Filthy Rich: What Netflix's Jeffrey Epstein Documentary Leaves Out


Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich is Netflix’s long-awaited exposé of the titular rapist-financier whose lifelong evasion of accountability culminated in his controversial death while incarcerated in August of 2019. Based on James Patterson’s 2016 book of the same name, Filthy Rich focuses on how Epstein wielded his wealth and power to assault and intimidate countless young girls. While it touches on the mysterious nature of his career and circle of influence, it offers little in the way of new information.

Filthy Rich focuses on Epstein’s veritable pyramid scheme for recruiting victims. He targeted young girls from troubled families and lured them to his Palm Beach home by promising substantial monetary compensation in exchange for massages. After molesting them, he would offer additional money to find friends to bring over under the same false pretenses. In addition to this revolving-door strategy, he and his longtime partner and alleged accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell groomed young girls for abuse by hiring them as assistants, paying for lavish overseas schooling and otherwise ensnaring them with the promise of financial opportunity. The series does an excellent job of covering these aspects of the story, but there’s still a lot left unsaid.

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The four-part docuseries details Epstein’s crimes through interviews with the many women he abused. Their testimonies offer harrowing perspective on the events that finally led to Epstein’s highly-publicized trial, offering a deeply personal dimension to the scandal that was absent from much of its reporting. Even so, Filthy Rich does little to explain how Epstein was able to get away with causing so much damage for so long. The women interviewed paint a chilling portrait of a man with seemingly limitless access, power, and resources, yet, is entirely devoid of empathy. The sheer arrogance with which he seems to have carried on decades of methodical sexual abuse is particularly disturbing, and certainly bolstered by the extent of his influence. By focusing so much attention on the nature of Epstein’s crimes, Filthy Rich distracts from lingering questions regarding his similarly shocking personal, professional, and political aims. Given how egregious his crimes truly were, his pervasive power across society’s upper echelons begs further investigation.

There’s been heated speculation in public discourse about the size and the source of Epstein’s ostensibly self-made fortune: Although he’s frequently described as a billionaire, there’s little evidence to back up that figure. He did not come from a wealthy family and he never graduated college. Although he got his start on Wall Street in the 1980’s, former colleagues have said that he wasn’t a particularly impressive bond trader — and that he had to lie about his educational credentials to get the job in the first place. Given that he was fired for failing to comply with trading regulations, it’s somewhat of a mystery how he was able to linger in the financial world well and long enough to amass the fortune he allegedly did.

Epstein’s offshore companies and accounts are notoriously shady, handling some of the world’s biggest fortunes while jumping through loopholes to avoid regulation and reporting requirements.  There are numerous conspiracy theories about Epstein’s money, but even after his death, a full picture has yet to emerge. Given his elite circle of powerful friends and extensive history of sexually trafficking young girls around the world, the obscure origins of his enormous fortune are especially unnerving. 

His ties to the elite didn’t end with Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew. Epstein’s philanthropic efforts bought him prestige and power with some of the world’s most respected institutions, including the MIT Media Lab, Harvard, and others. There’s even evidence that higher-ups at some of these institutions had known about the allegations against him since they first came to light, and actively tried to cover up and make excuses for Epstein’s behavior. According to Ronan Farrow, following his first indictment, all donations made by Epstein to the MIT Media Lab were purposefully reported as anonymous in order to avoid accountability. Purposeful cover-ups like this caused high-profile resignations of corporate executives and institutional leaders like Joi Ito, who ran the Media Lab until 2019. According to Business Insider, at least six different major resignations have occurred as Epstein’s crimes came to light.

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Those who’ve spoken about their relationship with Epstein, like infamous attorney Allen Dershowitz (who asserts his innocence in the docuseries), are professionally cagey in their responses. Given how tight-lipped and guarded those with such power tend to be, it’s hard to gauge what the nature of Epstein’s relationship was with any one of these people. In the absence of believable information, one is left to assume the worst. 

Epstein’s bizarre views on “transhumanism” and other pseudoscience were not even mentioned in the documentary. Reports by the New York Times and other media outlets have exposed Epstein’s disturbing scheme to “seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his vast New Mexico ranch.” Transhumanism, which was heavily satirized in Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You, is often compared to eugenics — a discredited theory for “improving” the human gene pool by controlling reproduction. Eugenics is most often associated with the Nazis, but it also informed racist medical practices in the United States throughout the 20th century.

Epstein is said to have told multiple acquaintances about his intentions to use his sprawling residential complex in New Mexico to house multiple women carrying his children. Many have gone on the record saying they were disgusted by these ideas, but few seem to have confronted Epstein about them head-on. According to the aforementioned New York Times article, Epstein tried to befriend many of the world’s leading scientific thinkers, showering them with lavish gifts, funding their research, and hosting social events which brought together some of the world’s most famous minds. While some of these attendees regarded Epstein as a benevolent supporter of scientific institutions with a brilliant mind in his own right, others like noted author Stephen Pinker dismissed the billionaire as asinine. Regardless, past associations with Epstein have left many prominent academics with a lot of explaining to do. 

Given the nature of Epstein’s crimes, the apparent ease with which he carried them out without much hiding, the amount of influence he exerted throughout government, business, and academia, and the still-mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, many are unsatisfied with the level of scrutiny given to his story thus far. Conspiracy theories regarding the source of his money and the nature of his relationships with many of the world’s most powerful people abound and proliferate. While such speculation can come at the cost of verifiable truth, it’s hard to resist assuming the absolute worst when every facet of the story points to the most powerful and most corrupt elements of our society. Epstein’s story in many ways seems too sinister to be true, and despite the revelations offered in Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, the whole truth may never be known.

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