Lawrence Lessig is a very good writer if we are discussing the ability to write long, discursive apologias for Joi Ito taking Jeffrey Epstein's money, wrapped in a superficial gauze of responsibility-taking that we clearly cannot take seriously. The piece is terrible, terrible, and not just on the matter at hand but also in its weirdly-irrelevant asides like when he suddenly appears to suggest that “erasing the names of 18th-century racists” is futile because there weren't “any leaders in America in the 18th century who were not racists in our 21st-century sense”. Lessig makes some after-the-fact noises about the anonymity Ito granted Epstein perhaps being the only way one could take money from a pedophile, since at least the donation couldn't be used to launder Epstein's reputation, but at most only with regret partially admits to the complications that could arise—and even then the complications with which he's concerned appear to be the threat to MIT's reputation. There appears to be no moral calculus involved here at all, despite glancing off the issue of morality in his four-part description of different types of potential donors. If you signed that statement of support for Joi Ito, you are suspect. Your judgment is suspect. That the donations were meant to be anonymous does nothing to launder the immorality of taking them. No amount of hand-waving about how hard it is to fund universities can erase that.

ETA: This thread by Siva Vaidhyanathan so thoroughly eviscerates Lessig's post that there is nothing left standing but the naked and reckless apologia that it is.

#Abuse #Morality #September2019