Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Jeffrey Epstein and the Marquis de Sade

Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's alleged procurer, is in the news lately. I came across this article in the Guardian making the case that Maxwell is not an outlier, but rather typical of the world of wealthy elites who get away with crimes thanks to their privilege.

...there’s still a good chance Maxwell will evade punishment. Epstein himself originally got what was essentially a slap on the wrist after abusing scores of girls, because he was rich and influential and the quality of a person’s defense representation depends on how much money they have. (One way to make the punishment system more egalitarian would be to ban private counsel, so that everyone had to to use the public defender’s office.)

Maxwell has already been able to evade the law for much longer than anyone with less wealth and fewer social connections. But whether she ultimately walks or not, let us be careful not to focus excessively on Maxwell’s individual pathologies. We must also understand the social and economic milieu that made her alleged actions possible.

It reminded me of the Marquis de Sade who got away with multiple rapes, abductions and pedophilia before the law caught up with him. He got away with his crimes for so long because he was an aristocrat, and most of his victims were the working class - servants and prostitutes. Of course he wasn't alone among the aristocracy in abusing the non-elites, he was just more extreme than most, probably he was a certifiable psychopath. But luckily for his historical legacy he also wrote about rape, pedophilia. etc. which made him a hero to some, especially in France.

In the 1990s, American playwright Doug Wright decided that it would be cool to portray de Sade as a hero of free speech, so he wrote QUILLS which was later made into a movie. 

It would be like someone deciding, 200 years from now, to write a play portraying Jeffrey Epstein as a hero. Somebody probably will, if it turns out that Epstein has written a fictionalized version of his crimes and thus qualifying him as an above-bourgeois-morality Great Man of the Arts.