Spoiler alert, the much-anticipated “Epstein List” didn’t contain much bombshell new information. The 943 pages of documents related to Jeffrey Epstein’s grooming and sexual abuse of dozens of young women and girls were mostly unsealed affidavits, court reports, and emails that led to the previous convictions of Epstein and his associate, Ghislaine Maxwell. The “list” didn’t add to the names of powerful politicians and celebrities linked to Epstein that we already knew – Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Donald Trump. Despite the lack of any major new revelations, Epstein’s horrific sexual abuses gained headlines again, reviving a bitter taste for the million ways the rich and powerful escape accountability for their crimes.
Conspiracy theories around Epstein have come to represent distrust in institutions paired with the “post-truth” information economy on social media. The QAnon side insists that the horrific school shooting in Iowa was staged to distract from the dubious “list” harkening back to the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory. On the uber liberal anti-Trump side, some have called it a distraction from new evidence in Trump‘s ongoing court cases.
Both reflect a deepening distrust in the institutions of society, which can be healthy if it propels working-class people to organize genuine efforts to wrest control of our lives from the bosses, shareholders, and politicians who exploit our struggles for their profits. Where this analysis spins into the stratosphere is when the explanations become ‘Pizzagate’ or myopically focus on Donald Trump as the only evil we must fight in the world.
There is an elite ruling class wreaking havoc on the lives of the majority of ordinary people in society, and yes, we can see with Epstein’s example that unless ordinary people fight back, the elite believe they’re untouchable. However, the looting of our society’s health, home, and livelihood happens in the daylight under ordinary capitalist exploitation and oppression on a massive scale.
Most broadly we see people trying to cope with the sick reality that Epstein already got away with a lifetime of kidnapping, trafficking, and sexual abuse under a system that will never find real justice for his victims.
We need to fight the system of capitalism that breeds monsters like Epstein. Most of his victims were vulnerable teen girls, working class and poor, many underage and often lured under false pretenses, then sexually abused and controlled via massive amounts of money and intimidation. Many were trafficked, as well as coerced to recruit others.
“He essentially groomed them to believe that he was going to pull them out of the misery of their lives. Many of them had very difficult [lives]. Some of them were in foster homes. Their parents were on drugs. There were all kinds of circumstances that they came from.”
Julie K. Brown, Miami Herald reporter who broke the story on Epstein’s abuse
A man who had more money than Midas preyed on vulnerable women and girls with his rich and powerful friends for decades. The #MeToo moment registered some important victories against powerful abusers like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. But if you ask today, few, if anyone, would feel satisfied that our work is done against gender-based violence, sexism, or sexual exploitation and abuse.
The untouchable billionaire class, messed-up justice system, and broad wealth inequality that allowed Epstein to carry out his abuse and evade consequences is still intact. People of all genders face major uphill battles to achieve even a basic standard of living under capitalism, and our instability is made even worse by the sexism, racism, and all forms of discrimination which are the system’s insurance policies to keep working-class people in our place.
Epstein was allowed free rein to play two roles: by day, he hustled to grow the status of his wealthy clients, which was rewarded by wealth and power for himself; by night, his whole crime ring relied on the silence of the same circle of elites protecting their status, treating a slew of young women as utterly disposable. These young women have had their lives forever altered in immeasurable ways, an infuriating consequence that is tragically relatable to survivors of abuse who regularly face a saga of horrors when seeking justice in our society. The dark corners of the world are an inglorious result of the inequality of capitalism, and will be changed only when they’re brought to light and fought ruthlessly.
The key takeaway for all the people looking for answers should be that we need to attack the capitalist system as the source of these revolting behaviors. Pockets of resistance are crucial but fundamental change requires broader social and economic action. Innumerable attacks from the right wing over the past several years should not discourage the idea that a better world based on equality is possible. Protest, strikes, and direct action can work when linked to movements with roots in workplaces, campuses, and demands to address the social and economic world we need – and to dismantle the ruling class, with its many Epsteins, and their gangster control of our lives.