there's no distinction made between somebody who's seen urinating in an alley and a violent rapist.

In my state (New Mexico) Epstein had a ranch where we now know he was raping girls. But guess what? He did not have to register as a sex offender in NM because the age of consent here is different than it is in Florida (that loophole has since been fixed by our legislature.)

My point is that the sex offender laws in the US are meaningless. They encourage the public to assume that minor offenses are heinous and that major criminals might actually be minor offenders who got a raw deal.


You're being downvoted because your point is irrelevant. Epstein raped children.


Yet the public didn't know that with legal certainty before 2019. He was convicted of soliciting an underage prostitute, not child rape. Morally those might be equivalent but legally they're not, as evidenced by his light sentence.

It's the 20/20 hindsight that bugs me.


Joi Ito wasn't at "some party" with Epstein. He raised money from him after Epstein was convicted for child sex trafficking. He also allowed Epstein to co-invest in his startups. He also visited his houses... During this time period Epstein continued to rape children (two new suits were just filed on Tuesday that state this).

Joi Ito has a deep relationship with a child sex trafficker, people are rightfully upset.


Not only that, but the accusations against Epstein wasn’t just that he’s a pedophile, but he was perhaps running blackmail on people using that disgusting entrapment scheme.

We’ll see how much of that turns out to be true in the end. The DOJ has been very tight lipped on all of it. For the time being I’m being VERY cautious about any powerful people who associated with him regularly (or ever visited his island).


I don’t believe Epstein was blackmailing anyone. I think his associates were more than happy to give him whatever he wanted in exchange for the depravities he organised for them. That’s why they’re always smiling and happy in photos with him. They don’t look like blackmail victims. And even if they were... you cannot blackmail someone unless they’ve done something!

It was the same with Weinstein.


Not just a child sex trafficker, but the most infamous criminal since Osama Bin Laden


> this whole thing has turned into a witch hunt

Ito accepted donations and investments from Epstein with full knowledge of his past crimes. These donations are two-way streets. The recipient gets funds. But the donor gets prestige. This is a closer, more knowledgeable and more mutually-beneficial relationship than you're acknowledging.


>The attitude of many of the comments seem to essentially suggest that if one has been at the same party as epstein sometime in the past, you must be a child molester. Come on, its ridiculous.

Well, "at the same party" might not be that ridiculous. Depends on the party and its goal.

Merely knowing/being friends with the guy though should not be reason for disgrace without further evidence of anything bad on one's part.

>It is yet another example of how public discourse has degenerated to the point where we are attacking people first and refusing to ask even some basic questions before branding someone as guilty by association.

I think the reason for the public displays of disgrace is to tell us how "good souls" they are, more so than any real concern for the victims. Most people could not care less and will forget the whole thing in a heartbeat, but they still like to participate to the collective hate ceremony - and even better when the person to hate was really an abuser!


> Merely knowing/being friends with the guy though should not be reason for disgrace without further evidence of anything bad on one's part.

I think being friends with a convicted child sex trafficker should be cause for disgrace. That's something most normal people would not do.


Well, if those "normal people" are christians, their religion tells them not to look down on nobody, and that the worst sinner is still a human being (not that most christians aren't actually mere Old Testament types).

There's an equivalent version of the same sentiment that atheists can share too.

Participating in their activities, or not stopping them when they see them, is another thing, of course.

I wouldn't hold it to somebody if they befriended an ex-murderer for example, knowing e.g. they killed people in the past.


I don't think it takes religion to see this as a bad thing. Just simple empathy and common sense. Even with zero empathy for the victims, its seems like terrible business sense to associate with a child sex trafficker. People in general care about their reputations.


Sure, reputation I can understand. Or precaution. Or repulsion. Those are common and understandable first-level responses.

But that doesn't mean people should negatively judge anybody who doesn't respond like that, and e.g. remains, or becomes, friend with somebody who did wrong (even extreme wrong). They could stay away from them (the friends) too, but why judge them for the mere fact of being friends?

I mean, they could just them negatively in thinking that they are complicit -- but shouldn't just them negatively merely for being friends.


I find your apologetics for those who associate with known pedophiles deeply disturbing.

Pedophiles require a network of enablers to operate, much more so for high-profile cases like Epstein. If someone you know chooses to associate with a known pedophile, you should cut all ties with them. If you don’t, then you are potentially complicit in the crime insofar as you could potentially provide assistance to someone who is enabling a known pedophile.

This is why anyone with a functioning moral system will negatively judge associates of known pedophiles. I’m not sure why this needs to be spelled out for you.


You could say the same thing as neutral arguments, without the posturing and the personal insults. Ever occurred to you? That's a jerk move. I’m not sure why this needs to be spelled out for you....

Did you even read my comments in these discussions (not just this subthread), and do they look like defending to Epstein and friends as to their innocence to you?

My point is an ages old point (and part of basic christian morals): love to the neighbor doesn't stop when one has been (or even is) a sinner, even if they're the worst sinner. In fact that's where it makes more sense.

That's not about befriending a criminal to participate or benefit from their crimes (which I made abundantly clear and even spelled out). It's also not about befriending a criminal and keeping quiet about criminal stuff you see (thus enabling) their crimes.

It's that if you're a friend, you're a friend. Friendship and love for a criminal isn't complicity and shouldn't be judged as such. In fact it could be the best thing that helps to make a criminal see their ways. Doubly so for an ex-criminal.


I never accused you of defending Epstein, I was responding to the second paragraph of your comment.

You seemed to be arguing there that we shouldn’t make negative judgments of those who choose to be friends with others who have committed “extreme wrong” which I assume includes crimes like those committed by Epstein.

That is specifically what I take issue with, and I stand by my assertion that any defense of that position in the context of pedophila constitutes pedophilic apologetics.

The mandate to “love thy neighbor as yourself” does not require Christians to refrain from making negative moral judgements of others based on who they choose to associate with.


A christian loves a repentant sinner.

You should be lauded for befriending a repentant murderer who has served his time and is trying to come back into society.

You should be shamed for befriending an unrepentant murderer who avoided punishment through his wealth and connections and may still be murdering today.


Epstein sitting in the backseats of his conferences with a minor in each arm should cause raise eyebrows with every halfway decent human being. Some explanations are necessary now, even if the explanation is that they desperately needed the money.

Until then I will feel free to assume that involved scientific celebrities like Minsky padded Epsteins shoulders for his great taste in teenage women, or even took advantage of this other interest.


As others pointed out, this goes beyond mere association. It involves being present at his houses (and private island) where multiple underage victims of sex trafficking may have been present. Some of them had extensive and repeated contacts with him, and a few (so far) have been named (though of course this is as yet unproven) in private lawsuits as having participated in sexual assaults. So yeah, given the scale of the potential crimes involved, some scrutiny is well deserved.

It’s also depressing how all these prominent men (and yes, it’s all men because Epstein didn’t like having women around for their intellects, and because they may have figured out something was amiss) never questioned any of this, because Epstein was rich.


Good points but it's not true that Epstein didn't have women involved. His #2 was Ghislaine Maxwell, she recruited girls and participated in the abuse. He also had Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell, Barbra Walters and numerous other high profile women in his orbit, on his planes and at his houses.


The issue is that Epstein used these connections to the rich, powerful, and influential to further his rape of children, and when he was investigated to get off with a very, very light sentence.

Thus people who accepted his money and palled around with him provided cover for him.

When people are offering money, the temptation is to not dig deeply and look away. Hopefully, this treatment of Epstein’s associates will serve as a lesson to people to not totaled gifts blindly and enable predators.


Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting an underaged prostitute in 2008. Anyone who accepted his money or spent time in his proximity or benefited in some other way from his money or connections has in my opinion blatantly violated ethical standards. It is sad to see that people like Pinker and some other public intellectuals seemed to have no issue with staying close to his circle years later.


> Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting an underaged prostitute in 2008.

And the investigation stemmed from a mother bringing her daughter to the police station after she had been at Epstein's mansion. And the evidence included over 50 underaged girls, before the prosecution dropped it to two counts and then one count of assault... and NOT for lack of evidence. The girls' high school report cards were found in his house.

The man was a pedophile and a predator. The fact that anyone was willing to associate with him in any capacity after 2008 is just insane. In 2009 the flight logs were leaked and the smart people in that list cut contact. Anyone who continued to associate with Epstein after that did so in the fact of public castigation almost a decade ago.

Fuck, Trump was talking about him "liking girls on the younger side" in 2002- no sane person should have anything to do with Epstein any time recently.


Why did they have ties to Epstein?

If they never severed those connections even after all the information about him surfaced and even up to the point of his death, should they not be called out for it?

Marvin Minsky was literally called out by one of the victims as someone partaking in pederasty with Epstein's sex trafficking victims.

Is Epstein someone YOU would want to associate with, and if so, why?


The Minsky accusation and others like it are questionable. There's precisely one accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims Epstein was procuring underaged girls for other men in his orbit, like Marvin Minsky, Bill Clinton, Bill Richardson, Alan Dershowitz, and Prince Andrew. There's another accuser who came forth during the 2016 election alleging Epstein gave her to Trump. Everyone else alleges that they were abused by Epstein and/or Ghislaine Maxwell. Giuffre's story goes far beyond what anyone else alleged. If it's true, why do none of the other numerous victims have similar stories? Dershowitz has claimed Giuffre is extorting people.


There are pictures with Prince Andrew's arm around 16 year old Giuffre with Maxwell present. How many 16 year olds find themselves in that situation? The Lolita Express (Epstein's plane) had a bed installed in it. That's not normal. Flight logs put Giuffre on the plane with everyone she's accused. Epstein used Alan Dershowitz (also accused of molesting children with Epstein) to bury all of this information and killed himself when it came to light.

The accusations are not questionable at all.


I agree with most of your comment except that installing a bed in a private jet is pretty normal.


I see no witch hunt here, nor any accusation of anyone in the lab of being a child molester. You call this an example of the degeneration of public discourse, yet it contains none of the qualities you find "ridiculous."


well, it's one thing if you did so unknowingly.

but if you have a close and long running relationship with a proven creep (of different flavors), your moral compass becomes suspect, and after it becomes public knowledge, it becomes a question of whether your association indicates approval of the bad behavior.

it's not always clearcut in private figures, but when the creep(of different flavors) is a nationally known figure, I think the onus is relatively clear... hold the person at some arms length.


It is known that Epstein's main way of operating was blackmail, and it is baffling to think of what kind of motivation he had to blackmail academics. Media reports that at least some of the academics were involved in the sex crimes.

I know he had an interest in transhumanism, but I still fail to understand the logic.


Reports are that he liked to throw dinners and parties with glittering attendee lists. I could see a guy like him wanting to have a few pet academics at such affairs, in the same way he'd want to have some artists -- partly just to liven up the conversations, and partly to signal that he's cultured and respectable.

And of course there are always some academics (like Ito, it seems) who can serve as bridges into other worlds, by doing things like bringing him into investment opportunities.


I don't like promoting conspiracy theories.

Now that that's out of the way, here's a doozy:

https://jamesaltucher.com/blog/jeffrey-epstein-money/


There's an even more Occam's-Razor-compatible explanation for where his money came from than the "Club Epstein" one: it wasn't his money at all. It was money he stole from Leslie Wexner, who had mysteriously entrusted him with vast sums, and even gave him his power of attorney (!). See https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/7/10/20689134/jeffrey-eps... for more details on the Epstein-Wexner relationship.

Why exactly Wexner chose to put Epstein in a position to steal so much from him remains a mystery, but if you buy that Epstein was a blackmailer a reasonable assumption would be that he had something on Wexner and used it as leverage.


Or both are true simultaneously.


Yes, it's possible that he blackmailed Wexner, and then used Wexner's money to bootstrap the "Club Epstein" scenario.

But if you're trying to lure people in so you can blackmail them, why would you bother charging them $20 million at the door? They can afford it, sure, but wouldn't that risk some of them saying no and thus denying you the opportunity to blackmail them?


I suspect that people would get suspicious if someone is offering them free sex parties. If there's a fee then it would probably be less suspicious.


It seems like a qualifier.


That's a fascinating analysis. The least credible part of it to me is the CIA connection. It's easy to say that some intelligence agency or another is part of some scheme, very difficult to prove, and impossible to disprove. I could just as well claim it was aliens.


which is why it's a great conspiracy theory. Real enough to pass a cursory smell test, but with enough holes and impossible to proves to make it clearly wrong. But it might be right......


He thought he was smart, and wanted to have a collection of high-powered academics on hand to tell him how smart he was. It really could be as simple as that- he was a narcissist. Of course he'd want to be known as "billionaire philanthropist and renaissance man".


High-profile academics have access to even more powerful people.


A hook, go-between, for intelligence services - one in particular - that used Epstein and his blackmail ability as a means to get information from extremely powerful and high-up sources in politics, government, business and academia. One connection links to other connections, which links to other connections, making it possible to get to almost anyone and pull them into the blackmail web.


Once you read the Epstein interview with the New York Times writer, you start to understand that there’s probably more of these “unconventional thinkers” in tech connected to Epstein and his behavior than we are ever going to find out. The whole “being ostracized for an attraction to teenage girls is a very new idea” thing sounds exactly like a lot of what someone would hear at the late end of a Silicon Valley dinner party.

Anyone who is apologizing for this behavior or who thinks this is a “witch hunt” may want to consider using a throwaway name, because these comments aren’t going to age well. And yes, we will remember.


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