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M.I.T. Media Lab concealed its relationship with Jeffrey Epstein (newyorker.com)
468 points by donohoe 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 263 comments



Pair this New Yorker article with Anand Ghiridaradas' thread from today about his experience with the Media Lab. [0]

Ghiridaradas is author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World [1]. He was also on the panel for MIT Media Labs' Disobedience Award. It was their answer to the MacArthur Foundations' "Genius Grants". Reid Hoffman, of LinkedIn, Greylock, and Blitzscaling fame is the donor who sponsors the Disobedience Award. He comes out looking...not good.

[0] https://twitter.com/AnandWrites/status/1169947031806365696?s... [1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37506348-winners-take-al...


Wow, Ghiridaradas coming so correct. I tried to read his book “Winners Take All” multiple times and found it absolutely unreadable, he kept restating the same point with different overly-complex words and name-drops. But here he writes with real clarity and real precision. Just wish he’d applied that same clarity to the writing style in his book!

Anand is not seeing the bigger picture: it's about hush money and the cloak of charity, not prestige-for-cash which does not make sense if you think about it.

I had a long comment explaining my interpretation backed by quotes, but it's too long for HN apparently so here is the link, at a text storage site (I couldn't get past pastebin's "SPAM filter" captcha)

https://textuploader.com/192lt

EDIT: I am not on twitter, so if anyone could mention this to Anand I would appreciate.


From your text: Then Anand shares the thoughtful and profound email he sent to Ito & Co and others at MIT Media Lab, from which it is crystal clear Anand is unambiguously trying to do the right thing.

You're giving Giridharadas way too much credit. His e-mail resignation is an implicit ultimatum (if you don't fire him, I will go public), to which Hoffman counters by saying how he will try to frame Giridharadas as trying to personally gain from this scandal (which, clearly he will).

By publicly stating Hoffman's weak threat, while reserving the future threat of revealing their correspondence, Giridharadas makes it harder for Hoffman to follow through on the threat without public backlash.

So Giridharadas targets this tweetstorm to inflict maximum damage to Ito supporters and MIT admins. The hush money line is harder to prove and channels frustration towards the hushers more than the facilitators. The cash for prestige line places all the blame on Epstein and Ito. Then he publicly shares the list of Ito supporters [0] and creates public knowledge of their thinning numbers. When the firing eventually occurs, Giridharadas will have collected the spoils of a successful cancellation, the public knowledge that he can make very credible threats.

If you are correct, we should expect Giridharadas to place more emphasis on the hushers for the sake of justice. If I am, we should expect him to put all effort into bringing down Ito.

[0] https://twitter.com/AnandWrites/status/1170025167063605250


>If you are correct, we should expect Giridharadas to place more emphasis on the hushers for the sake of justice. If I am, we should expect him to put all effort into bringing down Ito.

in "we should expect",

1) "should" means "would" or

2) "should" means Anand "should if only he saw the bigger picture of hush money / cloack of charity" ?

if 1) this assumes Anand has the same interpretation I have (that its not prestige-for-cash but hush money), but as I wrote in my text it mostly seems like Anand does not realize this at all.

it 2) of course the hushers, but also the hush money enablers, which would include Ito & Co, if no one lets Anand know of this hush money interpretation one can not expect Anand to focus on the hushers! I don't have twitter, again could someone mention this to Anand?

>If I am, we should expect him to put all effort into bringing down Ito.

Anand's prediction goes further than just Ito: he also predicts MIT will investigate itself and absolve itself, so he doesn't just condemn Ito as you claim, and given Anand's own admission from the start that he used to respect Ito largely explains his disappointment in Ito specifically!


Yes, surely the villain here is the guy trying to hold people to account for knowingly associating with and taking money from a convicted child predator, and shining a light on all the ass covering they are now engaged in, and not the people who did all this heinous stuff in the first place. Truly a case of cancel culture run amok.

I can't imagine how confusing the world must be when one only sees things in the world such childish black-and-white terms, where the existence of evil automatically means that anyone in opposition is a morally-unimpeachable angel.

To be clear, there's no comparison between the parent comment's model of Ghiridaradas's actions and those of Ito et al, and AG's telling of their actions is pretty damning regardless of his motivations.

But responding to someone trying to flesh out a better understanding of the situation by mentioning his motivations (without excusing one iota the far-worse actions of others) with "NO THERE CAN ONLY EVER BE ONE SIDE DOING BAD THINGS" is about as simple-minded a take as I can imagine.


could you clarify Anand's supposed ulterior motives? He resigns and he proposes Joi Ito cede his position to one of the women in the group?

If one does not want to be associated with the scandal, because he has nothing to do with it, surely he should have the liberty to distance himself without having to also play the secret keeper for others? He never signed up to be their secret keeper. He tries to give the benefit of the doubt, and begs for explanations of their silence, for explanations of their decisions. So when none are provided, surely his right to free speech permits him to speak about whatever he witnessed from his perspective?

Sometimes the only identifiable "ulterior motive" is the freedom one has maintained by not becoming complicit...


I think Giridharadas is very good and says good things and picks good targets. But there is a strange attitude here and on twitter that he is guileless, when clearly he is making very calculated moves. This is especially apparent in seeing the Hoffman comment as a threat but not the resignation letter. Maybe the gp came off as harsh, but I'm trying to explain why the ggp should not expect the husher line of attack to be immediately adopted.

> clearly he is making very calculated moves

A very good person can also be someone who makes calculated moves. The two characteristics are not mutually exclusive.


Yes, this. Doing the right strategically for maximum effect is better than merely doing it for performative effect.

Between this and the party he hosted where Elon Musk introduced Epstein to Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman is coming across as one of the absolute worst people in tech when it comes to the Epstein Affair. Can we start booing him off stages at conferences now, please?

It strikes me as inappropriate to suggest that "Anyone seriously tainted by Epstein should step down". What does "tainted" mean? What does "seriously" mean?

If "seriously tainted" means "directly linked to Epstein's criminal activities," I'd be amenable to the suggestion. But I find it concerning that the writer feels no need to be specific (though he includes vague accusations that Ito visited Epstein's private residence). Frankly, the whole thing seems like a power play to me. Maybe I'm being cynical, but it seems to me that Ghiridaradas is exploiting the situation to raise his profile.

Epstein had social relationships with many people who likely visited his private residences. We can't throw them all out because most of them are innocent. The failure point with Epstein was the justice system. What happened? Why was he allowed to walk? I want answers, but I'm skeptical of a witch hunt aimed at anyone who knew him.


> Epstein had social relationships with many people who likely visited his private residences. We can't throw them all out because most of them are innocent.

They all had to know that he had a vast criminal record involving prostitution and minors, and yet they continued to develop relationships with him.

Would you feel comfortable developing a relationship with someone involved in a high-profile sex crimes case that had tremendous amounts of damning evidence? Epstein, for some reason, seemed to have a pretty active social life even after his trial. And it's striking how many around him downplay their relationships with him now, or actively tried to conceal his role in various activities, as MIT Media Lab did.

> Peter Cohen, the M.I.T. Media Lab’s Director of Development and Strategy at the time, reiterated, “Jeffrey money, needs to be anonymous. Thanks.”

The head of the media lab knew Epstein's donations needed to remain anonymous.

> In October, 2014, the Media Lab received a two-million-dollar donation from Bill Gates; Ito wrote in an internal e-mail, “This is a $2M gift from Bill Gates directed by Jeffrey Epstein.” Cohen replied, “For gift recording purposes, we will not be mentioning Jeffrey’s name as the impetus for this gift.”

They actively took steps internally to make sure Epstein's name wasn't on anything involving donations he directed from people like Bill Gates. So why did Bill Gates deny Epstein was even part of it? That doesn't add up.

> Signe Swenson, a former development associate and alumni coordinator at the lab, told me that she resigned in 2016 in part because of her discomfort about the lab’s work with Epstein. She said that the lab’s leadership made it explicit, even in her earliest conversations with them, that Epstein’s donations had to be kept secret.

Staff members knew what was going on, and in some cases, resigned over it.

Peter Cohen clearly knew that Epstein was not be named anywhere in fundraising activities involving him, there was clearly culture at MIT Media Lab of obscuring his donation activities, and staff members resigned over it because they knew who he was.

Hiding contact with a wealthy sex criminal and then lying about it doesn't look very innocent.


>Hiding contact with a wealthy sex criminal and then lying about it doesn't look very innocent.

"Contact" is vague and allows people to fill in the blank with a more sinister narrative. They took gift money that Epstein was "directing" (i.e. not his money), and decided not to mention Epstein in the record of the donation. I don't see a problem here.


Please consider the possibility that Epstein rewarded (or promised future rewards in life) to the minors, who by now are adults, some of which are possibly studying, PhD-studying or working MIT Media Lab. This could be hush money through the Cloak of Charity. Check out one of my other comments where I link to my longer analysis. The "gifts" and "fundraisers" used in mainstream media are plausible deniability and downplaying of hush money and hide the "creative" cloak of charity construction...

Hiding that fact that a bad person donated the money or was involved in the donation doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. Yeah, it would be nice if the Media Lab had taken the high road. It would have been even nicer if Epstein had been locked up instead of let off.

My point is that seven degrees of separation from Jeff Epstein seems like a distraction from the real issues here. I also think it's unreasonable to expect people whose job is begging for money (and whose continued employment is tied to their ability to get it) to be particularly stringent about whom they accept the money from.

Also consider that Epstein's plea deal probably gave people like Ito and Gates some source of comfort. If the feds let Epstein off, he probably didn't do anything that bad, right? If the system catches you and then lets you go, that's a sign that you're not that reprehensible, right? Clearly that was not the case here. So why did Epstein get a deal? To me, this is the real issue, and this article is a distraction.


Is this passage from the article not damning?

> According to Swenson, Ito had informed Cohen that Epstein “never goes into any room without his two female ‘assistants,’ ” whom he wanted to bring to the meeting at the Media Lab. Swenson objected to this, too, and it was decided that the assistants would be allowed to accompany Epstein but would wait outside the meeting room.

> On the day of the visit, Swenson’s distress deepened at the sight of the young women. “They were models. Eastern European, definitely,” she told me. Among the lab’s staff, she said, “all of us women made it a point to be super nice to them. We literally had a conversation about how, on the off chance that they’re not there by choice, we could maybe help them.”

They continued to work with someone whom they suspected of trafficking women. Not years prior, before his trial — right there in their own office. That’s beyond the pale. That’s what “tainted” means.

Yes, Epstein’s plea deal for 13 months of prison time with offsite work privileges was a monstrous miscarriage of justice. That’s also an issue we need to fix. But let’s not pretend that this is the first we’re learning of the justice system’s heavy tilt in favor of rich people. There is no way Ito and Gates were unaware of how someone’s wealth and connections could allow them to escape justice.


> They continued to work with someone whom they suspected of trafficking women. Not years prior, before his trial — right there in their own office. That’s beyond the pale. That’s what “tainted” means.

So anyone who interacted with Epstein while his assistants were present is tainted? Or is taint contingent upon suspicion? If you met Epstein and decided that the rumors were baseless, are you not tainted?

> Yes, Epstein’s plea deal for 13 months of prison time with offsite work privileges was a monstrous miscarriage of justice. That’s also an issue we need to fix. But let’s not pretend that this is the first we’re learning of the justice system’s heavy tilt in favor of rich people. There is no way Ito and Gates were unaware of how someone’s wealth and connections could allow them to escape justice.

I'm tired of hearing people say things like "we know the rich can abuse the justice system" and shrugging it off with "that's a problem we have to fix". Yes, those things are true, but it's the problem we have to fix. Choosing to spend your time and energy criticizing people who didn't vet their acquaintances to your high standards or accepted money from unclean sources is unproductive. Pardon my bluntness, but I simply don't care very much that various people lack the moral scruples required to avoid the Epsteins of the world. I think most people lack those scruples, it's just that most people never get an opportunity to interact with an Epstein in the first place. They are never tempted.

How exactly did Epstein's wealth and connections get him off? That's the crux of the issue. Everything else seems like a sideshow to me.


This may disappoint you, but I don’t have a clear objective definition of what qualifies as tainted. The Media Lab intern who got him coffee is fine. Continually working with him to secure millions of dollars in funding — again, while suspecting him of still being a sex trafficker — is not. Them’s the breaks.

You asked how Epstein’s wealth and connections got him off. Here’s how: he knew powerful people who were willing to minimize or ignore his transgressions. That’s it. It’s how he escaped with such a lenient sentence legally, and it’s how he was able to continue working with organizations like MIT Media Lab professionally. You’re acting like these are entirely separate issues, when really they’re just two sides of the same coin.


> You asked how Epstein’s wealth and connections got him off. Here’s how: he knew powerful people who were willing to minimize or ignore his transgressions. That’s it. It’s how he escaped with such a lenient sentence legally, and it’s how he was able to continue working with organizations like MIT Media Lab professionally. You’re acting like these are entirely separate issues, when really they’re just two sides of the same coin.

I am very interested in exactly how "knowing powerful people" translates into a plea deal. That process is what I would like to focus on, and I am not willing to take it on faith that this is the result of a general kind of apathy or a sense that Epstein was beyond punishment.


The state almost always wants to make a plea deal in criminal cases, since trials are really time-consuming and expensive. IIRC, upwards of 90 percent of US criminal convictions arise from guilty pleas for this reason. Typically, accused criminals are much less powerful than the prosecuting attorney’s office, so the state more or less gets to set the terms of the plea bargain. (This isn’t really a good thing!) But when the accused criminal has hundreds of millions of dollars, and access to high-powered lawyers like Dershowitz and Starr, then he has a lot more power to set the terms. No prosecuting attorney wants to be on the wrong side of an acquittal like OJ Simpson or Robert Durst.

The Daily Beast reported that Acosta told the Trump transition team that he had struck the plea deal because he "was told Epstein belonged to intelligence and he should lay off." While on some level I agree with you that this is the more fundamental and important source of rot and corruption that needs to be excised, it's also the case that many different institutions at all levels of society took part in creating Jeffrey Epstein and they should all be held to account.

Maybe people are just hungry for a "win" here and the MIT Media Lab is an easier/weaker target than the CIA or Mossad. I'd feel bad for them if their behavior in this saga hadn't been utterly reprehensible and telegraphed at so many points that they knew what they were doing was wrong.


Well then, aren't those powerful people the ones whose names we should be dragging through the mud? These are the ones that got him free. Shining the spotlight anywhere else before you shine it there, is just blindness. It should be more alarming how he got that lenient sentence because that's the justice system failing.

I think it's probably fair to say he blackmailed powerful people. Especially the lawyers of kirland under lefkowitz

Wow I was downvoted for hard speech again. Ohh hackernews

> wealth and connections could allow them to escape justice

Back in 2008 Epstein was officially convicted. Now Epstein is dead.

Do you mean that Epstein's wealth and connections allowed Epstein to escape justice by suicide?


The idea that none of these people were ever exposed to further evidence of what a piece of shit Epstein was is an utterly incredible notion. He would blurt out "what does that have to do with pussy?" in the middle of the discussion at the scientists' dinners he hosted. He showed a keen interest in eugenics. And more than a few of the MIT Media Lab went with him to the island which the locals had nicknamed "pedophile island."

There is no way that none of these people -- especially the ones with means, like Bill Gates or Reid Hoffman -- had any inkling of Epstein's real nature. They just calculated that his money outweighed the risk to themselves or their institution from taking it, not to mention the shame (if they indeed ever felt any whatsoever) of helping a convicted sex offender against children rehab his reputation.


> I also think it's unreasonable to expect people whose job is begging for money (and whose continued employment is tied to their ability to get it) to be particularly stringent about whom they accept the money from.

For one thing, it's absolutely a fundraiser's job to be stringent about who they accept money from. Non-profits and banks are subject to money-laundering and anti-terrorism-financing laws that explicitly dictate "know your customer" (or donor in this case). You should never ever, deal with people that you're not comfortable being publicly associated with.

> If the feds let Epstein off, he probably didn't do anything that bad, right?

That's the source of this entire controversy, and a point that I vehemently disagree with. The prosecutor who gave him that plea agreement had to resign from his Trump admin post because of the backlash from his decision. Epstein was accused of horrific crimes, which there were mountains of evidence attesting to, and yet he basically walked away and the investigation just stopped.

Epstein got a deal because he was friends with people like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, who certainly wouldn't want an investigation into the nature of their relationships. Based on what's available publicly, it's absurd to argue that the Feds didn't punish Epstein, ergo Epstein didn't really do anything "that bad".

Grooming and sexually abusing minors for decades certainly sounds "that bad."


> Non-profits and banks are subject to money-laundering and anti-terrorism-financing laws that explicitly dictate "know your customer" (or donor in this case). You should never ever, deal with people that you're not comfortable being publicly associated with.

Huh? KYC only requires you to check that the money is legal (on both ends - incoming (money laundering) and outgoing (financing terrorism)). Nothing else.

Personally, I'd prefer to take money from someone like Epstein. I'm 99.99% certain I can direct the money to a better goal than he can (I'm only about 40% certain about Gates' money and about 2% certain about Musk's money).


The criticism is that you are letting an Epstein character buy your organization's credibility and social capital, not that the financial capital isn't being put to its best and highest use.

Indeed, which is why you should keep his name off the donor list (and any buildings), and/or publicly disavow his (other) actions.

The problem isn’t “donating money”. The problem is “selling something” (be that influence and prestige in case of Epstein, or equity and future profits in case of Saudi money).

Rapists that donate are better than rapists that don’t donate. Disagreeing with that is a classical case of the ad hominem fallacy (“you’re bad therefore everything you say / do is bad”). In case of Epstein an additional problem was that he was a powerful rapist. But the proposition that his power came from donations is naive. Power and donations have a common cause - money.


> That's the source of this entire controversy, and a point that I vehemently disagree with. The prosecutor who gave him that plea agreement had to resign from his Trump admin post because of the backlash from his decision. Epstein was accused of horrific crimes, which there were mountains of evidence attesting to, and yet he basically walked away and the investigation just stopped.

You misunderstood my point completely. I'm not saying that the government's decision to give him a deal actually means he didn't do anything wrong. I'm saying that it likely appeared that way to many people.

> Epstein got a deal because he was friends with people like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, who certainly wouldn't want an investigation into the nature of their relationships.

Is that why he got a deal? Can you provide documentation of this? To me, this is the crux of the issue. If "knowing people" is enough to get a plea deal then we have a problem, a much bigger problem than "MIT accepted $ from bad person".

> Based on what's available publicly, it's absurd to argue that the Feds didn't punish Epstein, ergo Epstein didn't really do anything "that bad".

As mentioned above, I'm not making this argument. I'm arguing that it wasn't absurd to think this way before the Epstein thing went mainstream. There were all kinds of rumors swirling around Epstein and I don't think it would have been unreasonable at all to dismiss them as rumors based on the fact that the feds let him off with a deal.


> You misunderstood my point completely. I'm not saying that the government's decision to give him a deal actually means he didn't do anything wrong. I'm saying that it likely appeared that way to many people.

This naiveté is undermined by the fact that the fundraisers themselves had very serious discussions about what to do if the women he insisted accompany him anywhere were being trafficked and wanted a way out. They knew exactly who this guy was, the story makes it perfectly clear.


I really thought you were trolling with your posts and I am trying to see even a glimpse of your argument and agree but can’t. It is like the age old saying “if you lay with dogs you get fleas” and this is 2019 the entire world is connected and our actions and reputation now expand the globe. So maybe it is okay for your morals to associate with pimps and child rapists but MIT has other donors and associates that it is actually against their morals to associate with such people. MIT new this and tried to hide the fact. There are several types of lies and this feels like a lie by omission because they knew other donars likely would distance their money away from child rapists. Is there some law forcing them to disclose all their donars, no. But they knew that fact would upset others even going as far as telling their professors this is hush hush. So they risked it and got caught. Shame on them.

>"My point is that seven degrees of separation from Jeff Epstein seems like a distraction from the real issues here."

Except that its not seven degrees of separation its exactly one degree:

"Mr. Ito said during the meeting that he had visited Mr. Epstein’s Caribbean island twice to raise money, which he has pledged to return or donate to causes that support sex-trafficking victims."[1]

And just to be clear that Ito was in fact aware:

">Nicholas Negroponte, a prominent architect who helped found the lab in 1985, told the crowd that he had met Mr. Epstein at least once since Mr. Epstein’s 2008 guilty plea in Florida for soliciting a minor for prostitution, and had advised Mr. Ito about the donations. I told Joi to take the money,” he said, “and I would do it again.”

>"Also consider that Epstein's plea deal probably gave people like Ito and Gates some source of comfort."

Wait, what? Why should anyone consider that? What kind of people take comfort in a wealthy person using their connections to bargain down a federal sax trafficking charge down to two felony "prostitution with a minor" charges?

[1]]2]https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/05/business/media/mit-media-...


> Would you feel comfortable developing a relationship with someone involved in a high-profile sex crimes case that had tremendous amounts of damning evidence?

If that relationship consisted of them anonymously giving me money, and me giving them nothing in return, then maybe?

Maybe I’m missing something, but how did Epstein benefit from this anonymous relationship with the MIT Media Lab?


Lab tours, access to students (who are barely adults), interesting people to invite to his parties, access to other wealthy donors...

Theoretically, because his legacy gets linked to prestigious research rather than trafficking children and pedophilia. I'm not sure how you would weight that downside, but Rockerfeller isn't remembered for the Ludlow Massacre (usually).

But... the donations were anonymous, right?

The founder of MIT's AI lab Marvin Minsky is accused of having sex with a minor via Epstein, there are several photos of MIT/Harvard scientists with Epstein on his island.

There is nothing anonymous about this at all. Negroponte has admitted he knew about Epstein's conviction in 2012.

And I quote "We all knew he went to jail for soliciting underage prostitution,” said Negroponte. “But we thought he served his term and repented."

What a fucking joke.


We know about them, so I'm guessing that they weren't anonymous? I didn't read it all but the New Yorker article says he acted as an intermediary between MIT Media Lab and others, so he wasn't anonymous to either party there.

That’s called a “deal with the devil” and if you’re lucky the only price is having to look over your shoulder and the shoulders of the people close to you for the rest of your life.

If you’re unlucky, you’ll look over your shoulder one day and see something you can’t unsee.


> he had a vast criminal record

Are you implying that it is immoral to develop relationships with former criminal convicts?


Except Epstein wasn't former convict (unless you insist on rigid legal technicalities). As is mostly clear now, he never mended his ways.

Besides, he wasn't the kind of criminal who killed someone in a fit of rage or robbed a bank only once. He was way worse than that. God knows how many underage girls were his victims and for how long. And he wasn't even punished for his crime.

I for sure will stay from such people unless I'm sure that guy in question has actually mended his ways.


> he never mended his ways

Did Epstein continue to run prostitution business after being convicted?

Or did Epstein continue to have sex with girls younger than 18?

I tried to find any references to that, but only found older cases (2008 and earlier): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Epstein#Civil_cases


MIT Media Labs acted the way it did because they accurately assumed you guys would act the way you are.

Its the government's job to prosecute people and encumber assets.

If the assets were part of a crime, the government has all the tools in the world to freeze those assets even if I don't agree with that ability either. if the government does not have the capability of freezing the assets, they have the capability of flagging them via sanctioning of [foreign] individuals.

this is not the responsibility of recipients. it is disingenuous to pretend like it is.

MIT Media Labs acted the way it did because they accurately assumed you guys would act the way you did. Think about all the other anonymous donations that occurred over the last decade and even today. You have no idea who is doing what and it doesn't matter. You still want projects funded, you still want cancer cured. The transactions themselves really has nothing to do with people's "access" and behavior.

Focus on the good the money did. Focus on it being Bill Gates' money if it helps you sleep better. Focus on the money not being "discovered" to be proceeds of human trafficking.


It's disingenuous to argue that an entity like MIT should behave morally, because they're only looking out for themselves and not thinking about optics?

> If the assets were part of a crime, the government has all the tools in the world to freeze those assets even if I don't agree with that ability either.

I'm not arguing that the government was incapable of doing its job. I believe, like many others who watched the Alex Acosta scandal unfold, that the government intentionally gave him a lenient sentence, for reasons we don't fully understand. MIT knew this and actively worked to keep his relationship with the school private. Why would they keep the relationship private if they didn't think what they were doing was wrong? Or are you arguing that MIT Media Lab is only permitted to act only for its own interests, even if that means working with people who was charged and convicted of sex crimes? The public shouldn't care when a known sexual predator forms secret financial relationships with a high-profile university? The guy had his own private cabin at a prestigious music summer camp for kids in the '90s.[0] This dude was a predator, but you're essentially arguing that the public has no right to know who MIT, an entity that relies heavily on public funds[1], chooses to take money from? Taxpayer funds go to pay the people working with the predators, how on earth is that not the public's business?

0: https://www.thedailybeast.com/jeffrey-epstein-had-his-own-lo...

1: http://president.mit.edu/speeches-writing/federal-funding-pr...


> even if that means working with people who was charged and convicted of sex crimes?

The person who was charged and convicted of sex crimes paid their debt to society by doing what the government told them to do. That's how it works. Criticizing that outcome is done in isolation.

I'm not arguing anything more nuanced than that.

I'm not arguing anything about donor disclosure, or the predictable consequences thereof. I'm not arguing anything about who is acting in whose interest.

It is a tragedy that our society makes a prior conviction and a sex offender designation affect people without assets by isolating them from employment opportunities and living arrangements. It is a privilege that a prior conviction and sex offender designation doesn’t affect people with liquid assets as they do not require employment to be a productive member of society. But now people are trying to extend this tragedy to the flow of assets? Silly. Uncouth.

I gather people are looking at the specific scenario and wanting to agree with the “well I wouldn’t want a sex offender to give me money either” idea, and not really considering the broader perspective of how debt is repaid to society by the government and not by the private persons.

To me, it seems that people are arguing for the societal freezing of $500M+ in assets, and that doesn't make any sense to me since money doesn't work that way and will easily route around that whether it is simply writing anonymous on the donor form, or simply forming a new LLC to obfuscate the origin. You direct the money to your causes intended to help a greater good, a simple utilitarian perspective. More benign sources of money do all those things already. It is pure hubris to think you would even have known about the origin of a donation for the privilege of judging.


“Seriously tainted” is implied to mean “if you knew about his past and continued to do business with him anyway”. Taking part in his crimes a level of evil that doesn’t even need to be mentioned — if you turned a blind eye to Epstein’s dark history while taking his money, than you are tainted, of course.

I tend to agree with your pov. Most of us will have some dodgy people in their wider acquaintances circle. Going the extreme "guilty by association" seems a bit harsh to me. It is not like you have a clear cut info all the time on everyone you happen to meet.

This is not to say that in the Ito case the info seems to be pretty damning, as at least from the way it is presented in the article there seems to be explicit collusion, but I would hesitate to broaden this to everyone who met Epstein or did business with him in some regard.


Peter, if you think "most people" have some convicted child rapists in their circle, you have a very warped view of the world.

Are you deliberately misrepresenting my comment? To what end?

If a donor is on your institution’s fundraising blacklist and you covertly conspire to raise money from that person anyway it is clear that you are at a minimum tainted by association with that person.

The people involved are executives responsible for the safety and development of minors.

Bringing a known child predator in those spaces, and socializing with him in order to fund the institution is not ok.

People at MIT, most notably Ito, have defended those decisions as innocent mistakes.

You seem to agree, and you and anyone else who feels that way should enjoy MIT. There’s a lot there to enjoy.

But the rest of us are saying, the institution has revealed itself as unfit to care for minors.

And anyone who takes that mission seriously is right to resign.

There are other schools which do take these concerns seriously.


Knowingly taking his money after 2008, with full knowledge he'd pled guilty to soliciting a minor for sex, and was credibly accused of a lot worse?

This doesn't seem that complicated.


> What does "tainted" mean? What does "seriously" mean?

Did you read TFA? I think it's quite clear what "tainted" and "seriously" mean.


Yeah, well, I don't think it's clear (but please share if you do). I see people in this thread attacking Bill Gates for his relationship with Epstein. I've seen people attacking Steven Pinker for the same reason.

To me it seems that certain people are using Epstein as a cudgel in order to remove obstacles from their path. I don't think it's reasonable to expect billionaires, public intellectuals, and the MIT Media Lab to prevent the rich, charismatic, and utterly amoral Epsteins of the world from getting around town. That's the justice system's job. They had him and they let him go. Blaming people who "enabled him" is post-hoc nonsense.

I want to know:

1. Did Epstein (as some people have been murmuring) have a relationship with some nation's intelligence agency?

2. Why did the Justice Dept. let him go?

3. Did he blackmail someone? If so, who and how?

4. Did he throw his money around to get off? If so, in what ways exactly.

5. Did two cameras actually "malfunction"? Why was he taken off suicide watch?


Of course those are all important questions, but you are clearly presenting a false dichotomy.

How about investigating the corruption that let him off the hook and shunning those with power and influence who minimized Epstein’s crimes by choosing to associate with him socially and professionally after the extent of his immorality was common knowledge? Can we not walk and chew gum at the same time?

None of these people would have acted similarly if the person in question was someone like OJ Simpson or Bernie Madoff who had been disgraced for more ‘conventional’ reasons. So why did Epstein get a pass? Is it because many of these people secretly believe that what he did wasn’t so bad? That is, unfortunately, what their behavior appears to communicate.


> Of course those are all important questions, but you are clearly presenting a false dichotomy.

I don't think it's a false dichotomy. I think every ounce of moral outrage spent condemning those who associated with Epstein (and, in some cases, stripping them of their positions) is an ounce less to spend on uncovering how Epstein got off in the first place.

Anyway, I suspect we'll be fairly successful at the former and not so successful at the latter.


It's a textbook false dichotomy. And you have it exactly backwards. A culture that can't even summon the moral courage to point out and disapprove of influential people who minimized his crimes is less likely to deeply probe all the corruption linked to Epstein, not more. Apathy begets more apathy.

Name-dropping the term "false dichotomy" is not a real argument. By using that term, you are claiming that there is no connection between the "moral outrage against Epstein associates" part and the "actually getting to the bottom of how Epstein got off" part. I disagree; I think those things are clearly connected and the former is distracting from the latter. Just because you can imagine that those things are unrelated doesn't make it so. Of course, that goes equally for me: just because I can imagine that they are connected doesn't make it so. But, either way, the term "false dichotomy" adds absolutely nothing to this discussion.

Anyway, I think you have it exactly backwards. People are not angels and the idea that "we can become a more moral society by calling out the bad people" seems incredibly suspect to me. We have systems in place to deal with transgressors. In this case, those systems failed. I want to understand exactly why and how they failed. Now, perhaps the systems really did fail because "people are apathetic" or "people don't care about crimes against women" and we can fix the problem by shaming people who were apathetic. But I'd prefer a more detailed analysis. It's not at all clear to me that Epstein got off because people were apathetic.


> I think every ounce of moral outrage spent condemning those who associated with Epstein (and, in some cases, stripping them of their positions) is an ounce less to spend on uncovering how Epstein got off in the first place.

You've provided exactly zero evidence backing up this claim. Intuitively, looking into Epstein's associates would help uncover examples of his judicial malfeasance. Why is this not the case?

> Just because you can imagine that those things are unrelated doesn't make it so. Of course, that goes equally for me: just because I can imagine that they are connected doesn't make it so.

This is not a real argument. The burden of proof is on you, since you are the one claiming there is some sort of tradeoff.

> By using that term, you are claiming that there is no connection between the "moral outrage against Epstein associates" part and the "actually getting to the bottom of how Epstein got off" part.

This is not what "false dichotomy" means. "Dichotomy" implies that there is inherent tension, not that two things aren't connected.


>I've seen people attacking Steven Pinker for the same reason.

Steven Pinker literally helped out with Epstein’s defense...

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/07/17/steven-pinker...


And there's a description in a book from one of Epstein's rape victims that sounds an awful lot like she was 'highly encouraged' to have sex with someone who sounds an awful lot like Pinker (the name is redacted but the text describes someone who matches his appearance and scientific positions to a T).

If it was indeed him, he visited Epstein's island and accepted a massage and sex from a girl ~40 years his junior when he knew the man who procured her had already been convicted of underage sex crimes....


You're being downvoted because your comment breaks this guideline:

> Please don't comment on whether someone read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that."

Can you share what these words mean to you, or your impression of what they meant to the author?


The article discusses at length a systemic cover-up of Epstein's involvement with the Media Lab. Multiple high-level people knew about it, knew that MIT had deemed that donations from him were not welcome, and tried to keep his involvement hidden. In other words, they knew they were doing something wrong, and they did it anyway.

From this, it is clear that some people were "seriously tainted" by Epstein's involvement.

Is there a question of where to draw the line? Sure. We don't have have all of the information, so clearly we can't draw a line. But when OP says

It strikes me as inappropriate to suggest that "Anyone seriously tainted by Epstein should step down". What does "tainted" mean? What does "seriously" mean?

the clear argument is that, because drawing a line is hard, we shouldn't call for any action against those who have stepped over it. That's an insult to his many, many victims and provides cover for his enablers. Honestly it's an affront to women everywhere.


> the clear argument is that, because drawing a line is hard, we shouldn't call for any action against those who have stepped over it.

I think you're putting words in his mouth. He doesn't want to see no consequences whatsoever for those who were involved with Epstein, GP argues that people are drawing arbitrary boundaries with no clear repeatable definition and then taking action on them. He wants to understand what precisely being "tainted" entails and why a particular definition is deserving of the consequences such a label entails. In other words, he rejects arbitrary and subjective persecution for an objective approach to justice.


Negroponte also defends taking the money in a meeting at MIT on Wednesday (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614264/mit-media-lab-jeff...):

"Throughout, the meeting had proceeded calmly. But as one of the organizers began to wrap things up, Negroponte stood up, unprompted, and began to speak. He discussed his privilege as a “rich white man” and how he had used that privilege to break into the social circles of billionaires. It was these connections, he said, that had allowed the Media Lab to be the only place at MIT that could afford to charge no tuition, pay people full salaries, and allow researchers to keep their intellectual property. "


> Negroponte also defends taking the money > his privilege as a “rich white man”

Negroponte also goes around demanding people refer to him as the father of the netbook. This is not the first time Negroponte has destroyed institutions. Media Lab Asia was a disaster. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/71fe/5e987a89dfb7a6e7dbb3dd...

OLPC was an unmitigated disaster, not just for Negroponte but also for the world. The level of wastage of money at all levels. Just incredible.


OLPC is One Laptop Per Child for those unaware

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child#Criticism


>'Negroponte also goes around demanding people refer to him as the father of the netbook.'

I'd go with a strategy of malicious compliance on that one. Though I would probably add some extra titles as time went on. Any suggestions?


Which he then backpedaled on after this blew up on social media. The authors of the article went back to him for clarification and he walked it back. The people in attendance for his original remarks called BS on him walking it back.


The clarification was just about whether he would recommend taking the money again knowing what he knows now vs knowing what he knew then. It's less inflammatory but still divisive.

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas - https://www.utilitarianism.com/nu/omelas.pdf

Terrific. Thank you.

I wish I had studied philosophy.

I recently learned (from HN) about the Copenhagen Effect. It helped me to think about why attempts to help, then they are not entirely successful, often get criticized harshly.

I am looking for a layperson's guide to ethical theories.

I first imagined a 20 questions style game. Given hypothetical ethic conundrums, the student answers questions, leading to a strategy. Like with interactive fiction, the student can explore different choices. This corpus could be built organically, over time (1).

This short story you shared suggests another idea. Something like China Miéville meets Gulliver's Travels. Where Gulliver encounters various societies faced with the same ethical dilemma and how they responded.

It's probably silly to think so vast as belief systems can be so easily summarized. But maybe it could be useful start.

(1) Much like the Apple ][ educational game called Animals, which tried to guess the animal you're thinking of, and add new ones. Gah, I can't find a link.


Applied Ethics is a great book, though a bit pricey: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0198750676

Ethics In The Real World is good, too: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30272030-ethics-in-the-r...


What is the Copenhagen Effect?

Oops. Correct phrase is "Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics". Thank you for the nudge.

https://blog.jaibot.com/the-copenhagen-interpretation-of-eth...

https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...


> He discussed his privilege as a "rich white man"

I know you're just quoting the article, but it feels sort of slanderous to include this detail without the proper context.


> “with hindsight, we recognize with shame and distress that we allowed MIT to contribute to the elevation of his reputation, which in turn served to distract from his horrifying acts

This confuses me. If Epstein's involvement was kept secret, how did it elevate his reputation?

It sounds like he spent a lot of money and got nothing in return. What am I missing?


Epstein created a virtuous cycle of social capital for himself by MIT accepting his donation. While it was anonymous to outsiders, the insiders all knew.

For the tech crowd here familiar with venture capital, it would be like one of the top branded VC's being the first money in to your startup. It's a strong positive signal to others.

This NYTimes article has plenty of detail:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/13/nyregion/jeffrey-epstein-...


Funnily enough, I had a visceral reaction when I went from capital markets to startup land, and the startup world was praising Point72. Equally shocking was how candid the Point72 team was on funding startups with the potential to have valuable “fire hose” data from retail trading patterns. Given the past history of the firm, I would have thought they would be a little more discreet about their intent.

To put it more bluntly, he’s a rainmaker — the people who care about making deals know who can get it done, and he made it clear he was capable.


It wasn't secret, just not published publicly. Epstein went to the Media Lab and hobnobbed with people there, had them over to his house, went to their houses, etc. So when people were skeptical of him, he would say "Oh have you met my dear friend Joi Ito, he is the Director of the MIT Media Lab." Other people thought, "Oh hm, this guy is legit." Creating an aura of respectability around him which gave him easier access to young girls, because he was seen as trustworthy.


Epstein, a convicted and admitted pedophile, got MIT Media Lab kowtowing to him.

zajio1am 13 days ago [flagged]

Note that using interchangeably 'pedophile' and 'child sex abuser' is wrong.

First, it criminalizes actual pedophiles, who in most cases do not abuse children. Accordingly, most child sex abusers are not pedophiles.

Second, pedophilia is generally defined as a sexual attraction to prepubescent children, while many or most child sex abusers (including Epstein) abuse postpubescent children.


How did MIT Media Lab "kowtow" to Epstein?

Did they offer him special donor benefits, like naming something after him or listing him as an honored donor? Did they adjust their research priorities to match Epstein's preferences?


Please read the article before you comment on it.

I'd read it before commenting, and can't find the parts where Epstein received public accolades from MIT or changed MIT research priorities. (In fact, the treatment of him as an unmentionable "Voldemort" seems to indicate the opposite was true, and that the normal "love" offered to donors was not available to Epstein in the post-conviction era.)

Can you point out the incidents/paragraphs where you see those, if I've missed them?


> In the summer of 2015, as the Media Lab determined how to spend the funds it had received with Epstein’s help, Cohen informed lab staff that Epstein would be coming for a visit. The financier would meet with faculty members, apparently to allow him to give input on projects and to entice him to contribute further.

Meeting with researchers and giving input into their work is “special donor benefit”.


Thanks for the specific example! That on-site visit – a keystone anecdote of the article – was a potential avenue for untoward influence, worth discussing.

But it's not "naming something after him or listing him as an honored donor". A meeting with some willing subset of the faculty is a "donor benefit", sure, but far reduced from what a large donor normally gets, and not "special" to the point of "kowtowing" – the characterization to which I've objected.

Farrow even couches this implication of influence with the qualifier "apparently" – as in, "it appears this way but I'm not saying for certain". That single visit sparked arguments inside the Lab that likely swayed many against any of Epstein's priorities – spreading the understanding his

And, concerned staff separated Epstein from the "model" "assistants" who would normally accompany him into "any room" for the duration of the meeting(s), and spoke with those women to verify their welfare.

Again: that looks to me like the opposite of "kowtowing". The Media Lab set conditions for his involvement, to minimize any spillover benefits to Epstein, and Epstein – desperate as he was – agreed to their conditions.


The New Yorker piece mentions, among other things, that yes, they let Epstein adjust research priorities:

> the Media Lab ... consulted him about the use of the funds

As an example of Epstein deciding which research should continue:

> In September, 2014, Ito wrote to Epstein soliciting a cash infusion to fund a certain researcher, asking, “Could you re-up/top-off with another $100K so we can extend his contract another year?” Epstein replied, “yes.”

The Media Lab also kowtowed by allowing him to make contributions even though "Epstein was listed in the university’s central donor database as disqualified".


I don't see either of those excerpts as establishing any actual Epstein-driven changes in MIT Media Lab research priorities. The specific example of "soliciting a cash infusion to fund a certain researcher" suggests the exact opposite: Epstein gave to whatever the Lab requested. (If anyone's "kowtowing" to anyone else that anecdote, it's Epstein howtowing to Ito.)


Is your objection to the use of the word "kowtow"?

What word would you use to describe the examples given in the article?

"Kowtow" means to act in a submissive manner. Is your argument really that Epstein was so submissive to the Media Lab that he could not have refused to donate the money? Because that makes no sense.


Yes, my objection is about the word; that's why I put "kowtow" in quotes.

My argument about that specific anecdote, that Ito called Epstein & Epstein delivered $100k, on demand, for exactly the purposes Ito requested, is that it is more supportive of the idea Epstein did MIT's bidding than the other way around. (I'd still not use the word "kowtow", but the other posters brought that word & that anecdote up.)

And still, none of the details in this article (or others) suggest MIT Media Lab or Joi Ito were "kowtowing" to Epstein, by the definition of "kowtow". It's poor, misleading, derogatory word choice implying things other than what is in evidence.

(Unless, of course, someone can point out some cases where MIT people were "excessively subservient" or "worshipful" towards Epstein. I'd still welcome new information!)

Some peoples' attitude seems to be, "these people were bad, hence we can and should use derogatory exaggerations towards them, without concern for the details".

I think instead it's especially important to be precise & accurate when criticizing people, or assigning them a sticky "shunned"/"unethical" status.


Bill Gates really needs to say more than just refusing to answer questions about his involvement here. I don't understand how that quells any rumors if it's to be believed his relationship with Epstein is being exaggerated as he is claiming through a spokesperson.


The Gates angle is weird. Surely MIT has people in his orbit to go ask for donations without having to rely on a convicted sex-offender that they're too embarrassed to even take money from directly.


I think it makes more sense if you look at the specific institution within MIT (the media lab) which has this particular problem.

So while MIT itself may have ample funding from non shady sources, Perhaps this institution doesn’t. Or perhaps it does and the people working there just want to prove their worth by securing funding (which is what most university administrators are incentivized to do).


Yeah I mean most of the research at MIT is funded by the military and department of energy. Those guys are not shady at all.

> Those guys are not shady at all.

This appears to be sarcasm, but I think most of the country would unironically agree with this. Trying to slander MIT for taking money from DoD/DoE really puts you in a bubble.


As Churchill once said, mankind occasionally stumbles over the truth, but picks itself up and carries on.

I'd like to suggest that y'all are almost tripping over the connection that Epstein was possibly trying to get compromising material on researchers working on US military technology projects and then looking at it, going 'huh?' and wandering off again.


to resolve the 2 plot holes of

1) impossible prestige-for-cash if Epstein's involvement is kept secret

2) the weird way in which Gates is involved

check out my interpretation at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20904781


[citation needed]

I don’t have a citation, but MIT and the defense/energy industry are definitely intertwined and everyone on campus knows it.

Most universities don’t have something like Lincoln Labs, which is literally a DoD research center: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIT_Lincoln_Laboratory


MIT restricts sharing funding info with non-MIT people. So you aren’t likely to find a concrete source. But this is very true.

But in this case, they're securing funding from Bill Gates. So if Gates wants to give them money, and they want to take it, why drag a convicted sex trafficker (whose participation they than have to go to the trouble to hide) into it at all? Why not just have Gates, like, mail a check.

Does he? Why? Journalist are on their witch hunt that'll die down within a year, and then Bill Gates can go back to being America's geeky dad figure that does charity work.

We have a justice system. If you don't like the way it works, go fix it. These witch hunts are an attempt to by-pass laws and ruin people's lives based on emotions, not facts.

Just look at what Louis CK has to go through, because somebody completely unrelated to him, was a piece of shit. If he jerked off and made some women uncomfortable in isolation, it'd be a funny 2 second mention and he'd be immediately forgiven, but because there was a Weinstein tsunami of outrage, now Louis has to put up with a mountain of shit.

Bill Gates is wisely avoiding becoming the Louis CK of this particular situation.


[flagged]



Jesus. I do have to wonder why exactly Harvard is not getting lashed by the press too? They were even more entangled with Epstein from the sounds of it.


Society preys on those who show weakness. Harvard asserted immediately they would give no money back, while Joi apologized. Negroponte, a more old-school elite, stepped in to play the same move as Harvard but it was too late.

The ethical challenge this New Yorker article presents is that:

  - Members of the Media Lab knew at least some of Mr. Epstein's transgressions (to the point that some of them were concerned he may have brought trafficked women into the lab)
  - Subsequently solicited funds from him, despite knowledge of these transgressions
  - Actively concealed the source of these funds
Additionally, it seems that members may have intentionally broken MIT administrative policy that disqualified Mr. Epstein as a donor.

I googled around a bit, and maybe didn't find the entanglements that you're referring to. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I could only find that Harvard accepted money before knowledge of Mr. Epstein's attacks could be expected to be publicly known [1]. Articles also mention personal relationships that Mr. Epstein had with individuals at Harvard. However, those don't seem to have involved Harvard the institution directly.

Again, I could have missed something, but these seem to be different situations. And it makes sense that the Media Lab would attract more attention in this case than Harvard.

[1] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/07/11/harvar...


Covering something up is always more scandalous than the scandal itself, because that completely nullifies the defense that it was done naively.

This certainly looks bad for Ito, who apparently went to great lengths to conceal the relationship with a known abuser. We should expect better.

But I think we should take care not to transfer blame to everyone who ever ate dinner with Epstein, went to his house, or took his phone call. Especially someone like Bill Gates, who deserves the benefit of the doubt in my opinion.

Once, I was on a frisbee team with a man who is now serving 4 consecutive lifetime sentences for child abuse. The great quandary of abusers is their ability to seem upstanding and normal. Epstein fooled a lot of people and it doesn’t mean they were complicit in or suspicious of his sins.


You are comparing your experience with someone who you had no idea was an abuser until later, to someone who had an extensive relationship with a serial child rapist after this became very publicly known, and after he spent time in jail for it.[1]

The details of the sex ring, the Lolita Express, the witness intimidation, even the shape of Epstein’s thing were extremely well known publicly in 2010, but Bill Gates didn’t care.

[1]: https://twitter.com/jordanuhl/status/1170170356965007362?s=2...


To be fair to Gates, he flatly denies having been directed by Epstein. From the article:

A spokesperson for Gates said that “any claim that Epstein directed any programmatic or personal grantmaking for Bill Gates is completely false.” A source close to Gates said that the entrepreneur has a long-standing relationship with the lab, and that anonymous donations from him or his foundation are not atypical. Gates has previously denied receiving financial advisory services from Epstein; in August, CNBC reported that he he met with Epstein in New York in 2013, to discuss “ways to increase philanthropic spending.”


The contextual difference here is that many of these people are being criticized for working with Epstein well after his conviction. There's a big difference between pre and post conviction, even though it was somewhat of an "open secret" before he was even charged.

Apparently the claim that Ito concealed things from MIT was simply false: https://president.mit.edu/speeches-writing/preliminary-fact-... the administration knew of, approved of, and directed keeping the donations anonymous.

> Second, it is now clear that senior members of the administration were aware of gifts the Media Lab received between 2013 and 2017 from Jeffrey Epstein’s foundations. Goodwin Procter has found that in 2013, when members of my senior team learned that the Media Lab had received the first of the Epstein gifts, they reached out to speak with Joi Ito. He asked for permission to retain this initial gift, and members of my senior team allowed it. [...] Joi sought the gifts for general research purposes, such as supporting lab scientists and buying equipment. Because the members of my team involved believed it was important that Epstein not use gifts to MIT for publicity or to enhance his own reputation, they asked Joi to agree to make clear to Epstein that he could not put his name on them publicly. These guidelines were provided to and apparently followed by the Media Lab.


Looks like Joi Ito saw this coming and pre-emptively put up that post where he claimed he didn't know of Epstein's wrongdoings while happily accepting his money. Well..cat's out of the bag now.


Not quite. The big news here is that Ito's denials were apparently false -- that Ito was fully aware of what kind of stigma would be associated with Epstein's money, and why, and dealt with it by concealing the source and taking the money. As documented by the email trails that someone gave the reporter.

> cat's out of the bag

Perhaps I am too naive but what is wrong with accepting a donation from a person you didn't know was a criminal?


Nothing. But that is certainly, provably not the situation here.


It sounds like you haven't read the article, which is about covering up donations from someone you knew was a disqualified donor because he was a pedophile, because your own staff kept telling you he was and that you should stop talking to him.

And also apparently personally profited from it.

He didn't do a basic Google search to find all the articles about his conviction for child molestation and solicitation?

Negroponte's brother was Bush II's DNI, and there is a ton of speculation about Epstein's involvement in foreign intelligence ...


Oh his track record cuts longer and deeper than that. Look up what he did in South America. There's a whole lot of blood on John Negroponte's hands. Nicholas must take solace in the fact that he isn't directly responsible for as many deaths and as much corruption as his brother John, for what it's worth.

https://fas.org/irp/congress/2001_cr/s091401.html

>Based upon the Committee's review of State Department and CIA documents, it would seem that Ambassador Negroponte knew far more about government perpetrated human rights abuses than he chose to share with the committee in 1989 or in Embassy contributions at the time to annual State Department Human Rights reports.


DNI = Director of National Intelligence

(I had to look it up)


Negroponte was DNI when Epstein was on trial, it makes no sense.


What trial? You mean when Acosta cut a deal because Epstein “belonged to intelligence”?

When the money is flowing, people look the other way. It's how someone like Epstein (or Jimmy Saville in the UK for another example) can function for so long. They throw money around.

A similar money induced blindness drives financial bubbles, Ponzi schemes, and dodgy corporate accounting. It's hard for people to see that something's wrong when they're being paid to be blind.


Charles Windsor's friend Jimmy Saville and Andrew Windsor's friend Epstein.

Not just money induced this blindness. Snobbery is real.


Certainly, as a future applicant to grad school, these revelations make me dramatically less likely to consider the Media Lab.


To be fair, the media lab has an alternative funding model that draws primarily from private sources and not the government. The whole premise is that "there is all this private billionaire/corporate/sovereign money sitting around, let's use it for research". This is in contrast to grants, etc.

Note that MIT's central fundraising office seems to have not been in the know - I don't think this reflects badly on the rest of the institute (yet)


I am also wondering the same. Are their other similar labs either in USA or Canada? I liked MIT Media Lab as they didn't have any sort of prerequisite like Bachelors Degree,IELTS etc. If you have proven yourself in their area of interest then you can apply.

I’d have to agree to put it lightly it certainly influences my view on MIT. I won’t go as far as assuming people knew but I’d have to imagine anonymous donations with this many 0s where asked about outside of the media lab.


Their treatment of this guy is what made me lose respect.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Swartz


this is arguably much, much worse than the Epstein donation stuff.

Accepting these donations is morally shady. Their treatment of Swartz is downright evil.


It wasn’t all that many 0s for the media lab.



In my opinion, Anand should now publicly praise Ito's decision to resign.

Check out my comment at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20904781 to understand why.


I feel genuine scientific curiosity about what makes people like Mr. Epstein and his friends so interested in sex (with inappropriate subjects in particular) that they would risk reputation, fortunes and life for it. Indeed sex is pleasurable but definitely not worth risking anything or making the partner unhappy. Is there some sort of neurochemical pathology or what's actually so wrong with them anyway?

BTW if one insists on receiving a forbidden pleasure, some controlled substances can offer mind-blowing sensations, by orders of magnitude more pleasurable than sex can offer and the society is hardly going to be so angry of a drug addict as it usually is about sex offenders.


I think people start allowing themselves behaviors on the fringe, which then changes their perception of what is acceptable and further pushes their belief of where the fringe is, which then gives them reason to allow themselves behaviors on that new fringe, and so on...

Eventually they end up somewhere messed up. Morality is malleable and normality is relative. Unless you pay attention at every step, I can see how someone who's playing a bit loose with the rules might end up in a spot where they're doing truly awful things.


I think the fact that many don't real that this was an elaborate blackmail operation often clouds people's ability to understand what happened. The fact that abused his resources just shows he was exactly the only type of person who can run such blackmail operation.

That's a piece of it, but if it were just blackmail Epstein wouldn't have a fraction of the connections he actually did.

The whole thing makes more sense if you assume Epstein wasn't truly in charge of anything. He was the manager, not the owner. It's a pretty safe bet that few if any of the blackmail tapes will ever surface, partly because of this.


What did he actually manage then? Taking the risks associated with joining such an operation just to fuck teen girls or anybody smells bullshit.

He was handed hundreds of millions of dollars in personal wealth (probably either blackmailed or proceeds from money laundering or both) and decades of legal impunity to indulge his predatory urges. Up until the end he probably thought he was untouchable, or he wouldn't have flown back from Paris to be arrested at Teterboro airport in the first place. It's not hard to understand why he took this "bargain." I'm sure the intelligence agencies who helped set it up even put some twisted "it's your patriotic duty" spin on it.

I was discussing the exact same question with some friends the other day. Do we all naturally have these intrusive, power fantasy thoughts (but just don't have the means or will to act on them), or are the rich and powerful more predisposed to these aberrant behaviours (see the link between success in the modern world and psychopathy)? Or perhaps some third hypothesis?

It has nothing to do with pleasure/sex. Those are metonyms for power.

Having consulted for the financial sector I know they screen for reputation damage using services such as [1]. Do institutes such as M.I.T. have a donation due-diligence process incorporating similar data-sourcing/services for vetting donations or do they just wing it?

[1] http://solutions.refinitiv.com/world-check-kyc-screening


According to the Twitter thread, MIT had Epstein flagged so they wouldn't take any money from him. Ito and his team got around this by marking all Epstein's donations as anonymous and carefully hiding him from the University.

I don't have a dog in this race but it seems to me that Ito has to go. Poor judgement in accepting donations from Epstein is one thing, but hiding it from the University and lying about it cannot be acceptable.


Interesting and thanks for the clarification. Now if the donations were so successfully anonymized as to fool the MIT administration, wouldn't that also neutralize Epstein's reputation gains from the donations?

(I'm not trying to excuse the people involved, just trying to understand the dynamics more)


Folks should remember that Rafael Reif was the provost under Susan Hockfield who orchestrated the whitewashing of research misconduct allegations that MIT Professor Ted Postol launched against MIT Lincoln Laboratory for using fabricated data to report results of a critical ballistic missile defense test to the Pentagon. MIT was found "guiltless" by Provost Reif after an "internal investigation" was conducted over the course of almost a decade. Steve Weiner (a highly respected former director of ballistic defense research at Lincoln for almost 20 years) has since accused MIT of engaging in a "kickback scheme" whereby Lincoln would tell the MDA whatever it needed to hear about the viability of a Starwars-inspired missile defense shield in order for executives at Raytheon to receive multi-billion dollar contracts to build it. The phony missile defense tests that Postol challenged intensely for almost a decade were one small but critical piece of the massive fraud that MIT has perpetrated against the United States taxpayer here. President Reif needs to be incarcerated, not just fired!

An aspect of this that seems under-reported is that the head of an academic institution, where one of the main job responsibilities is fundraising, was also soliciting investments in his personal investment funds from the same donors.

How is that not a giant conflict of interest?


It’s really hard to argue that MIT didn’t have a guilty conscience about being close to this guy.

Their choice of his internal nickname, “Voldemort” was amazingly Freudian.

That is, unless I misunderstood 7 books and Voldemort was actually a good guy...


Where, specifically, was the money going at MIT?


The Media Lab that Joi Ito is in charge of.

Ethan Zuckerman is another name people might know around here who was at the Media Lab. He resigned.

Zuckerman by all accounts was totally clean in all of this. Ito, looks dirtier by the day, and is digging in.


Let's be real here folks, this is about guys egos (and likely more) being stroked and the subsequent social dynamic of how a predator 'works' them. Someone flys you to an island with girls hanging around the pool. Now what? Are you noble enough to be asking how they got there? Or are you going to give in and go along with the experience? And afterward, then what?

What kind of small talk doesn’t involve asking basic questions like recent life experiences?

It seems impossible for anyone to not notice any wrongdoing, these are people, not stolen artworks.


So...

M.I.T. Media Lab, part of a college with young people, accepted money from a known sexual predator with vast wealth and power.

Anyone who concealed this should be put in prison.

EDIT: I should clarify as I don't think it's necessarily clear why I think so from my post. Say Epstein donates $50M or some other large figure regularly every n-years. Now suppose that one of the people at the school accuses him of rape. So...now he doesn't have to threaten anything, after all not giving money isn't the same thing as a bribe right? So that girl will be silenced by the school, which will threaten to expel her or worse. Accepting money from a known pedophile WHEN YOU WORK AT A SCHOOL WITH MINORS is tantamount to condoning sexual violence and anyone who does so is a rabid animal and should be put in prison forever and a day.

EDIT EDIT: So...I can't find statistics on the number of students, but I know that MIT has a reputation for sometimes having prodigies who are under 18 attend campus. Maybe Epstein picked MIT specifically because of that (as heart wrenching as that is) - every one of those kids probably needs to be checked that they didn't get taken advantage of during the time period when this occurred.


The salient points for me are mentioned at the bottom of the article: espouse good values and ethics and stay true to them. Money can blind you to that sometimes. Don't let it

"Dance for me, Corporate America! I'm SHIT-HOT!" -Hunter S. Negroponte

(Via Philip "Tenth Rule" Greenspun [1], originally published in March '95 Voo Doo Magazine [2], The MIT Journal of Humour since 1919 [3])

Generation of Bits

Tales of shame and degradation in the Big Idea Lab

by Hunter S. Negroponte

Too Many Bits

The other day I was thanking my good friend Former President Bush (or "George" as I call him) for pulling some strings to get my brother out of that Iran-Contra mess, and he asked me if I knew any hot technologies he could sink his Presidential Pension into. In my opinion, the smart money is on filters. It's getting so you can't read Usenet without seeing that "Dave Jordan" Ponzi letter followed by forty replies from dickless wannabes threatening to mail-bomb the poster's sysadmin for the "innapropriate post." Of course, I personally have my staff of Elegant British Women pre-edit my .newsrc for me (God how I envy the British), but that option is not open to the unwired masses outside the Media Lab.

One way to eliminate the blather while keeping the First Amendment intact is to create active "Filter Agents," as I like to call them, that presort my Netnews articles and eliminate the tiresome pseudo-commercial posts. Can you imagine what the net's raw content will look like when all the half-literate morons in the U.S. can publish any text that their tiny minds ooze? The very thought makes me want to refill my glass with the '56 Chateau Lafite. America's Intelligentsia will need some serious Digital Butlers guarding our Offramp on the Digital Highway's Mailing Lists (damn metaphors) when this comes to pass.

The Big Lie Media Lab critics (there have been a few) have occasionally questioned the practical application of our work. Well, have you heard about the Holographic Television? No longer a device found only in the back of comic books, we've actually made this sucker work. An honest-to-god motion-picture hologram, produced in the Media Lab basement on a 2000 pound holography table by computers, lasers and mirrors spinning at 30,000 RPM. It's real! It works! Life Magazine even came in to photograph it in action (of course, they had to fill the room with smoke so the lasers would show up on film). Practical application? Sure, it requires a 2000 pound air-suspended rock table and a Connection Machine II to run, but hell, everyone knows the price of computing power and 2000 pound rock tables is cut in half every year. My point, however, is more mundane: we have created a demo literally from smoke and mirrors, and the Corporate World bought it. Even my good friend Penn (or "Penn," as I call him) Jillette would be proud.

In fact, I'm a few points up on Penn. You may have heard of the Interactive Narrative work that is proceeding in the lab. Folks, I'll be honest with you for a moment. I know as well as you do that it's a stinking load of horseshit. Roger Ebert said "Six thousand years ago sitting around a campfire a storyteller could have stopped at any time and asked his audience how they wanted the story to come out. But he didn't because that would have ruined the story." You think Hollywood would have learned this lesson from the monster "success" that Clue, the Movie enjoyed several years ago. But no! I've repackaged the "Choose your own Adventure" novels of childhood as Digital Information SuperHighway Yadda Yadda crap, and again, they bought it! Sony right this minute is building an interactive movie theater, with buttons the audience can push to amuse themselves as the story progresses. Dance for me, Corporate America! I'm SHIT-HOT!

Why, just the other day I listened to a member of my staff explain to potential sponsors that we had spent \$US 4,000,000 of Japanese sponsor dollars to construct a widescreen version of "I Love Lucy" from the original source. And HE SAID IT WITH A STRAIGHT FACE! CAN YOU FUCKING BELIEVE THAT? Boy, I bet those Nips wish they had their money back now! Earthquake? No, we can't do much to rebuild your city, but we SURE AS HELL can give you a 1.66:1 cut of Lucy to fit all those busted HDTVs of yours! HA HA HA!

A Sucker Born

Last week I was off the coast of Greece on my yacht "Nippo-bux" (I put the "raft" in "graft," as I always say) with my close personal friend Al ("Al") Gore. He asked me "Nick--er, Hunter, how do you do it? You maintain a research staff of, in the words of Albert Meyer [an underfunded Course VI professor], `Science Fiction Charlatans,' yet you never fail to rake in monster sponsor bucks? I could fund Hillary's socialized medicine boondoggle in an instant if I had that kind of fiscal pull."

I told him that it's merely a matter of understanding our sponsor's needs. Our sponsors are represented by middle-aged middle-managers who need three things: Booze, good hotels, and hookers. Keep 'em busy with free trips and the slick dog and pony shows, provide them with pre-written notes for their upper-managment, and the money will keep rolling in.

Do I worry that one day some sponsor will wake up and say "Wait a minute--what the hell did I do last night? Did I shell out a million bucks to fund a LEGO Chair in the Media Lab? Tequila!" Over the years I've learned not to care. I could pull the cigar out of W.C. Field's mouth and sell it back to him at a profit. And he'd thank me for the deal. I'm that goddamn good.

Obligatory Plug

By the way, if you enjoyed this article, you can read it again in my upcoming book: Being Gonzo -- Life on the Digital Information SuperHighway Fast Lane. Buy one now.

[1] https://philip.greenspun.com/humor/media-lab

[2] https://web.archive.org/web/20000823222608/http://www.mit.ed...

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20000928224954/http://www.mit.ed...


I don't know what I find more disturbing: the eloquence of desire or the accent on top of "elite."

Wait till you see how they spell “coordinate” at The New Yorker

Some history about their punctuation tendencies (was new to me today): https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-curse-of-...

Which is better? 1. Evil people keep all their money. 2. Evil people anonymously donate to good causes.

Epstein wasn't donating anonymously. Ito was marking Epstein's donations as anonymous. These are not the same.

I don't think this current trend demonizing everybody who ever associated with Epstein is good. All it is achieving showing everyone that do not associate with felons. Don't hire felons. Don't even shake hands with them in a social gathering.


That lesson is absolutely appropriate for many instances. Especially if the individual did not receive appropriate punishment for their crime in the justice system and shows no remorse.

Forgiveness is appropriate if the offender has learned a lesson and changed their ways.


Please don't act like taking money from pedophile sex trafficker billionaires to fund your institution and parlaying that access to secure their investment in your personal projects is equivalent to whatever you're talking about!


It’s does not achieve that at all. How is there an analogy between Epstein being welcomed back into polite society and hiring a low level drug felon at a living wage? Not even the same ballpark.

Wokeness paradox (2013 Edition): Can Ito work toward the "inclusion of marginalized individuals" while simultaneously discriminating against those with criminal records?

If Epstein hadn't recidivated, would Anand Giridharadas have bestowed a "Disobedience Award" on Ito for breaking the rules at MIT to rehabilitate an ex-felon?

Is a low-level drug felony "better than" soliciting prostitution (the charges on Epstein's public record)? What if the drug felony involves selling to minors?


They’re vastly different if you apply a class-based analysis, yes. An alleged billionaire abusing minors while palling around with heads of state compared to someone with a public defender?

And I don’t even understand how one can solicit prostitution from someone who cannot legally consent.


A "class-based analysis" implies you don't care about the crime but the identity of the criminal. If so, then why the gnashing of teeth now? Wouldn't the logical conclusion of that analysis be that MIT should not take donations at all?

I don't understand how one can solicit prostitution from someone who cannot legally consent either. But Ito played no roll in laying those laughable charges.


It’s a straw man to suggest I don’t care about the crime. I would argue that our current system attempts to be “class blind” at various steps (notably, not when setting bail) but fails miserably. This case is a perfect example. Same with the lack of prosecutions from banking scandals after 2008 crash.

As for why the gnashing of teeth now? I know I’ve personally been aware of the details of Epstein’s case for years, but you sound like a crank when you show people photos of a pedophile’s weird temple and rant about all of the names in his flight logs. Why now for Cosby? Or Weinstein?

Perhaps it’s finally in the air that these men should be held accountable, perhaps to an even higher standard, for their abuse of power.

As for university funding... don’t get me started! Also can we start examining Kissinger and the other criminals employed by Harvard? The ivy institutions have decades old ties to the intelligence community. (Though it does sort of make sense to learn about the history of US plunder throughout the world from the people on the front lines... ok I’m starting to sound like a crank...)


It's hard to say whether its good or bad right now. Give it a few years.

Social norms are changing very quickly these days in ways no one expected. Look at the polls on acceptance of gay marriage prior to 2000 and today. There is a big shift, not just in the US. Hard to believe such shifts can happen in such time scales, if you read old sociology text books.

What is different today is how connected society is and how fast social pressure can build up. And thats having effects people haven't seen before - good and bad.


Before, social pressure could build up in many different ways. Today we have an enlightened elite deciding which pressures are glorious activism and which pressures are despicable harassment. Strengthening some movements and crushing others.

They have done good things. They have also done bad things. If I said what bad things, I would have a target on my back, so I wont. But suffice to say that there are upsides and downsides.

People are more controlled than they have ever been and thats why rapid shifts in opinion can be effected.


I agree, the things that are happening as the society goes more connected seems very chaotic and unpredictable.

Not all felons and not all contact are equal.

I think it's reasonable to suggest that you should avoid taking money from felons who used that money to rape children.


Wikipedia says he died today.

I hope everyone is thinking twice about what it means to be an Èlite institution.

As an outsider looking in it’s becoming clear these elite circles are rotten to the core. My alma mater never solicited funds from someone like Epstein.

I don’t know what can be done but we should begin to reevaluate their undue influence on society.


Where did this go on the front page? It was holding the #2 position and 30 seconds later it's #32. Is it because people are spam flagging the story? I don't understand how the gravity of this story can increase so quickly. The lack of transparency around things like this is my least favorite part of HN.


> The lack of transparency around things like this is my least favorite part of HN.

Yeah, it's very frustrating. I wouldn't feel such resistance to the mods actions if it were known what exactly those actions were. HN is a curated space but not explicitly so.


FWIW, I am one of the flaggers. I don't find this story intellectually stimulating.

Topics like these are not intellectually stimulating but they still need to be read.

I don't disagree with that and I do visit other sites that cover those news.

It needs to be both read and discussed. Just covering the news is completely different than actually discussing the news with this particular community of people.

[flagged]


and Negroponte and Lessig


And Schneier and Zittrain and a whole host of other enablers.


[flagged]


I don't think there's ever been an understanding that once you walk free from prison your reputation and legacy is wiped clean.

If that were the case it would be socially acceptable to commit a crime, serve a sentence to "pay your debt", then walk right out and do the same thing again. Clearly this isn't the case.

Completing your sentence means you have a chance to start atoning for the harm you've caused and rebuilding your reputation gradually over time.

If Epstein had devoted his time and funds to, say, helping his victims recover and campaigning to discourage/prevent others from committing similar crimes, perhaps some forgiveness may be forthcoming, but I don't know of any evidence that he did anything like that.


Why were they trying so hard to hide his involvement if they thought he had paid his debt to society and everything was all good? Clearly they knew this dude was toxic but still wanted his money.


I already answered that. Because in general - society doesn’t forgive. It would have been scandal had this info be published from day one. But he never made a dollar illegally. Its not like a drug dealer sponsoring a Boys Scout club.


But he never made a dollar illegally.

At this point it's pretty clear that he made most of his money through blackmail of underage sex acts arranged by him. He pretended to be some kind of hedge fund genius, but really most of the money that his targets gave him to keep the pictures out of the press just went into index funds etc. IANAL, but that doesn't seem legal to me...


Also in the 90s he almost got convicted for being part of a massive ponzi scheme. His partner ended up taking the fall though, and Epstein remained unscathed.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jeffrey-epstein-worked-at-tower...

His entire past is super shady.


So he nade billions of off blackmail? Never knew that - any proof?

A) There's never been any indication he ever made "billions". He never actually said that, although he let others assume it.

B) You can't declare "blackmail payments" on tax forms. Any ongoing blackmail arrangement between wealthy people has to plausibly appear to be something else. Money management is something else. Blackmail targets gave him money to manage. His fee was probably higher than e.g. Vanguard's, and it probably changed whenever the Lolita Express needed some maintenance, but he didn't take all their money.

C) This "proof" idiom is ridiculous in this context. We'll never have any "proof" that he was murdered, but neither do we need that. [0] The fact that a medical examiner didn't have to call it "murder" just shows that he was murdered by a competent hitter.

[0] http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/gene...


>But he never made a dollar illegally.

Blackmail is illegal, by the way.


The guy preyed on tons of children. There is not enough time nor money to make up for that, no matter how good of a cause it goes to.


I see. So because he was a horrible person and happened to be a billionaire, he should have rather spent his fortune buying and crashing a new Ferrari every day, got it.

This country was mostly built by Rockefellers and similar despicable humans. Honestly they didn’t fell far from what Epstein was doing but yet here it is America the strongest nation on Earth.


No, Epstein should have been in prison for what at his age would amount to a life sentence, and his fortune should have gone to victim restitution. That's what typically happens in cases of this magnitude when the justice system functions properly.


I see. And you are a US-based judge with experience trying cases for 30 years to make this determination even though he was tried and sentenced by a judge in US court already you know better. Cool. Just tell me with cricuit court you try cases, your honor?

Now imagine how much more productively that money could have been used if it stayed in the hands of the people who did all the work (i.e. Rockefeller's employees).

We need to abandon this lone genius/strong man view of history.


I don't care what he spent his money on. His crimes were so severe there is no way for him to repay his debt.

I'm not sure any founders of America come close to his systematic, deliberate exploitation of minors.


I would ordinarily agree, but the Epstein case is exceptional for two reasons.

First - "paying his due" in this case meant a plea deal widely considered to be very lenient. On top of that, the plea deal not only resulted in no useful testimony from Epstein against other criminals, it had an extraordinary provision granting immunity to his co-conspirators! The accusation that the deal was made in bad faith specifically so the government could protect Epstein's conspirators (many of whom were rumored to be prominent politicians, including foreign leaders of US allies) was plausible enough that the US Secretary of Labor actually resigned in July over his involvement in making the deal.

Second - while this dips into conspiratorial territory, there is widespread confusion as to where exactly Epstein's money came from and whether it had anything to do with the sex trafficking. None of the typical players who would be familiar with the deals made by a New York hedge fund had ever worked with him, and he didn't appear to have either a real staff or any real record of investments that such a fund would make. There is a very plausible theory that the money in Epstein's fund came from Epstein getting other billionaires to participate in his sexual abuse ring and then blackmailing them. Needless to say, this makes the idea of taking his money even more problematic.

Much of of this wouldn't have been known to Ito years ago when he first took the money, but it's all out in the open now, and the way the Media Lab has been handling it doesn't reflect well on them.


Ito will be gone within 24 hours, I guarantee it. And I wouldn't be surprised if the entire Media Lab is shut down by the end of the week.


I called it.

[flagged]


How is that interesting at all?

A professor can be kicked out of a university and "socially exiled" for plagiarism.

Plagiarism isn't even illegal. (Plagiarism is different from copyright infringement, which is illegal.)

As John Stuart Mills wrote in "On Liberty", saying:

"""We have a right, also, in various ways, to act upon our unfavourable opinion of any one, not to the oppression of his individuality, but in the exercise of ours. We are not bound, for example, to seek his society; we have a right to avoid it (though not to parade the avoidance), for we have a right to choose the society most acceptable to us. We have a right, and it may be our duty, to caution others against him, if we think his example or conversation likely to have a pernicious effect on those with whom he associates. We may give others a preference over him in optional good offices, except those which tend to his improvement. In these various modes a person may suffer very severe penalties at the hands of others, for faults which directly concern only himself; but he suffers these penalties only in so far as they are the natural, and, as it were, the spontaneous consequences of the faults themselves, not because they are purposely inflicted on him for the sake of punishment."""


I am not sure you are engaging in good faith if you believe rape can be non-violent, but the article makes very clear it was known to basically everyone at the time - so many people that Ito had to lie about where the money was coming from.

Believing someone should be able to vote and be in jail are not in any way contradictory; certainly not that someone should be able to vote but not be able to throw their money around to excuse their sexual abuse!


> I am not sure you are engaging in good faith if you believe rape can be non-violent, but the article makes very clear it was known to basically everyone at the time - so many people that Ito had to lie about where the money was coming from.

I didn't say that rape was non-violent. I said that what Jeffrey Epstein was convicted of in 2008 was non-violent. And it was.

> Believing someone should be able to vote and be in jail are not in any way contradictory; certainly not that someone should be able to vote but not be able to throw their money around to excuse their sexual abuse!

I suppose the conceptual contradiction is in the belief held by most liberals (in which I include myself) that prisoners who've served their sentence ought to be reintegrated into society, and as much as possible treated like normal citizens. They ought to be able to vote. They ought to be able to have jobs (with some specific exceptions: sex offenders working with children, financial fraudsters working on wall street, etc..), and generally ought to be treated normally.

Now, in retrospect we all know that Epstein was continuing to commit his crimes. But it is unfair to judge people like the MIT Media Lab based on what we know today, rather than what they knew then. What they knew then was that he was convicted of hiring an underage prostitute in 2008. A serious crime to be sure, but one for which he had served his, admittedly light, sentence at the time.


Note that the ballot measure recently passed in Florida to restore voting rights for felons specifically excluded murderers and sex offenders. It's not so "interesting" to many people that they want a weed dealer to be able to vote while Jeffrey Epsteins should get the brazen bull.


Rape is a violent crime.


He was not convicted of rape. At least, not the violent kind:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Epstein#Conviction_and...


What someone is convicted of, and what someone is guilty of, are often different things.


Totally agree. But what he was convicted of is what people publicly knew at the time.


You need to actually review the facts of the case. The reason this blew open again is entirely because the settlement acosta offered was judged illegal. They concealed the deal from the victims' legal staff.

You, pointing to this corrupt deal as evidence of exoneration, makes very clear what your goals here are. Revolting.


You should probably calm down and make fewer assumptions. It's always impressive to me just how bad people are at understanding the world retrospectively.

Yes, today we know that Acosta gave him a sweetheart deal that he didn't deserve. Today. There was no reason for the MIT media lab to understand that. Their job is not to investigate every single person that wants to give them money.


What are you arguing exactly? We should support disenfranchisement if we believe in institutionally ostracizing rich criminals?


Yes. I'm saying it's odd to support institutional ostracism for committing a crime, but then turn around and talk about how terrible felony disenfranchisement is. Or how employers shouldn't inquire about criminal history.

I'm on the side of not ostracizing people without ongoing evidence of malfeasance, personally. For both varieties.

To be clear, if it were shown that Joi Ito or anyone at the MIT lab had reason to think Epstein was still engaging in the behavior for which he was convicted - that is a serious issue.


Of course they had reason to think it. Take a look at this exchange between Evgeny Morozov and his Epstein-connected publisher. It reads like pimping, not a professional interaction.

https://newrepublic.com/article/154826/jeffrey-epsteins-inte...


So, this may be threading a narrow needle, but personally I don't think someone should be socially exiled for hiring prostitutes, or merely being lecherous in a non-aggressive way. The insinuation in those exchanges is that the women being referenced were prostitutes, or some such similar arrangement. But I don't think we ought to be exiling people for that, and I don't even think it ought to be illegal.

What Epstein did that crossed the line was manipulating under-aged women into prostitution. People society deems to be incapable of making those kinds of choices for themselves. If the women surrounding Epstein and being referenced in these emails were under-aged, then yes, you're right. But if they were consenting adults, I don't really see why him paying other consenting adults to have sex with him should prevent him from being a public intellectual or donating to places like MIT.


What people are upset about is not that he was insufficiently ostracized. I don't understand why you keep framing it that way. It's not like he was so reviled he had trouble buying groceries or going to a restaurant. He was fine. Harvard and MIT would have also been 100% fine if they simply didn't take money from a child rapist. The fact they did and knowingly looked the other way is what is appalling.


> What people are upset about is not that he was insufficiently ostracized.

> Harvard and MIT would have also been 100% fine if they simply didn't take money from a child rapist. The fact they did and knowingly looked the other way is what is appalling.

Do you not believe these statements are literal contradictions of each other?


Not at all. Again, this thing with 'ostracizing' is your framing - I don't accept it and, frankly, find it somewhat nauseating. The reporting we have shows that people and institutions both protected and enabled a child rapist. You want to pass it off as, I dunno, quirky rich libertines hung out in the Hamptons and got foot massages and look at us judgy prudes. But that severely misrepresents what happened.


> Harvard and MIT would have also been 100% fine if they simply didn't take money from a child rapist. The fact they did and knowingly looked the other way is what is appalling.

Refusing to take money from someone is a form of ostracism. Therefore, this statement:

> What people are upset about is not that he was insufficiently ostracized.

is false. They are literally logical contradictions of each other.


If you're interested in being so logical, you should logically justify: > Refusing to take money from someone is a form of ostracism.

Or do we take it just as an axiom? Refusing to accept someone's money in exchange for a good like food, cellphone service, the right to assemble in a private space, whatever are certainly more ostracizing than refusing to accept someone's money in exchange for social capital.


I'll refer you to my comment here:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20923424


Refusing to take money from someone is a form of ostracism.

Just a quick look at a dictionary suggests otherwise. "2: exclusion by general consent from common privileges or social acceptance". Ostracism has to be public, intend to be burdensome and punitive and employed against some 'common privilege' by, at a minimum, some broad subset of, if not society as a whole, some social group.

Laundering your rapey reputation is not a common privilege nor is the private unwillingness of some party to enter in a financial relationship with another 'ostracism'.


> Just a quick look at a dictionary suggests otherwise. "2: exclusion by general consent from common privileges or social acceptance". Ostracism has to be public, intend to be burdensome and punitive and employed against some 'common privilege' by, at a minimum, some broad subset of, if not society as a whole, some social group.

Did you even read your own definition? The word 'public' is not in it. Being excluded from donating to MIT precisely matches the definition you yourself just gave.

> Laundering your rapey reputation is not a common privilege nor is the private unwillingness of some party to enter in a financial relationship with another 'ostracism'.

Donating to MIT is absolutely a common privilege. Not being able to enter into financial relationships with people is absolutely ostracism. The definition just could not be more clear.

Let's go through it word by word, since you seem to be having trouble:

"Exclusion from common privileges or social acceptance".

1. Are we talking about excluding Epstein from something? Yes. Excluding him from donating to MIT.

2. Is the ability to donate to MIT a "common privilege"? Yes. Almost everyone on the planet is allowed to donate to MIT.

3. Are we talking about excluding Epstein from this "common privilege" for the purpose of limiting his "social acceptance"? Yes. The reason people want to exclude Epstein from financial ties with MIT is to prevent him from "laundering his reputation" as you say. Why does one want to launder their reputation? To acquire "social acceptance".


False equivalence and straw man. Refusing to associate a private educational institution with a person does not disenfranchise them from participating in government. He should be able to vote with respect to governments, and upstanding private institutions should also ostracize him. There's no logical conflict.

In the posted article, they are shown to have engaged in a cover-up to suppress the source of the donations. Obviously they knew such a link would be problematic.


> False equivalence and straw man. Refusing to associate a private educational institution with a person does not disenfranchise them from participating in government. He should be able to vote with respect to governments, and upstanding private institutions should also ostracize him. There's no logical conflict.

It's not a false equivalence. There is an equivalence: social sanctions extending beyond the sanction of the courts. And I didn't say that there was a logical contradiction, I was highlighting the moral nuance of this point. The view that social ostracism is ok, but disenfranchisement or employment application questions is not is a very fine needle to thread, in my view.

And to be clear, i'm not saying that that needle can't be threaded. Just that I don't think the moral subtlety here is getting the attention it deserves, because Epstein is a popular enemy.


I think it about the power. It just _seems_ unjust that a man who committed such a crime can hold power.

I'm not against giving criminals a second chance, but to let them into the inner circles of power is different.


There are plenty of “nonviolent” crimes that are so reprehensible that civilized society should turn its back on the perpetrator. Epstein has committed one or (very likely) more of these. And, with regards to your odd mention of felony disenfranchisement: felons should be able to vote, just as revolting sexual predators should.


Is paying a 16 year old girl to have sex with you so reprehensible that society should turn its back on you forever? It's bad, don't get me wrong. And Epstein got off lightly for it. But in my book it doesn't rise to the level of "socially exiled forever".

Now, what Epstein ended up being guilty of in retrospect - that gets up into "socially exiled forever" territory. But what was known at the time? I'm not so sure.


It wasn’t just one 16 year old girl, and any educated person dealing with Epstein either knew this or should have. The term “Lolita Express” was widely known for years before the current scandal broke. A simple google of Epstein any time after 2008 would have revealed what kind of person he was.

So yes, he should have been exiled by the people in his public life.


Like I said, if it was widely known that he was continuing to engage in this behavior, then I agree, he should have been exiled.


It was widely known especially in his social circle.

Which is why he should have been exiled. And why the fact that he wasn't raises some very uncomfortable questions for the entire industry.


It was widely known that he kept attractive women around and probably slept with them. It was widely known that these women were probably prostitutes. But so what? The moral transgression here is not sleeping with prostitutes or being lecherous. The moral transgression is conscripting underage girls into prostitution. And it's not at all clear that that was widely known in his social circle.

Yikes. Absolutely it is if we're talking about an organization who also looks after students.


Students at MIT are of legal age, what does them looking after students have to do with anything?


The victims of #metoo were of legal age too.


What is your point? Should Louis CK not be able to donate to MIT either?
turndown 13 days ago [flagged]

This is one of the most infantile and uninformed posts I have ever read on HN. Do you actually believe that felony disenfranchisement, which has been used to racially profile generations of Americans[1], could ever be conflated with throwing a bad apple out of society?

[1]: https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/08/20/jim-crow-s-las...


[flagged]


I wouldn't criticize them so roundly. 1) People want to be slow to accuse 2) People want to believe that most people are good -- that Epstein is a huge outlier and not that he had lots of willing accomplices, co-conspirators, and legitimizers, and 3) People want to believe that MIT, which is held in very high regard in most places, does not harbor such filth.

> that Epstein is a huge outlier and not that he had lots of willing accomplices, co-conspirators, and legitimizers

I hear you on this and it is basically what I'd like to believe. What I value so much about Anand is that he is pulling back the curtain for people like me to see just how much the people in positions of power enable people like Epstein.

This isn't the first "wow, the wizard isn't real moment for me", but it may be a tipping point to casting off my old naive and hopeful assumptions that this sort of thing is an outlier.


I think that being slow to accuse is a good thing. But it also should not involve making unverified assumptions that those who complain don't know what they talk about and are surely out of their minds.

It's a good learning opportunity then, and it should be pointed out

Compare this to any article posted here on Theranos (even years before the truth started to come out). Quick to accuse, believed Holmes was evil from the start, etc.

Hmmm, wonder what the difference is?


I think this is sample bias. Plenty of people were accusing/defending in both cases. How people remember such discussions is basically a plaster mask of their own views on the topic.

Don’t you think your own recollection is a sample bias and a “plaster mask” (whatever that is supposed to mean) of your own?

Plaster takes on the shape of what it surrounds and hardens into an inverse image of it. This is how people's memories of HN discussions work. The comments that seem wrong, unpleasant or offensive make a much deeper impression than the ones you agree with, so your image of HN hardens into the inverse image of your own views. People with the opposite views end up with the opposite image of HN. This explains why the claims they make are so contradictory, and why everyone with strong views ends up concluding that HN is on the wrong side of them. It also explains the intensity aspect of the phenomenon: the intensity of how wrong people think HN is about X is predictable from how intensely they feel about X itself. That's weird if you think about it, but not so weird if you understand how this mechanism works.

Do I think it applies to me too? Yes. The mechanism is so consistent that I believe it's universal. I'm sure it applies to many more things than HN too.

What makes the moderator's position different is not that we aren't subject to those impressions, but that we're also subject to additional impressions. This happens when, every day for years, it's your job to read and reply to thousands (probably over a million by now) of posts users are making on the site, and evaluate them against a set of hopefully neutral guidelines. That view of the site, pounded in often enough, forces a different perspective over time.

In other words, we have the same agree/disagree impulses that everyone else has, but there's also an additional set of "is it good for HN" impulses in how we react to these things. It's just the mechanical effect of doing anything a million times.


[flagged]


or, perhaps, a junior year level of education in medical device design.

and a healthy skepticism of anything that thinks henry kissinger is a great person to appoint to their board, if we’re all aboard the tu quoque train today.


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