Welcome to the Hellfire Club
For once, I’m with New York Times writer Michelle Goldberg: Jeffrey Epstein is the ultimate symbol of plutocratic rot.
In her latest column, Goldberg interviews Vicky Ward, who covered the 2003 revelations of Epstein’s sex abuse for Vanity Fair. Ward’s editor, Graydon Carter, allegedly ran interference for the high-flying pervert, nixing her discussion with two women who claimed to have been assaulted by Epstein. “He’s sensitive about the young women,” Carter explained to Ward.
This appears to be something of a pattern. “What is so amazing to me is how his entire social circle knew about this and just blithely overlooked it,” Ward says of Epstein’s pederasty. “While praising his charm, brilliance and generous donations to Harvard, those [I] spoke to…all mentioned the girls as an aside.”
Back to Goldberg:
The Epstein case is first and foremost about the casual victimization of vulnerable girls. But it is also a political scandal, if not a partisan one. It reveals a deep corruption among mostly male elites across parties, and the way the very rich can often purchase impunity for even the most loathsome of crimes. If it were fiction, it would be both too sordid and too on-the-nose to be believable, like a season of “True Detective” penned by a doctrinaire Marxist.
Of course, Goldberg—being a Democrat—doesn’t want us to think of this as a partisan scandal. Yet Nancy Pelosi’s daughter conspicuously tweeted that it’s “quite likely that some of our faves are implicated.” We all know by now that President Bill Clinton was a frequent flyer on the Lolita Express, Epstein’s private jet, which ferried wealthy perverts from the United States to his island-sized rape dungeon off the coast of Saint Thomas.
Still, a few Republicans will almost certainly be implicated, too. Now, look: I voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. If I don’t vote for him in 2020, it will be because I’ve lost faith in the whole democratic process and have moved to a hole in the ground to live as a hobbit. Having said that, Trump is definitely tainted by Epstein. In a 2002 interview with New York Magazine, the president called him a “terrific guy.” “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do,” Trump said, “and many of them are on the younger side.”
Don’t pretend that’s an innocent remark. It’s like when Uncle Steve passes out face-down on the kitchen floor at the family Christmas party and Uncle Bill says, “I guess that one likes to drink.” We still love Uncle Steve, even if he does overdo it on the fire water. And our elites still love Epstein, even if he does rape little girls. None of us is perfect, after all.
This is how America is. This is how our ruling class works: Democrat, Republican, whatever. As the inimitable Matthew Walther points out, there’s a reason people believe in Pizzagate. The Hellfire Club is real. And for decades, we’ve emboldened them considerably.
Remember how Democrats and centrist Republicans mocked conservatives for making such a stink about Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress? The media elite competed to see who could appear the most unfazed by the fact that our sax-playing president was getting a bit on the side. “I mean, heh heh, I love my wife, but, heh, the 1950s called, man! They want their morality police back.”
Well, look where that got us. Two confirmed adulterers have occupied the White House in living memory; both are now under fire for cavorting with a child sex slaver on Orgy Island. Go ahead and act surprised, Renault.
Surely I’m not the only one who noticed that the Epstein sex abuse timeline is nearly identical to the Catholic Church sex abuse timeline. Both investigations were initiated in the early 2000s. Both revealed that the exploitation of children was an open secret in the highest echelons of power. Both investigations were closed a few years later, though not resolved. We assumed justice would take its course, and slowly began to forget. And then within two years of each other, both scandals emerged again, more sordid than ever. And on both occasions, we realized that nothing had changed.
Whew. Now I get why people become communists. Not the new-wave, gender-fluid, pink-haired Trots, of course. Nor the new far Left, which condemns child predators like Epstein out one side of its mouth while demanding sympathy for pedophiles out the other.
No: I mean the old-fashioned, blue-collar, square-jawed Stalinists. I mean the guy with eight fingers and 12 kids who saw photos of the annual Manhattan debutantes’ ball, felt the rumble in his stomach, and figured he may as well eat the rich.
Of course, we know where that leads us. For two centuries, conservatives have tried to dampen the passions that led France to cannibalize herself circa 1789.
Nevertheless, those passions weren’t illegitimate—they were just misdirected. Only an Englishman like Edmund Burke could have referred to the reign of Louis XIV as “the age of chivalry.” Joseph de Maistre spoke for real French conservatives when he said the decadent, feckless aristocracy deserved to be guillotined. The problem is, Maistre argued, there was no one more suitable to succeed them.
Yes: those passions are legitimate. We should feel contempt for our leaders when we discover that two presidents cavorted with Epstein, almost certainly aware that he preyed on minors. We should feel disgust at the mere possibility that Pope Francis rehabilitated Theodore McCarrick. And we should be furious that these injustices haven’t even come close to being properly redressed.
This is how revolutions are born. America is reaching the point where, 200 years ago, a couple French peasants begin eyeing the Bastille. The question is, can conservatives channel that outrage into serious reform before it’s too late? Can we call out the fetid, decadent elites within our own ranks? Are we prepared to hold our own “faves” to account—even Trump himself? Alas, it’s only a matter of time until we find out.
Michael Warren Davis is associate editor of the Catholic Herald. Find him at www.michaelwarrendavis.com.