There’s a moment in that wild interview Stuart Pivar gave Mother Jones about his friend, Jeffrey Epstein. Pivar was trying to give an idea of what he found “charming” about Epstein, as well as what he found sick about him. Pivar is an art dealer, among other things, and this is the anecdote he told: 

Jeffrey had numerous residences. And he used to rely on me to help him furnish them with art. I was sort of his art consultant, you might say, not that he ever took my advice. Because he pretended to be interested in art, but he was really more interested with—Jeffrey was so perverse. “Perverse,” that word, haha. You have to use it. What is perversion? You want to examine that.

Jeffrey was amused to have in his house fake art which looked like real art. Because of the fact that he was putting one over, so to speak. He thought that he was—how do you describe that? When you walked into this house, for example, there was a Max Weber or something like that, and it was a fake. And it amused him that people didn’t realize that. He was able to furnish his house with the fake paintings. Jeffrey had a collection of underage Rodins, for example, because what difference does it make if it’s real or not real?

This was, to me, a very telling story, a tell, even.  It was not just a story about fakery – although the whole of the Epstein story is about fakery on one level or another. It is also a story about complicity. For think of it: you have a guest in your house and you have what you know is a fake painting. And you point it out as a real painting. On the one hand, maybe your guest doesn’t know much about Max Weber – doesn’t know much about cubists period. So they nod along. They might like the painting or not. On the other hand, say your guest does know about Max Weber. And sees something isn’t right. Well, what is guest number two going to say? You have a fake there, buddy?

Guest number two knows just enough that by nodding, going along, he’s trapped. Or she’s trapped. A pact of complicity has been silently forged.

This is what Epstein was all about – not just fakery, but getting beyond that, where the person being faked out becomes complicit in the whole enterprise. This was on one level what getting girls who had been raped to go out and find other girls and lie to them about massage. This is tied to the science obsession. Just as, being a drop-out schmuck, he wasn’t going to get within miles of the scientists whose names graced the covers of pop science books, so, being a drop out with supposed billions, he could make those scientists smile and smile and he said drop out-y things. His website – assuming that the posts were written or at least dictated by Jeffrey Epstein – is a mishmash of rewrites from Wikipedia articles and platitudes. Sometimes you can hear the man:

“[Martin]Gardner’s numerous books and articles on recreational articles always inspired me, and I would like to share with you some fun and recreational mathematics that I have come across that are in the fun and inspirational spirit of Martin Gardner.

Pivar has a more blunt assessment of Epstein’s science abilities:

But Jeffrey didn’t know anything about science. Nevertheless, in his peculiarly inquiring mind, let’s say, like a child who is fresh to the world—because he has no compunction about approaching people—he brought together the most important scientists like Stephen Gould, like Pinker, like all of those people, and myself even, at dinners, and would propose interesting, naive ideas.. He would say, “Oh, what is gravity?”   I mean, to bring together a bunch of scientists and say, what is gravity? …Which is ridiculous in a way, even though it’s a question nobody can answer. But he would do that kind of stuff. Just for the sake of, I don’t know what. And Jaron Lanier and all that group, the greatest thinkers that they were, he brought together with a purpose of thinking, rightfully or wrongfully, that he was going to introduce some kind of logic or something—some special kind of a thought process, which others hadn’t thought of, which of course is absurd.

While everybody was watching, we began to realize he didn’t know what he was talking about. Then after a couple of minutes—Jeffrey had no attention span whatsoever—he would interrupt the conversation and change it and say things like, “What does that got to do with pussy?!”


So much for putting up the fake painting. But these people, hearing this question, are really being presented with a choice: shall I continue to associate with this guy. And they all, or most of them, did. He’d write incoherent, platitudinous or plagiarized texts on his site, he’s interrupt discussion to ask, what does that got to do with pussy, and he was treated to a stream of praise by scientists as if he was Medici and Einstein rolled into one. Richard Axel, who won the Nobel prize in physiology and medicine, said this, according to Epstein’s site

“Jeffrey Epstein has the ability to make connections that other minds can’t make. He is extremely smart and probing. He can very quickly acquire information to think about a problem and also to identify biological problems without having all the data that a scientist would have … He also has an extremely short attention span. Why?—it’s not that he’s bored. He has enough information after fifteen minutes so that you can see his mind thrashing about, as if in a labyrinth. And even to doubt an expert’s statements.” – 

Apparently, Axel was impressed with the question, what does this have to do with pussy. Very impressed. Too impressed.

Fakery and complicity form an interesting pair, as every con man knows. What you want, above all, is to induce fakery into your associate, your sucker, your victim. This is made easier when the victim doesn’t care about what he knows about your character, even your crimes, even your raping teen girls. What they care about is: well, being around wealth. Being in the glamorous world where Eastern European-seeming models of ambiguous age and origin are around. As they always were. Thus giving a certain aura to your association. Con men are great on tests – they need to test the mark. They need the mark to see enough that the mark has to make a decision: do I keep on with this? Do I believe my eyes? And his scientist friends were a perfect group for that type of thing. They’d self-selected themselves as “brilliant”. They were almost all male. And they shared, whether consciously or unconsciously, mucho contempt for women.

Epstein apparently greatly impressed men with his charm. A certain type of man – not your democratic socialist type, not your African-American type – his associates were almost all white –  but your millionaire or millionaire fluffer type. He was himself his own perfect front guy for journalists in that field.

This is from a puff piece about Epstein penned by Landon Thomas Jr, the NYT’s business reporter who took 30,000 dollars from Epstein for his “charity”, in 2018, and was disappeared, without explanation from the business page. The puff piece is dated 2008 and entitled, Financier Starts Sentence in Prostitution Case:

Sitting on his patio on “Little St. Jeff’s” in the Virgin Islands several months ago, as his legal troubles deepened, Mr. Epstein gazed at the azure sea and the lush hills of St. Thomas in the distance, poked at a lunch of crab and rare steak prepared by his personal chef, and tried explain how his life had taken such a turn. He likened himself to Gulliver shipwrecked among the diminutive denizens of Lilliput.

“Gulliver’s playfulness had unintended consequences,” Mr. Epstein said. “That is what happens with wealth. There are unexpected burdens as well as benefits.”

Its rare that the NY Times takes the time and care to have the words of a rapist of teens set down with such awe and such admiration. But this time was, well, different. It was Jeffrey.

And here is a different reporter, James Stewart, who interviewed Epstein in 2018, ten years lated,  and didn’t bother to file anything, because apparently he and everybody else tossed it: I mean, pedophile millionaire still seems to be raping teens and we have more important stuff, here at the NYT, to report on. But after Epstein’s suicide, Stewart decided to pull out the old discarded story:

After I rang, the door was opened by a young woman, her blond hair pulled back in a chignon, who greeted me with what sounded like an Eastern European accent.

I can’t say how old she was, but my guess would be late teens or perhaps 20. Given Mr. Epstein’s past, this struck me as far too close to the line. Why would Mr. Epstein want a reporter’s first impression to be that of a young woman opening his door?

The woman led me up a monumental staircase to a room on the second floor overlooking the Frick museum across the street. It was quiet, the lighting dim, and the air-conditioning was set very low. After a few minutes, Mr. Epstein bounded in, dressed casually in jeans and a polo shirt, shook my hand and said he was a big fan of my work. He had a big smile and warm manner. He was trim and energetic, perhaps from all the yoga he said he was practicing. He was undeniably charismatic.

Undeniably charismatic. I think I’ll let that phrase fall down here and bounce around on the floor like a dead snake. This is a man’s man, all right. A faker and a rapist needs an edge. His was so good that he died with 500 million in the bank, or in offshore accounts somewhere. And as a last joke – a last fake painting – appointed Bill Gates’s science adviser as his executor. A master stroke. A way of pulling Gates sleeve from beyond the grave and saying: you know me. You do know me.

In Slate’s interview with Roger Shank, the fake painting moment occurred in a conference held by Marvin Minsky and hosted by Epstein on his island in 2002. l

“Epstein’s former neighbor, the psychologist and computer scientist Roger Schank, describes another such event that he attended: a meeting of artificial-intelligence experts, organized by Marvin Minsky and held on Epstein’s island in April 2002. “Epstein walks into the conference with two girls on his arm,” said Schank. The scientists were holding their discussions in a small room, and as they talked, “[Epstein] was in the back, on a couch, hugging and kissing these girls.””

There is a lot of odd boundary marking talk about how the scientists who took money from Epstein or associated with him before his conviction in 2008 had “no way of knowing”. This, from everything we have heard about Epstein, is pure horseshit. If they didn’t know those young looking women were teens and tweens, they did know that they were operating in an atmosphere that was hostile to women to the nth degree. They could have asked themselves, is this conference being conducted in such a grossly, overwhelmingly sexist way that it excludes women except as sex objects?  That was a relatively easy question to formulate – it even trumps the question, what does this have to do with pussy? The fakery and the complicity become one. Joi Ito hiding the name of Epstein from his “donations” was at the end of a process that was repeated over and over again.  

Of course, this process not only proceeded among a sexual predator, his victims, and his accomplices (from Ghislaine Maxwell to the scientists). It needed a third, after Epstein was busted. It needed Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan D.A. who, uncharacteristically, tried to get Epstein’s sexual offender status marked down from level three to level one. It wasn’t, and the judge ordered Epstein to report to the police every ninety days, and he never did, and, according to the NY Post, the cops were fine with that. So when Joi Ito was “investigating” whether Epstein was reformed, even if it had occurred to him to consult the police – and Epstein was much too grand to be given such plebe treatment – they would have had nothing to say. In contrast to, say, any other sex offender at that level trying to get a job as a janitor at MIT Media Lab, when the checking out period would be rigorous and the applicant chased away.

Complicity, here, is not just a psychological element that distinguishes Epstein’s career. It is nurtured, it is pre-determined, by an entire culture that degrades and makes third class citizens of an increasing number of citizens – in fact, of almost all citizens who are below the upper middle class. Of women in general who don’t make the babe cut. Or women who are scientists and don’t go along with boys being boys, nerd tunnel vision, and all the rest of it. The women who would disturb the male-to-male conviviality, obviously.  Concern for the girls who haven’t graduated yet from high school and come from households with low or no economic opportunity, among the scientists that Epstein consorted with, the billionaires he carried water for, is non-existent. We ask how Bill Gates, Leon Black, Stephen Pinker, Martin Nowak, Joi Ito, Nicholas Negroponte, all the members of the conga line, could have fallen for Jeffrey Epstein. How could they not? Living in the system they have helped make, exerting the private power they have helped carve out for themselves, it all made sense. And for most, will always make sense. Money is immunity. As Roger Shank said:

“This guy was actually not a bad guy,” Schank told me at the end of our conversation. “I mean, put the 14-year-olds out of the picture. Those even make me think he was a bad guy. But to my knowledge he was not a bad guy. He was a good guy.” 



I am a translator, author and editor living in Paris. I finished a novel in March, and am busy trying to find an agent. In the meantime, I thought I'd like to start a magazine. Willett's is meant to be a venue for the review of books, personal reflections, and political bitching - and everything else.
About Roger 78 Articles
I am a translator, author and editor living in Paris. I finished a novel in March, and am busy trying to find an agent. In the meantime, I thought I'd like to start a magazine. Willett's is meant to be a venue for the review of books, personal reflections, and political bitching - and everything else.

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