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Epstein and the scientists
"I have no relationship with Epstein & have taken no funding from him."
We will operate on the assumption that Epstein was procuring kompromat; in other words, that he was an instrument of perception—whether he worked freelance or on-staff (for, e.g., Mossad) is irrelevant, as Latour provides a means of analysing this idea regardless. Epstein was, of course, an actor within a network. His activity was directed, as far as we can tell, to two primary areas. We will here ignore his investment and soft influence activities, focusing instead on this as akin to the Island of Doctor Moreau.
Little St. James can readily be seen as a laboratory analogous to those studied by Latour in Laboratory Life, little wonder that Epstein got along so well with these guys at Harvard and MIT. He was reported to have an active interest in the intricacies of their work, which makes sense as he was himself a scientist of sorts: an eye, an instrument of perception.
Latour describes the basic movement of scientific activity as entailing a cascade of inscriptions, which are then, through various transformations, arrayed by actors in support of their position in the agonistic encounters of a network. They are, in other words, images which are manipulated by actors to convince others in situations of contention. This is, of course, the only thing they could be. There is a paper called ‘the political career of a prototype’—for Epstein, in contrast, it was the political career of kompromat. Otherwise such activities are more or less the same.
When we think of a scientist, perhaps we imagine labcoats and sterile rooms, spartan but for an ensemble of specialised equipment. Yet there are also images of science that look quite different. Bacon spoke of putting nature to the rack, and in many cases such environments do resemble interrogation chambers. The point of these environments is their artificiality, that they are intended to aid in the procurement of an event. They are thus akin to arranging a dance which might be observed, recorded, communicated—and ultimately, used.
The work of Epstein was obviously more specialised than most scientists, for he was truly a first-class scientist; most ‘scientists’ today are but technicians. The scientist choreographs these technicians as part of an ensemble entailing also confederates, material culture, technical objects, etc. Their work is foremost aesthetic, an exercise of directed taste. This we must imagine is how Epstein saw himself, as says the Judge:
This is an orchestration for an event. For a dance in fact. The participants will be apprised of their roles at the proper time. For now it is enough that they have arrived.
All scientists are voyeurs and perverts, of course, for thus do they pierce whatever veil stands between them and their fancy. The fascination of knowledge is almost erotic among the most fanatical of them. This is most apparent in Freud, a coked-up aesthete of the forbidden.
The psychoanalyst, in fact, is particularly interesting, for they differ from the psychological statisticians in that, at least in their therapeutic mode, their relations were primarily immediate; and moreover, so are their actions. Where the statistician of implicit marketing, for instead, inscribes the unconscious of the masses as quantity and communicates it en masse, the psychoanalyst (at least in theory) allows for communication between two elements of a single individual. Here the communicative loop appears to be that of a conversation, but really it is an instrument of perception—or at least, that is the intent behind it and ideally the overriding interest.
Epstein was something of a psychoanalyst, a scientist and documentarian of human desire. He choreographed an ensemble which drew out repressed desires, lured them against the tide of morality; and then used this to ensure their continuance and engineer compliance, thereafter dragging all together ever deeper into hell. The whole enterprise was, in short, a sales funnel for Satan.
And yet here he was simply pursuing the standard methods of science, albeit on a far grander and more luxurious scale than most. This was so only by virtue of the singular value of that which he provided, not due to any fundamental difference. His can be compared only to the most well-funded studies, those of clear operational significance. The history of these particular instruments of perception is murky, but a recent proponent—who is, in fact, indirectly linked to Epstein—was Meyer Lansky.
Lansky was a notorious American criminal who, despite their fame, lived out their life in safety and relative freedom. Of the remainder in his era and line of work, all else but him either died or ended up in prison. There is reason to believe that this was thanks to specific photographs and recordings which Lansky acquired by way of parties in which kompromat was generated by way of intoxication and child prostitution. He had many close connections in business and government, and along with the Mafia was even involved in the war effort during WWII.
Criminal organisations have long been a perfect resource for intelligence agencies, and this is no different today. Indeed, the government that does not to some extent integrate these into its functioning thereby allows an regulated competitor, a parallel power is a risk in itself as well as a presenting a vulnerability which may be exploited by others. While one could destroy them, this would be inefficient and perhaps even prove impossible; it is thus thought far wiser to use them. These provide the state with a line of sight on its own shadow. Just as the queers have been integrated, so also have the criminals and other shadow networks of association; and that is what these are, what all once was—as legibility and integration into government is never a given, must always be constructed.
The Enlightenment can be read as the progressive illumination of actuality by various centers of calculation. These dispel the shadow from a territory by rendering it perceptible, whether legible via inscriptions or otherwise by mechanical reproduction. These are communicated and translated by actors within a network, including frequent interplay between the ideal (imagination) and the material (inscription). A link in the chain receives a representation, inspects and then passes it along in accordance with some protocol—whether unconscious or formalised, even mechanical; as when such gestures are embedded in sorting machines, etc. These are all key ingredients within the network processes that constitute This World.
Jeffrey Epstein is thus but one of the infinitely varied children of the Enlightenment; at once reflects aspects of laboratory life and art in the age of mechanical reproduction. The question then becomes: was it worth it? Suppose that Epstein contributed somehow essentially to the rational management of international relations—or even to the life and livelihood of the very nation. Such has long been an accepted argument for all manner of heinous acts. The difference is that these other horrors are invisible, or nearly so. Mercifully, much of the moral sacrifices made in our name are obscured by their mundanity. Some of the worst deeds in history, at scales simply incomprehensible in the past, have been carried out by way of pen and paper.
The reason Epstein is so awful is that his sins are concrete and immediately apparent. There are no abstractions here to hide behind. Other sins may well be far worse, but hey are at least not so obviously abhorrent. They must be mediated by way of some inscription, often a number: “In that single night, we burned to death a hundred thousand Japanese civilians in Tokyo—men, women, and children.” And indeed, how else are we to represent this? The scale is unimaginable to us. The best that can be done is a careful aesthetic presentation, whether by image and sound or poetic inscription. There can be no communication of any equivalent effect, at most it can have the appropriate aesthetic given the moral exercise of creative taste.
Of course, with Epstein it’s also the opposite, as it is not the activity as instrument of perception which is obscured but rather that of its mechanism of articulation. There is little information on the specific ways in which this information was used by either Epstein or Lansky. We may be sure, however, that it was conducted in an entirely mundane matter: by post, telephone, conversation, etc. All this is hidden from us, and so we do not consider the various signs of his roles as an instrument of perception to be relevant; it is explained away by reference to Epstein’s own character rather than being characterised in terms of a far broader network, of which ultimately we are also a part. We pretend he was simply perverted, which he was, but also much more; it is natural enough, I suppose, that we explain away his evil in psychological terms.
… if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.