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That Epstein was problematic --- something that in essentially no doubt at this point after his indictment, imprisonment, and subsequent suicide --- was so well-understood to the Media Lab team at the time that they were considering intervening to help Epstein's escorts, on the off chance that they had been trafficked. That is not a position most people's bosses ever put them in, but it's what Ito did to staff at the Lab.

If your point is "they probably weren't trafficked at least in the lurid sense we mean when we talk about trafficking", sure, but that's not the point. The point is that Ito's collaboration with Epstein was not incidental, but rather deliberate, overt, and actually disruptive to the operations of the Lab.




I was specifically referring to the "most damning paragraph" claim, not an assessment of the situation in general.

I guess it could be seen as damning that his staff thought that way, implying some unhealthy context - as you said, if I understood correctly.

Or in other words, the damning part was not the young assistants, the damning part was MIT staff worrying about young assistants.


I can't edit the original comment, but to clarify: that passage is damning to Ito (and Cohen). The MIT staff were justified in considering the possibility that Epstein's assistants were trafficked, given his prior indictment and plea bargain admitting to procuring underage prostitutes. Ito and Cohen knew what they were doing was shady, as evidenced by their attempts to hide their dealings with Epstein from the university at large, which had placed him on a donation blacklist.


Using his position for his own personal enrichment is also, at the very least, ethically shady as hell, right?


I'm an Epstein Absolutist and feel Ito should have resigned way before Ronan Farrow's article was published, so yes, I think this is all very shady. I don't generally think people have a moral right to hold on to prominent directorships like the MIT Media Lab --- when you take that job†, I think you also undertake an ethical obligation to leave that post as soon as it becomes reasonable to say that your continued presence is a distraction or disruption from the mission of the organization. We crossed that threshold weeks ago.

Not all jobs! Just jobs like "Director of MIT Media Lab", where you're stepping into a high-profile role that you don't otherwise own or have some other moral claim on.


> when you take that job†, I think you also undertake an ethical obligation to leave that post as soon as it becomes reasonable to say that your continued presence is a distraction or disruption from the mission of the organization

While that's all well and good when it's an issue you agree with, would you be willing to apply that standard in the other direction? If Joi Ito had created a controversy by standing on principle for something you believed in, would you say the same thing?

My point being that you cannot divorce the distraction/disruption from the ethical view of the action itself. Many things are disruptive, but some disruptive things are ethically important. We do not want to discourage prominent figures from taking controversial stances simply because it might distract from the mission of their organization. At least, I don't think that's a healthy thing to do in an untargeted way.


I think people who accept high-profile positions don't have a moral right to retain those positions. It may not always be the case that they have a moral obligation to abandon them at the first sign of trouble; the analysis will always be fact-specific. Here, I don't think there's much doubt. Ito should have left weeks ago. He had to know this was going to happen; the last few weeks of drama have come entirely at the Lab's expense, seemingly as a long-shot gamble that Ito might weather the storm.


> I think people who accept high-profile positions don't have a moral right to retain those positions.

I'm not really sure what this even means. Everyone has some moral right to the position they're in. The question is how much.

> He had to know this was going to happen; the last few weeks of drama have come entirely at the Lab's expense, seemingly as a long-shot gamble that Ito might weather the storm.

This is sort of the crux of my point, though. Your original argument which you seem to be backing off of is that controversy alone is a distraction, and therefore he ought to step down because he caused controversy. And the fact that he caused controversy is certainly unequivocal.

What is equivocal is whether or not he did something wrong. And that is the true issue on which the rectitude of his resignation turns. It seems to me that he probably believed he didn't do anything wrong, and as such had a moral right to retain his position because he believed he did nothing wrong. Not that anyone in a position of power should resign as soon as they cause a stir.


I think two things:

* Ito's position at MIT was so compromised that, for the good of the organization, he needed to quit. He had an obligation to do so; MIT didn't owe him his role, but rather he had joined to serve MIT. He was doing so no longer.

* One reason he was so compromised, in my estimation of the available information, is that he repeatedly did something egregiously wrong. Once again: I've never even heard of a boss anywhere else in technology putting their employees in a position where they felt they may have had to intervene --- at the workplace --- to thwart sex trafficking by an invited VIP guest.

The former argument I think is clear and defensible even if you harbor doubts about how bad Ito's actions were.


> * Ito's position at MIT was so compromised that, for the good of the organization, he needed to quit. He had an obligation to do so; MIT didn't owe him his role, but rather he had joined to serve MIT. He was doing so no longer.

Of course MIT has the right to fire him. I don't really understand what you're trying to argue. The question is whether they should have fired him, which in my view is entirely determined by the badness of his actions.

I really cannot see you pursuing this line of argument with the moral tables turned. If the CFO of Chik-fil-a got forced out because it turned out they were supporters of gay marriage and Chikfila's customers didn't like that, would you be making the same point? That that CFO had no moral right to their position?

> * One reason he was so compromised, in my estimation of the available information, is that he repeatedly did something egregiously wrong. Once again: I've never even heard of a boss anywhere else in technology putting their employees in a position where they felt they may have had to intervene --- at the workplace --- to thwart sex trafficking by an invited VIP guest.

I think that's a very unfair framing of the issue. He invited Epstein over. Epstein brought his 'assistants'. It's still a question mark whether they were even prostitutes, let alone prostitutes operating in any sort of non-consensual capacity. What we have here is simply that someone at MIT speculated whether they were being trafficked. There is no evidence at all that their presence was anything other than consensual.


> I think that's a very unfair framing of the issue. He invited Epstein over. Epstein brought his 'assistants'. It's still a question mark whether they were even prostitutes, let alone prostitutes operating in any sort of non-consensual capacity. What we have here is simply that someone at MIT speculated whether they were being trafficked. There is no evidence at all that their presence was anything other than consensual.

How is it unfair? Have you ever been put in a position at work where it even crossed your mind that associates of a guest your boss invited might be sex trafficked? Have you even heard of that happening until now? We are talking about a truly extraordinary situation; can we not agree that if you have to even consider the question, something is very wrong?

The focus on whether or not they were correct about these particular women being trafficked is myopic. It’s 2019, and we have the benefit of hindsight: Epstein was indeed still sex trafficking. This instance may or may not have been an example of that, but ultimately the Media Lab employees’ fears about him were borne out.


What does "sex trafficked" mean?

Is it prostitution? Sexual slavery?

Why do you use such an unclear term in a discussion?


Is that really an important question? Is there an definition that would make it okay?


Yes, "why do you use 'sex trafficking' term?" is an important question.

Yes: if under "sex trafficking" we understand [consensual] "prostitution", then in some states it is OK.

But even if "sex trafficking" is not ok -- there are various degrees of "not ok".

That is why it is important to use clear definitions in a discussion. Unclear "sex trafficking" term converts discussion from rational to irrational, when everyone is free to imagine what exactly "sex trafficking" means.


I don’t know of any definition of “sex trafficking” in which it’s consensual. But just so we’re clear, here’s the relevant part of the quote:

> We literally had a conversation about how, on the off chance that they’re not there by choice, we could maybe help them.


Do you have an information that sex that these girls had with Epstein or with his friends or with his clients - was not consensual?

The stories that these girls told suggest that they were free to leave.


To keep it short it just means pimping, which is illegal


1) Is it illegal to receive donations from pimps?

2) Is "forced suicide" a fair punishment for pimps?


1) I would assume so 2) I have no idea what to say about this. The punishment should have been served by the legal system which as we all know failed the first time around. The forced suicide as you call it is a terrible outcome, lots of important people escaped and sighed relief. We don't know what Epstein would have divulged and now we will never know that.


> How is it unfair? Have you ever been put in a position at work where it even crossed your mind that associates of a guest your boss invited might be sex trafficked? Have you even heard of that happening until now? We are talking about a truly extraordinary situation; can we not agree that if you have to even consider the question, something is very wrong?

Of course i've heard of that happening. People speculate all the time that older men out with younger, attractive women are being "trafficked" in the sense meant here. That sense being: they're prostitutes / escorts. Sometimes it's true, sometimes it's not.

> The focus on whether or not they were correct about these particular women being trafficked is myopic. It’s 2019, and we have the benefit of hindsight: Epstein was indeed still sex trafficking. This instance may or may not have been an example of that, but ultimately the Media Lab employees’ fears about him were borne out.

The entire point under discussion however turns on the question of whether or not the evidence of him engaging in this behavior warranted him being exiled by MIT at the time. Not the evidence today.


> Of course i've heard of that happening. People speculate all the time that older men out with younger, attractive women are being "trafficked" in the sense meant here.

That is not the question. Has your boss at your tech job ever invited an important guest to your workplace, who brought associates whom you reasonably thought might be there against their will?

> The entire point under discussion however turns on the question of whether or not the evidence of him engaging in this behavior warranted him being exiled by MIT at the time. Not the evidence today.

No, the discussion is about whether Ito should have known at the time to not work with Epstein. tptacek is also arguing that he should have left once Epstein’s involvement with Media Lab was first discovered, since he had to know the depth of the story.


> That is not the question. Has your boss at your tech job ever invited an important guest to your workplace, who brought associates whom you reasonably thought might be there against their will?

No, and neither did Epstein. They had no reasonable basis to assume these women were there against their will.

> No, the discussion is about whether Ito should have known at the time to not work with Epstein. tptacek is also arguing that he should have left once Epstein’s involvement with Media Lab was first discovered, since he had to know the depth of the story.

I think you just reiterated my point. Yes, the question is whether, at the time Ito should have known not to work with Epstein. Whether the publicly available information at the time was sufficient to justify his exile from MIT.


A conviction years before on exactly the relevant charges certainly should have cast suspicion on him showing up with young girls in tow, especially when they would be arguably unnecessary in that meeting context.


It was unstated what the age of the women referenced in the article was. Indeed if it appeared that they were underage, that would have been deeply problematic. But I note that the article does not actually say that, which strongly implies that they did not appear to anyone to be underage. Because if they did, that would have been made explicit, since it fits the fact pattern attempting to be established here.


If we can’t agree that it’s suspicious for a pedophile known for prostituting young girls from Eastern Europe to then show up with two young girls from Eastern Europe, I think we’re done here.


Let me be more clear, then. If Epstein indeed showed up with a pair of 'assistants' that looked like they were underage, that is terrible. If Joi Ito condoned that or failed to act upon discovery of that, he deserves all the blame he's getting.

However, I note that the article avoids actually stating that the women appeared to be underage. It avoids saying anything about their age or appearance at all, other than that they were attractive. Had they appeared to be underage, that likely would have been made explicit in the article, since it fits the fact pattern that the article is trying to establish. Therefore we can reasonably conclude that the women in question did not appear to anyone to be underage. And as such, it is likely that they were simply high class escorts, and under no form of duress and in no need of rescue by anyone.


You’re right, ephebophilia is not a crime.


the evidence of him engaging in this behavior warranted him being exiled by MIT at the time

So dude who is (at the time) convicted of a sexual crime involving a minor shows up at MIT Media Lab with a pair of very young, model-looking women assistants, what what are rational moral actors supposed to think? That he's just a railroaded maverick?


> So dude who is (at the time) convicted of a sexual crime involving a minor shows up at MIT Media Lab with a pair of very young, model-looking women assistants, what what are rational moral actors supposed to think? That he's just a railroaded maverick?

It was unstated what the age or appearance of the women in question was. If they were of legal age, then they were likely simply escorts, in no need of anyone's rescue. If they appeared to be underage, that likely would have been stated in the article.


Someone was troubled enough to resign over this. Like, what the fuck, at his point, man? Every single comment you have posted about this includes some blatant misrepresentation.


> Someone was troubled enough to resign over this. Like, what the fuck, at his point, man?

People resign over things all the time. That isn't really evidence of much at all.

> Every single comment you have posted about this includes some blatant misrepresentation

You keep acting like you've made actual points, but you haven't. I'm happy to listen to your point of view, if you actually want to articulate one. You are calling out "misrepresentations". What do you think i've misrepresented?


[flagged]


> You started with conflating whatever happened to Epstein with felon disenfranchisement

I have articulated a justification for that comparison. You making an actual point would be referencing that justification and attempting to debunk it. That's how you make actual points.

> Somewhere in the middle you made up a definition of 'ostracism'.

I made one up? MIT refusing to accept donations from someone is not my definition of ostracism. It is the definition of ostracism. You may believe that that ostracism is justified, but the word's meaning is quite clear.

> Now you're saying a person convicted of sexual abuse of a minor should raise no questions when he brings women half his age to an MIT fundraising meeting.

I did not, in fact, say that.

pvg 42 days ago [flagged]

It is the definition of ostracism.

No. Not even close. I left you a lengthy comment about this to which you did not respond.

I have articulated

You're making excuses for a child rapist. Over and over and over. Again, what the fuck, man? Once again, I'm asking you this directly.


> No. Not even close. I left you a lengthy comment about this to which you did not respond

I responded now. I simply hadn't seen it.

> You're making excuses for a child rapist. Over and over and over. Again, what the fuck, man? Once again, I'm asking you this directly.

I'm not sure why you insist on misreading me. I'm not making excuses for a child rapist. I'm not excusing Epstein's behavior. I'm excusing Ito's behavior.


I don't think I can do a better job of explaining what I'm trying to articulate than I already have, sorry.


> The question is whether they should have fired him, which in my view is entirely determined by the badness of his actions.

Are you arguing that he did nothing wrong? In that case why did he hide his actions from MIT, after it had explicitly blacklisted Epstein as a donor?

> someone at MIT speculated ... There is no evidence at all that their presence was anything other than consensual.

Maybe so, but they had good reason to. Epstein by that point had already been convicted on the sex offender charge. And then he was going around accompanied by young European women, and there's nothing suspicious about that? Come on.


> Are you arguing that he did nothing wrong? In that case why did he hide his actions from MIT, after it had explicitly blacklisted Epstein as a donor?

Yes i'm arguing that Joi (not Epstein, obviously) did nothing wrong. I don't believe he did hide what he was doing from MIT - he hid it from the public, by not listing Epstein as a donor.

> Maybe so, but they had good reason to. Epstein by that point had already been convicted on the sex offender charge. And then he was going around accompanied by young European women, and there's nothing suspicious about that? Come on.

If these European women were underage, sure. If they were adults, what's the problem here? If they were underage, or the other employees of the media lab suspected they were underage, that would have been made explicit in the article. But it wasn't, therefore they weren't. Which means the only explanation for the term 'trafficking' in this context would be that Epstein was holding them against their will, something I don't think he's ever actually been accused of.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that the notion that the employees at the media lab were worried these European women were "trafficked" is bullshit. What they were actually made uncomfortable by was that these women were essentially prostitutes, and that I understand. That'd make me uncomfortable too. But it's not the same as bringing non-consensual slaves to your MIT meetings as implied by the phrasing of the article.


> Everyone has some moral right to the position they're in. The question is how much

They have some kind of right without any obligations? Care to expand?

> It seems to me that he probably believed he didn't do anything wrong, and as such had a moral right to retain his position because he believed he did nothing wrong

The latest reveal is that Joi Ito deliberately hid interactions with Epstein from the rest of the lab and from MIT.

His earlier denials were lies he told to keep his position.

The strongest possible form of your argument becomes 'He thought the behavior was fine but knew that others would disagree, so he deceived them to manage the situation', which is not exactly a slam dunk for your moral rights argument.


This is, essentially, control fraud. Ito was spending the Media Lab's attention, focus, reputation and researchers.

I'd like to think that this would harm Ito's reputation, but fully expect him to be installed somewhere cushy soon enough. This likely makes him more attractive to a certain type of employer.


Considering that the MIT Media Lab granted a disobedience award to MeToo advocates, that makes some sense.

Though it seems more pragmatic than a moral right.


> While that's all well and good when it's an issue you agree with, would you be willing to apply that standard in the other direction?

No.

We are not computer programs incapable of making judgements without relying on some arbitrary and sweeping generalization.

We can, in fact, distinguish between making a stand to support human rights or speak truth to power, say, and taking a stand to continue to engage with a convicted pedophile.

See also: https://mobile.twitter.com/dril/status/473265809079693312


To put it another light, consider Steve Jobs’s Vice President/cross the Rubicon speech about reasons not mattering. When you take on an executive job like this, one of the major job responsibilities is to resign for the sake of accountability when something terrible happens, regardless of whether it’s strictly your fault.*

The other parable is the one of Write Two Letters.

* Clearly, Ito was very much at fault in this instance. The coverup!


What's an Epstein Absolutist?


Might be some doubt about his suicide, but you’re right.


Doubt? Care to elaborate and substantiate?


How about we not, since it has nothing to do with this thread?


It has a lot to do with the timing of this thread. If he left a year ago I would agree but questions around his death put this story in the spotlight.


Your unhelpful reply makes just as much noise as a helpful reply answering the question by ALittleLight


Epstein was connected to many high profile, wealthy, and politically connected people. If he went to trial, his connections to these people may be exposed, and they may face legal liability.

There are a number of suspicious circumstances regarding Epstein's alleged suicide. In no particular order:

* Multiple bones in Epstein's neck were broken. This is possible in a suicide, but broken bones are more consistent with a homicide. [1]

* Multiple video cameras malfunctioned outside Epstein's cell coincident with his death. [2]

* Epstein's guards, who were supposed to be regularly checking on him did not. They were "asleep" before, during, and after Epstein's death. They later falsified records about this fact. [3]

* The explanation for the failed video cameras and the sleeping guards is that the MCC is under staffed. Yet, that's at odds with the fact that there was only one other suicide in the past 40 years at the MCC [4].

I try to think about how I would regard Epstein's death if it happened in a history book, in a foreign country.

"There was a guy who had material implicating numerous powerful figures. While he was being held in prison, recently released from suicide watch, isolated from his former cell mate in a cell by himself, cameras failed, his guards stopped checking on him, he became the first suicide in more than a couple decades by hanging himself by kneeling so forcefully against his bed sheet [5] that he broke multiple bones in his neck."

I don't think, if I were reading about this at a distance, that I would have any real doubts about considering Epstein murdered. The idea that Epstein's suicide is as simple as alleged strikes me as preposterous.

1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/autopsy-finds-broken...

2. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-people-jeffrey-epstein-ca...

3. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/nyregion/jeffrey-epstein-...

4. https://www.foxnews.com/us/epstein-new-york-lockup-suicides

5. https://www.foxnews.com/us/jeffrey-epstein-used-bedsheet-to-...


> This is possible in a suicide

You don't know much about ligaturing, do you?

> Epstein's guards, who were supposed to be regularly checking on him did not. They were "asleep" before, during, and after Epstein's death. They later falsified records about this fact.

This is worryingly common in prison and mental health hospitals.

> Yet, that's at odds with the fact that there was only one other suicide in the past 40 years at the MCC [4].

Do you know what they're counting and how they count it? How do they define "suicide" and "at the MCC"?


I'm not an expert in ligaturing. Everything I've read though backs up what I wrote above, that it is possible that bones in the neck are broken in suicide by hanging, but more likely that they are broken by homicidal strangulation.

This news source [1] goes over multiple academic papers that attempt to measure the likelihood of neck bone fractures in suicide versus homicide victims. On my own, I've searched and found multiple additional academic papers that, while disagreeing on the exact probabilities, all support the general conclusion that neck bone fractures are possible in a suicide but more likely in a homicide.

The implication of your comment is that, unlike me, you do know much about ligaturing, so I'd be interested in getting your expert opinion. Are neck bone fractures equally likely in suicidal hanging and homicidal strangulation?

You also write that the guards falling asleep is "worryingly common". I'm sure that's true - but what worries me most about this case is the confluence of multiple unlikely circumstances. Unfortunately the guards fell asleep, unluckily the video cameras failed, against the odds multiple bones in his neck broke while he knelt against his bed sheet, and, surprisingly, Epstein was the first suicide in 21 years at the facility.

Regarding your question about definitions - my understanding is that "suicide" is meant as a person killing themselves, and "at the MCC" means an MCC inmate who killed themselves at the MCC.

1 - https://heavy.com/news/2019/08/jeffrey-epstein-hyoid-bone-br...


[I was fantastically rude the first time I wrote this reply. Sorry. I've edited it to be much less rude, but I might have missed some.]

> Are neck bone fractures equally likely in suicidal hanging and homicidal strangulation?

It's not a question I'd ask. We don't need to know which is more likely. We only need to know that it's perfectly possible and normal to break bones in the neck from ligaturing.

> Regarding your question about definitions - my understanding is that "suicide" is meant as a person killing themselves,

This is wrong.

Hypothetical Bob takes an overdose of pills, but does not intend to die. He calls an ambo. The ambo doesn't get there in time, and Bob dies. Bob took an action that ended his life: did Bob die by suicide?

> and "at the MCC" means an MCC inmate who killed themselves at the MCC.

Is it where the death happens, or where the action that causes death happens? If someone takes an overdose of medication and is then transferred to hospital does that count as a death at MCC or a death at the hospital?

The point I'm trying, and failing, is that suicide is very common, especially among prisoners, especially among those facing trial for sex crimes. You've present four items that you think are unusual, especially when combined. But these are not in anyway unusual. They're very common.

The thing that stands out is the "no suicide here for X years" which is clearly nonsense. I can't be bothered to trawl through Manhattan laws and stats to try to understand it, but if people wanted to they might want to look at who rules a death as suicide, why they might chose not to do so, what definition of suicide they're using (especially around mental state and intent), what burden of proof they're using (beyond all reasonable doubt or balance or probabilities), and where the deaths occur and whether that makes any difference to the stats.


You're free to ask, or not ask, the questions you like. If you want to discuss a topic though, it would seem reasonable to answer the questions asked of you. As I asked before, are fractures of neck bones equally common in homicide versus suicide?

This is actually a meaningful question. We know that Epstein died and had bone fractures and are trying to determine whether the cause of death was murder, or suicide. How likely is the homicide conclusion given bone fractures? How likely is suicide? This strikes me as a time to apply Bayes Theorem and update our beliefs about certain explanations.

To put the situation into a metaphor involving urns - suppose you have drawn a red ball from an unlabeled urn. You know the urn is either an urn containing 80% red balls, or an urn containing 20% red balls. Are you ambivalent about which the urn you've just drawn from is? Statistically speaking, you should not be - having drawn a red ball, while possible to do from either urn, is more likely done from the 80% red urn.

To explain the metaphor - the red ball is a bone fracture, the 80% red urn is homicide, and the 20% red urn is suicide.

I'm surprised to see you disagree about the definition of suicide. The example you gave doesn't seem to be compelling evidence of ambiguity in the term. In your example, an inmate has taken an action that resulted in his death and this is clearly suicide. The fact that your notional inmate didn't intend to die may make for a philosophical debate about the definition of suicide - but given that nobody could know what the true intentions of the recently deceased were - it seems perfectly obvious that, yes, a man who has killed himself by taking too many pills has committed suicide.

I think this is a poor line of argument. The idea you are advocating, as I understand it, is that, there are possible alternative meanings for the words "suicide" and "at the MCC", and though you don't have any evidence that those alternative definitions exist or are in use, you're willing to offer that possibility as a criticism of what is reported in major news outlets. I agree that news outlets may have gotten confused about possible non-standard definitions of terms like "suicide" or "at the MCC" - but I disagree that we should assume this is the case without any evidence to think so.

You also write that the four circumstances I've presented are "very common". Without knowing how you mean the term "very common" I can't agree with that characterization. I'm also not at all convinced you have any idea how common it is for multiple video cameras on the same subject to fail, for guards to sleep through their rounds, for guards to falsify their records, for multiple neck bones to break during sheet strangling suicides, or for prisoners at the MCC to truly commit suicide. If I'm wrong, and you do know how likely these things are, kindly share a reputable source that explains the likelihood. I'd find that enlightening.


Pay attention to which MCC staff get moved/promoted or die. Someone knows and will 'want more' than they were initially paid. They'll either take a bump up or get bumped off.


thanks for this extensively sourced summary!


Care to elaborate and substantiate your certainty? Doubt is the default stance of the rational and inquisitive mind.


That sort of rests on whether the women were 'trafficked' in any meaningful sense. If they were not then the media lab team were being judgemental and unpleasant even though they did turn out to be right about his character. If they were then everyone involved is potentially at moral fault, irrespective of who was accepting what.

The greater story of this scandal has parts that should never have happened and parts that were fine. Giving money to MIT and visiting with a bevy of attractive women is eccentric - crass even - but not troubling. The scandal isn't Epstein's giving it is that he was running a child prostitution ring.


Why are there inevitably people who want to do the mental gymnastics of assuming innocence for a man convicted of sex trafficking?

I understand assuming innocence the first time someone is accused of anything unsavory because mistakes happen. But once you are convicted, serve jail time and are suspiciously behaving in the same manner...

Who are we serving by assuming innocence?

And let me remind you that in society we have different standards than a court of law. A court of law has to assume innocence, in public we might be doing another human being who is a potential victim great good by expressing concern about the nature their relationship with a known felon & abuser.


I get part of the impulse. The concept that attractive Eastern European women spending their time with a billionaire means that they were trafficked somewhat strips them of agency. Like "you wouldn't do this of your own accord". Maybe they would.

Of course, in this case, the fellow turned out to be a monster. But Sir Richard Branson is on the level AFAIK and he hangs out with attractive women. Presumably they enjoy the company.

EDIT: I can't answer the threads below because I've been timed out for making this comment. Fair enough, but I should clarify: My point is _precisely that_. It's the child prostitution that's the problem. You can just point at the "solicitation of a minor" thing directly. Making it about the attractive Eastern European women is completely unnecessary and only useful to decry the notion that they may choose otherwise than what the MIT folks would choose.


Richard Branson wasn't convicted of child prostitution. At the time of the event quoted by the OP, Epstein had been. For fuck's sake...


There's plenty of actions that, while not illegal, decent people can find distasteful enough to shun people who engage in them. Using your money -- whether directly enough to be considered prostitution, or a little more indirectly -- to surround yourself with women who are 18 years and 10 minutes old is legal but more than a little gross. And extremely gross if they had a choice in the matter roughly equivalent to the Anatole France quote: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."


Richard Branson “hangs out” with 2x-year-old women, not 14-year-old girls. The difference is literally infinite in the legal realm and still enormous in the moral realm.


Mental gymnastics to avoid assuming bad intent without evidence is the only way to avoid becoming a deranged mob. This is a healthy instinct and you damage our ability to have rational discussions by attacking it. Until we get more evidence, and given that there is plenty of actual evidence of wrongdoing in other areas, let's focus our attention there, shall we?


So not taking donations from a felon convicted of sex trafficking and not going to his dinner parties and showing concern for young women from poor countries he keeps around him is being a deranged mob now?


No. I was trying to make a broader point about how we should conduct public discussions. We have a responsibility to about jumping to unwarranted conclusions, and devil's advocates help with that.

Now, making straw men of anyone who dares espouse anything less than full belief in the guilt of the accused, that's definitely a deranged mob kind of thing to do. People assuming the worst about others' motives is the dominant reason we can't have nice things.


That's not what it is about. It is about the story at a certain point of time in the past. Nobody is assuming Epsteins innocence today.


At point in time in the story Epstein had already pled guilty to solicitation of a minor for prostitution as part of a sweetheart plea agreement avoiding sex trafficking charges. This was a well known fact. Noone should have been assuming his innocence then.


> Why are there inevitably people who want to do the mental gymnastics of assuming innocence for a man convicted of sex trafficking?

This is extremely good question that I continue to be unable to find an answer. Much bigger case than Epstein would be that of Donald Trump. Everyone knew he is a six-time bankruptee, posted record $1B (billion) dollar loss with IRS and haven't made any of his many business ventures successful, other than add some to the real estate fortune that his father left him, but nothing too spectacular (growing $400MM to $600MM in two decades, which adjusted for inflation is probably close to zero). Yet the consensus of 2016 was that he is the only man capable of steering forward a budget of the most valuable country on the face of planet Earth. Its boggling my mind, frankly.


> Yet the consensus of 2016 was that he is the only man capable of steering forward a budget of the most valuable country on the face of planet Earth.

To be fair, more people who voted didn't think he was the best choice of a person "capable of ..." than thought he was. He only won thanks to a) a quirk of the American electoral system and b) his opponent also being historically unpopular, by nature of having been in the public eye on one side of the US political system for 25 years.


> He only won thanks to a) a quirk of the American electoral system and b) his opponent also being historically unpopular, by nature of having been in the public eye on one side of the US political system for 25 years.

I can certainly agree with b) but a) is not a very useful way of looking at things. if you went back and changed nothing else about the election except making popular vote the win condition, hillary clinton would obviously have won. but this small modification would have totally changed the campaign strategy of every candidate. people who didn't bother voting might have voted. donald trump might have won anyway with a different strategy. we might not even have been choosing between trump and clinton in the first place!

not saying the electoral college is good, just that this isn't a strong argument to the contrary.


I agree that it isn't a useful argument, but it makes it difficult to argue that Trump had a majority of Americans thinking he was competent to run the country.


> He only won thanks to a) a quirk of the American electoral system

What quirk is that? It has a lot of quirks, and I think you mean one in particular but not sure which one.


> Who are we serving by assuming innocence?

Innocent of what? Nobody is accusing Epstein of trying to do anything suspect via the MIT media lab. Anyone who thought he'd be wandering around MIT dragging trafficked women around with him is probably hypersensitive. Or Epstein was outrageously foolish. Either way; the reasonable assumption is that those women were probably not trafficked.

The argument here is "nobody should associate with Epstine" vs. "We can isolate the good and the bad parts of Epstine's actions and keep them somewhat separate". There is no need for someone to resign because they happened to know Epstien in a professional capacity.


> That sort of rests on whether the women were 'trafficked' in any meaningful sense. If they were not then the media lab team were being judgemental and unpleasant even though they did turn out to be right about his character. If they were then everyone involved is potentially at moral fault, irrespective of who was accepting what.

That is an odd position to take. We have the benefit of hindsight. Even if these particular women weren’t being trafficked, the staff’s general suspicions about Epstein were borne out.


Not to be nit picky, I'm genuinely not well versed in "moral fault" and I am interested in learning more. So if they ended up being trafficked, the staff members who tried to figure that out and offered assistance if they were would be at moral fault as well? Could you elaborate a bit on that?


I'm sort of assuming that if they were trafficked the staff members didn't do anything about it; I haven't paid a lot of attention to the story but I don't think it was tip-offs from the MIT lab were important to Epstein's arrest.




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