Wednesday’s Child: Sympathy for the Devil
I am staying at a friend’s house in bucolic English countryside, and somehow I fancy that the ninety minutes in rush hour traffic separating us from London make my perception of recent events there more objective. There the talk of the town is Prince Andrew’s television interview about his links to the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, which the press has dubbed a “car crash.” I have now watched the interview and I must confess I find it hard not to sympathize with the maligned prince.
“More than half the British public want Prince Andrew banned from public events attended by the whole Royal Family including Trooping the Colour and Remembrance Sunday, new poll reveals,” runs a headline in today’s Mail. But as on another page of the same paper are the results of another poll, which shows that “three quarters of young Britons have never heard of Mozart while one in five think Bach is still alive,” obviously it is not the vox populi that is my main bugaboo here. It is the people who have heard of Mozart and Bach who are the problem.
The private plane used for delivering women to Epstein was known as the Lolita Express, with reference to Nabokov’s third-rate novel. The same bien pensants who admire the book are among the first to sling mud at Epstein’s shadow, but it is the still wider landscape of morality that makes a nonsense of their hypocritical censoriousness. On yet another page of today’s Mail is a report that begins, “One of Britain’s first gay fathers – who recently split from his husband – has revealed he is planning to have twin girls with his younger lover.” The younger lover, it transpires, was formerly a boyfriend of the 19-year-old surrogate daughter the two men had raised. Nabokov would have been sick to his stomach on reading all this, but to the people condemning Epstein for sleeping with a 17-year-old “minor” rather than an 18-year-old “adult” it is more than just comme il faut – it is progressive and admirable, even charming.
I would say that, to the cinema, music, and ideology industries that shape present-day mores, there is scarcely a perversion, sexual or otherwise, which is beyond the pale. Rappers glorify rape, teenage fashion models brandish whips in sadomasochistic pictorials, movies portray incest with all the introspective sensitivity of which Hollywood directors are capable, and no journalist in his right mind would dare to poke fun at a transsexual love story. In this moral context, to condemn a man – even a dirty old man – for having sojourned at the Manhattan house where “young women” were “trafficked” by a Paris modeling agent retained by the millionaire host is to find a mote in the eye of a culture that is, speaking frankly, nearly all beams.
I met another of Epstein’s infamous procurers, Ghislaine Maxwell, back in the late 1980’s – she was a friend of my then-father-in-law, as was Donald Trump and quite a few other visitors to Epstein’s many houses of sin – and I can assert with confidence that she was one of the most unpleasant women I have ever laid eyes on. But more unpleasant than the average woman journalist? More stupid than the average female politician? More grasping than the average female realtor? I don’t think so.