Jeffrey Epstein and the neverending quest for evil

Give it up, people – there is no secret sect of powerful paedophiles.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics USA

Well, that was a nothingburger. For weeks, scandal-hungry hacks and self-styled paedophile-hunters had been trailing ‘the Epstein list’. This is the big one, they yelped, as they awaited with unseemly glee the release of court documents identifying associates of the late financier and sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. Finally we will have in our hands a guide to the powerful paedo cabal that runs America and possibly the world! The reality? The court docs contain the same old, same old. Epstein was friends with famous people, some of whom holidayed on his fancy island. Don’t hold the front page.

You could almost hear the sighs of disappointment across social media. They had expected the exposure of a modern-day Illuminati but ended up with stories of Stephen Hawking attending a science conference funded by Epstein and David Copperfield performing magic tricks at an Epstein dinner. It’s hardly the Marquis de Sade. We also learn that accusations of sexual wrongdoing have been made against Prince Andrew – something every sentient being already knows – and that Bill Clinton ‘likes them young’. Epstein allegedly said that to one of the women he exploited for sex. The president famous for ejaculating on the dress of his 22-year-old White House intern likes young women? Will the shocks never cease?

‘This isn’t the list some people expected’, said a Sky News analysis, with superb understatement. The 900 pages of court files pertain to a defamation case brought by Virginia Giuffre, one of the alleged victims of Epstein’s sexual exploitation, against Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite in jail for aiding that sexual exploitation. A New York judge recently gave the order to unseal the files, lighting a fire of furious anticipation among the conspiracy-minded. That fire is surely now dwindling. One hundred and eighty-seven people are identified in the files, there are no surprise names, and most are not accused of wrongdoing.

For those who wanted cold proof of the paedophilic evil of the rich and powerful, the files deliver letdown after letdown. Michael Jackson once visited Epstein’s home in Florida, but there is ‘no suggestion of wrongdoing by Jackson’ (a first!). Clinton is mentioned a lot, but even with cigar man there’s ‘no indication of wrongdoing’. One mention of Clinton involves Ms Guiffre denying she had hung out with him. No doubt to the crushing disappointment of Israelophobes, former Israeli PM Ehud Barak is confirmed as an Epstein associate, but ‘there is no suggestion of wrongdoing’. As for Donald Trump, a name the desperate left will have searched for furiously in the files, he’s referred to twice. We discover Epstein visited one of Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City, and that one of Epstein’s alleged victims says she did not give Trump a massage.

Tales of a close link between Trump and Epstein have now been ‘thoroughly debunked’, gloated one of Trump’s spokespeople last night. They’re not the only thing to have been debunked. The entire idea that Epstein’s island was a hotbed of power, a meeting point for the demonic elites, a place where the likes of Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey rubbed probably naked shoulders as they plotted cultural domination, has also been dealt a fatal blow. Hillary and Oprah aren’t even in the files. Nor are many of the other movers and shakers whom sad sleuths on the internet assured us were part of the Epstein web. We are witnessing a conspiracy theory collapse in real time.

This is not to downplay the wicked things done by Epstein and Maxwell. The files might not contain that mythical list of powerful paedophiles or even any new allegations, but they do make reference to known cases of abuse. Epstein was sentenced to 18 months in jail in 2008 after pleading guilty to procuring a girl under the age of 18 for the purposes of prostitution. In 2019, he was charged with sex trafficking but killed himself while awaiting trial. In 2021, Maxwell was found guilty on five counts of sexual exploitation. These are bad people. But treating them as the burning core of a sinister network of child-raping influencers is, to be frank, nuts. It is utterly evidence-free.

‘Anyone hoping for… a list of celebrity paedophiles will have been sorely disappointed’, as Sky News puts it. Not that Epstein obsessives will be put off by the small matter of zero proof for their claims. They’re already swarming X to insist that these files were released to distract us from the real list of Epstein associates. Yeah, where’s that list? Hillary’s probably hiding it, along with the gloves she wore while stringing up Epstein for his fake suicide. This is a classic element of conspiracy theories – to claim that the absence of proof for your theory is proof of your theory. You see, so nefarious are the nameless controllers of the world that they’ll go to any length to crush evidence of their existence. And so a lack of evidence becomes evidence. The nothingness of the Epstein files is proof of the omnipotence of the Epstein elites. Seriously, these people are mad.

It seems to me that many people these days are engaged in a rather desperate quest for evil. They’re on a neverending hunt for a personification of wickedness, against which they might demonstrate their goodness. They don’t only want the Epstein conspiracy theory to be true – they need it to be. For this is the modern morality tale through which they not only depict the ruling establishment as dangerous and decadent but also, by extension, paint themselves as enlightened and righteous. Epstein’s posthumous role is to serve as a moral contrast for people who feel bereft of moral certainty. He’s become the embodiment of darkness for folk who prefer such binary moralism to the far harder task of understanding our age of turmoil.

For how much longer are people going to believe that paedo cults are the secret puppetmasters of our lives? From the old anti-Semitic hysteria about Jews killing and defiling Christian kids to the Satanic ritual abuse panic of the 1980s to the recent delirium about a ring of paedophilic Tories abusing and even murdering boys, fantastical claims about sinister cabals have been around for ages. The feverish and fact-lite Epstein tale is another, in my view. It’s time to grow up. We can talk about the bad things done by Epstein without fantasising that Epstein’s island was a site of global power and evil. Reason, not delusion, is what the world needs right now.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics USA


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