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I remember similar stories about people who took money from Harvey Weinstein, for example there was an AIDS nonprofit he gave millions to.

It all highlights the difficult job facing people tasked with taking money from donors in this way. They won't always have 20/20 hindsight. They may learn about sketchiness after they already took the money. They may be so blinded by what they see as generosity and good will that they may be less able to see character flaws. I am not saying any of this happened here, but I would not like to be in a position to make these decisions.




MIT blacklisted him after his conviction in 2008. And Ito knew him well.

Your hypothetical example is pretty thoroughly unrelated to the case here.


What's wrong with a charity accepting donations from someone naughty? It doesn't make them complicit in their offences. Criminals often donate money to charities and victims in an effort to get reduced sentences, at least in my country.


Let's say I'm some really prestigious organization. By donating to me, a bad actor is in part increasing their own prestige by using my brand. By allowing them to do this I make it more likely that this bad actor can continue to be accepted by polite society and continue their crimes.

There are red lines beyond which a person should be considered socially radioactive and ostracized.


Not to mention the prestigious organization could be doing worthy work and gets tainted by the bad actor, especially if the organization has been seen as knowing about it or concealing it.

In my example of Weinstein, it remains a worthy cause to help people with AIDS, to prevent new infections, fund research, etc. But now maybe people hesitate to donate because of how they dealt with Weinstein.

In the case of media lab, obviously there are people making their career there who have nothing to do with this Epstein controversy. Now they may experience a sense that they are also tainted.

When such an organization turns a blind eye to this problem, they risk harm towards their stated goals and they do a disservice to employees, other donors, those who believe in them, etc.


Should rich criminal have ability to buy lesser sentence then poor criminal?


Didn’t you answer your own question here? Criminals paying money to reduce the penalties from their crimes seems like a net negative for society, even if it helps charity.


Anyone care to explain the down votes? I am not defending anyone implicated, or claiming knowledge of specifics, but saying that vetting donors in a world where the category of "criminal-philanthropist" is a thing probably gets difficult.


You should read the article and https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/how-an-elite-univer... and then ask yourself whether concerns about learning something retroactively are relevant to a situation where the problem was not just known in advance but established to the point that Ito had to circumvent MIT’s existing ban. Follow by considering whether bringing up generic distractions which don’t apply to this specific case is going to read like a good faith debate about the ethics of philanthropy or an attempt to distract or minimize.


You appear angry at me. I didn't argue anything in bad faith or attempt to distract anyone. Nor do I think the thing I said is totally irrelevant. There is a generic thing to be said about the "criminal-philanthropist" concept, it is a topic that many of us have not considered until stories in recent years, which seem to be a trend of more than one such offender, brought it to the forefront.


Note that I said “read like” — nobody in this thread can know what you were actually thinking what I described is the most obvious way I saw that those comments would be interpreted in a down-vote worthy manner. It might be useful to clarify your intentions to avoid that, especially since there are a lot of people who feel betrayed right now.


You said this:

> It all highlights the difficult job facing people tasked with taking money from donors in this way. They won't always have 20/20 hindsight.

It does not highlight that and no hindsight was needed. What was needed was to not go out of your way to conceal taking money you know you should not.

You converted situation into completely different situation.


In quoting me, you cut off my comments mid-paragraph. That is removal of context. I described several hypotheticals, the hindsight question being one.

Yes we can point at the misdeeds of Ito and others and they are awful. But there is a nonzero amount of people here that could fall into similar traps if they were in a position to accept millions from shady characters, which most of us aren't. If Ito, as bad as his acts were, had full realization of consequences (as he now does in hindsight), do you think he would have done this? I don't know the guy, but I am guessing not.

That is not to exculpate him or trivialize or distract. He screwed up majorly.


You mean, if he knew people will find out? Because that is only new information, really. Everything else was known at the time.


It could also be that he knew some facts, but was too stupid to realize their significance until after it blows up on him.

None of it is exculpatory, mind you.


It could also be that Ito is actually a collective intelligence made up of squirrels concealed in a business suit. Both seem rather unlikely, though.


But in these cases, how do you know?


In this case you know because Epstein already had a criminal conviction and MIT had already blacklisted him as a donor.


Here is one thing. If you want to get technical, without knowing everything we now know about Epstein, I am not sure a conviction is enough. MIT is not the criminal justice system. We now know that Epstein got a light sentence and the guy responsible had to quit his job in disgrace. But maybe not everybody knew this. Maybe he says, "yeah I did this thing, but I served my time blah blah, by the way please take this million dollars". And in the abstract, do you want to stigmatize every single convict or do you believe that some of them are reformed?

Obviously Epstein was not, and MIT didn't want to take the risk, correctly.


I mean before that. Obviously you cannot accept money from someone we discover is a criminal


In this case, I do know. It the stories were similar, then it was not not knowing.

In others, if you don't know, why does one assumes it was innocent situation that highlight how unclear everything is and required hindsight? It is real question btw, not rhetorical one. The older I am, the more I see how many of much lesser ethical conflict situations have not just red flags all over them, but clear breaches going on long before something blows. And how people like to not act on it all, because it benefits them.

It is possible that innocent people are being framed in that or this situation. But the issues with rich psychopaths building impenetrable circles of enablers around them are not that situation. People willing to go there are given advantages and build further circles of people willing to support them around them too.


> if you don't know, why does one assumes it was innocent

This is the same standard the US legal system uses, for one. "Innocent until proven guilty."

In the case of my comment I thought that it is easy to point out misdeeds but we cannot be overconfident in our own ability to prevent them under exceptional circumstances. If you were given money by a Weinstein or an Epstein, we all hope we could have the good sense to do the right thing. But how much is that actually the case? None of us are actually in that situation; few of us have been tested in this way. We could also be conned by these types. It is instructive to take a step back and understand that part. Perhaps this would help us be more vigilant should the situation actually arise.

The final point I would make. It breaks down a bit for supervillains like an Epstein. But for lesser transgressions, such as those I have seen in my own life, I can say that I used to spend a lot more time questioning people's motives, and indeed labelling people as psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists at a distance. Eventually I came to a realization that mentally maintaining these labels and reacting to them was a big stress on me and source of anxiety. It may sound radical, I would argue that thinking better of people by default will lead you to better mental health. But I have not figured out how this policy may apply to an Epstein, Ito, Weinstein, Hitler, etc. Thankfully I think such supervillains are a minority.


I didn't downvote you, but if I were to guess I would say people don't think discussion of the situation where a recipient might not be aware of the donors criminal activities is very relevant to this case. Epstein's felony conviction was public record and known to MIT.


the only thing I can figure is that in English vernacular the phrase "I am not saying any of this happened here" generally means "It may have happened, but we don't know" which is different than "obviously this didn't happen here but" which you evidently intended.




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