Once Again, Bernard-Henri Lévy Defends Rape

You’re a rich white man, and you’ve raped someone less important and more female than you are. And now the authorities are daring to treat you — yes, you! — as if you were some sort of common, middle-class rapist. Who can you turn to? Who will defend you? Who will fight for the rich, well-connected white rapist?

Bernard-Henri Lévy, that’s who!

Yes, fresh off his spirited defense of admitted child-rapist Roman Polanski, Lévy has found a new cause: defending alleged rapist and soon-to-be-former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn, as you undoubtedly know, allegedly raped a maid in his penthouse hotel room; he was arrested by New York police while on a plane that was departing the country. Police say they have physical evidence tying Strauss-Kahn to the alleged attack, and what evidence has come out so far is damning; still, Strauss-Kahn is entitled to his day in court, and presumably a man who can afford a $3,000-per-night hotel room can afford a decent attorney.

Still, to hear Lévy tell it, this whole responding-to-credible-accusations thing is a travesty. A travesty, I tell you!

I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.

[...]

What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to the dogs.

What I know is that nothing, no suspicion whatever (for let’s remind ourselves that, as I write these lines, we are dealing only with suspicions!), permits the entire world to revel in the spectacle, this morning, of this handcuffed figure, his features blurred by 30 hours of detention and questioning, but still proud.

[...]

This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.

I am troubled by a system of justice modestly termed “accusatory,” meaning that anyone can come along and accuse another fellow of any crime—and it will be up to the accused to prove that the accusation is false and without basis in fact.

Yes, anyone can just accuse anyone else of a crime! How dare we have such a system that lets a lowly maid accuse a Very Important Rich White Man of a crime! And now Strauss-Kahn will have to prove himself innocent. If only there were some principle in American law that would force the prosecution to prove its case. Alas, an Important Man will now go to jail unless he can prove these charges false.

And this judge! Treating un homme important as merely one of the common rabble! Doesn’t he know that alleged criminals aren’t supposed to be sent to jail to await arraignment unless they’re poor?

Lévy, however, is not content to merely attack the American justice system for its habit of letting commoners speak to the police; he also attacks alleged victims of Strauss-Kahn for not going to the police in the first place.

I hold it against all those who complacently accept the account of this other young woman, this one French, who pretends to have been the victim of the same kind of attempted rape, who has shut up for eight years but, sensing the golden opportunity, whips out her old dossier and comes to flog it on television.

Yes. She pretends to be a victim, because we all know how fun being a victim is. If she really was a victim, why wouldn’t she have come forward years ago, so people like Bernard-Henri Lévy could have attacked her for insulting a Very Important Man?

Lévy’s defense of Strauss-Kahn is breathtaking in its feverish bravado. It makes the defense mounted by Ben Stein look pathetic – well, more pathetic. But it is not surprising to anyone familiar with Lévy’s work. It is kin with Lévy’s defense of Polanski — overheated, outraged, and oblivious to the idea that rape is a serious crime.

What seemed likely after Polanski now seems quite certain: Bernard-Henri Lévy sees nothing particularly wrong with rape. At least not when the rapist is a Rich, Important Man, and the victim is not. That a woman — a common woman, like a maid, or a thirteen-year-old girl — can actually accuse an Important Man of raping her is seen as an outrage; after all, what offense did he commit, other than raping her?

Lévy sees rape as a trivial matter; what he sees as outrageous is the rest of us, who persist in viewing it as a serious crime. In short, for all his protestation that he is a great egalitarian, Lévy doesn’t care about the physical safety of half of humanity. He may call himself a leftist, but when it comes to gender politics, there is nobody more reactionary than him.

This entry posted in Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Feminism, sexism, etc, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

70 Responses to Once Again, Bernard-Henri Lévy Defends Rape

  1. 1
    Hugh says:

    Minor correction: Strauss-Kahn isn’t ‘white’. His father is a Tunisian jew, he spent a lot of time growing up in Morocco, and he’s frequently spoken about how important his North African heritage is to him.

    Not that that changes anything you’ve said about him or about what Levy has written. But Strauss-Kahn seems to see himself as more mixed-race than ‘white’.

  2. 2
    Bema says:

    Minor correction: Strauss-Kahn isn’t ‘white’. His father is a Tunisian jew, he spent a lot of time growing up in Morocco, and he’s frequently spoken about how important his North African heritage is to him.

    I beg to differ here. He was born to Jewish parents in an upper-class suburb and spent some time growing up in Morroco, which was a French colony, so it’s not all benevolent and such, just like growing up in Algeria doesn’t make you Algerian. White skin + at least one white parent = white all the way.

    But the real problem here is that Bernard Henri-Lévy either doesn’t understand the American justice system, or is deliberately ignoring the facts. There has been no disgrace committed against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Henri-Lévy simply believes, however covertly he’s tried to implant this message in his defense, that Strauss-Kahn is worthy of some white-glove police work because of his stature in economics. Nothing has been proved against him yet, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

  3. 3
    embergirl says:

    Lévy sees rape as a trivial matter; what he sees as outrageous is the rest of us, who persist in viewing it as a serious crime. In short, for all his protestation that he is a great egalitarian, Lévy doesn’t care about the physical safety of half of humanity.

    Women are definitely far more likely to be raped than men. However, anyone can be raped. Rape apologism hurts the whole of humanity, because every human being is, sadly, a potential victim of rape. Women, interxesed people, children, older people, people with disabilities, transpeople, homeless people, prisoners, people of colour, poor people, sex workers and other marginalised groups are certainly the most vulnerable, and the more of those groups you belong to, the more rape risk multiplies. However, 100% of humanity is subject to *some* risk of rape, however small.

  4. 4
    Sebastian H says:

    Ugh. Reading his ‘defense’ makes me ill. I wonder how many people we are going to find out DSK raped before this, but that he got away with because people covered for him. It just makes me want to scream.

  5. 5
    Jeff Fecke says:

    @embergirl — true, but I suspect that Levy wouldn’t be so insouciant about a male victim of rape.

  6. 6
    mythago says:

    I suspect he would also be less of a fuckmuppet (he could hardly be more of one) if the accuser was of DSK’s socioeconomic class, and if the police had engaged in their investigation quietly and with extreme deference to DSK.

  7. 8
    RonF says:

    Who is this Bernard fellow, anyway?

    Sources told FoxNews.com, Strauss-Kahn flew to the U.S. on a G-4 visa on Air France Flight 28 from Paris to Washington, D.C., arriving Wednesday, May 11. It is unclear how he travelled from Washington to New York. The IMF has said they would deny immunity because the alleged assault occurred when Strauss-Kahn was on a personal visit, not a business trip.

    Why should he have immunity even if he was representing the IMF? I thought diplomatic immunity applied to ambadassors and others representing a sovereign nation so that they could do so without harassment. Who does the IMF represent?

    What, is the IMF chief just so damn important he shouldn’t be subject to the same laws as us little people?

  8. 9
    mythago says:

    RonF: A little Googling and less reliance on Fox answers those questions.

  9. 10
    Jake Squid says:

    RonF,
    Who is this fellow? you ask. Well, let me just google that for you.

    Could you do the arduous work of finding out about things about which you proclaim your lack of knowledge before you opine on them? I, for one, would truly appreciate it.

  10. 11
    Bema says:

    Really, you’re going to get your underwear in a twist over somebody asking a stupid question? [Even though now I am going through the same motions you, "mythago" and "Jake Squid" have in responding] If you find the question “Who is this Bernard fellow?” so offensive how can you even slog your way through life, which is stocked fresh every day with ignorance and stupidity?

    Not only that, but you see “Jake Squid” that RonF already chided him over not bothering to google the question and then you come in one hour later and restate the same.

    You’ve done so much to contribute to the conversation.

  11. 12
    RonF says:

    Speaking of contributing to the conversation, here’s a whole lot more rape allegations coming out of the woodwork. The article spends some time answering the question as to why these other folks are coming out only now. There’s the usual issues of the difficulties a women (especially one with not a lot of money) faces in pursuing rape charges against a man with money. But there’s also this:

    Even the well connected had qualms about confronting Strauss-Kahn. A regional Socialist Party official stepped up on Monday to say that her daughter had come under sexual attack during a 2002 interview with Strauss-Kahn. The official, Anne Mansouret, repeated the allegations made by her daughter Tristane Banon during a 2007 TV program about how a well-known politician [Strauss-Kahn's name was bleeped out] tried to overpower her with a sexual embrace. What took so long for Mansouret to back up her daughter and name Strauss-Kahn? She told French TV that she had dissuaded her daughter from filing charges because Strauss-Kahn was en route to greatness — and derailing the ascent of a fellow Socialist Party official would be bad form. She also said that because Strauss-Kahn’s second wife was Banon’s godmother, blowing the whistle on the alleged attacker would create rifts within Mansouret’s circle of family, friends and intimates.

    Interesting how this woman named him on national TV, only to have his name bleeped out. Reading this article and others makes it seem as though the contrast of French culture’s well-publicized attitudes towards sex vs. America’s has a dark side that’s not all that well known here. It seems that it protects well-connected men far more blatantly and overtly than American culture does. It also seems the victim’s own mother found the promotion of Socialism to be more important than pursuing an act of sexual violence against her own daughter – which is pretty hard for me to conceive, frankly.

    Contrast this, after all, with what happened in the media and the political arena when such allegations were made against then-President Clinton. Nobody was bleeping his name out of TV shows.

  12. 13
    RonF says:

    Understand that my question about diplomatic immunity was more conceptual than legal. The law may say “IMF reps get diplomatic immunity”, but I’m questioning why that should be so. Applying the concept of diplomatic immunity to the ambassador of country ‘x’ makes sense to me. Applying it to someone working for an international organization makes a lot less sense to me – it seems that it’s more a way to establish a privileged class of people just because they are important or influential.

  13. 14
    Hugh says:

    “White skin + at least one white parent = white all the way.”

    Really? Well, I wouldn’t say so, but I’m not going to argue the point. I will point out though that Strauss-Kahn lived in Morocco both before and after its independence, and that his father’s family had pretty extensive ties to the area, so it wasn’t just a case of colonialists living in a colony. His father was Jewish, true, but he wasn’t a white Jew.

    Yes, it seems Strauss-Kahn has been up to this in France as well, and it is a shame that Banon faced pressure not to comment – both pressure from the media and from her own family members. Sadly this whole “Don’t criticise him for the good of the movement” phenomenon is probably at a bit of a peak at the moment, since the French left are desperate to topple Sarco and saw Strauss-Kahn as a good banner-bearer (although I would say that they have equally appealing Presidential candidates in both Hollande and Aubry, and maybe even Royal, although she kinda sucked last time round).

    I think the French willingness to not foreground the sex lives and even infidelities of politicians is admirable. I’d personally have no problem voting for a politician who has cheated on their spouse. But sadly there seems to be a sense that, if consensual sexual relationships between adults are not relevant to somebody’s politics, maybe nonconsensual sexual relationships aren’t, either.

  14. 15
    Stefan says:

    Jeff, I like your post, overall, but Lévy didn’t bring up race.What makes you think he’s racist ?

  15. 16
    Bema says:

    Well, Hugh, I am going to belabor the point because I’m a proud SOB. Take one look at Strauss-Kahn and tell me that regardless of whatever his true race is, he doesn’t look like a white man and has not benefited from white privilege. Now about all this “ties to Morroco” that just proves he was even more of a colonialist. I’m sure you are aware that North Africans and the French are not very fond of each other.

    Just like the tea partiers let themselves be represented by subpar politicians like Sarah Palin, if the French left wanted a good chance at leadership they should have put their eggs in a better basket.

    I don’t know why I have to act like such a troll.

  16. 17
    Charles S says:

    [never mind]

  17. 18
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’m very pleased that the accusation by a chamber maid was taken seriously.

    However, I have two concerns about the case– within about a day, U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was telling Strauss-Kahn that it was time to resign. Was the accusation only taken seriously because it was politically convenient in some way?

    Strauss-Kahn is “under suicide watch”. Does this mean he’s being treated like Bradley Manning?

  18. 19
    RonF says:

    I’d personally have no problem voting for a politician who has cheated on their spouse.

    If it was a one time fling and they showed remorse I wouldn’t have a problem either. but if it was a pattern of behavior and they acted like it was no big deal, that would be a show-stopper for me.

  19. 20
    RonF says:

    “Don’t criticise him for the good of the movement” phenomenon is probably at a bit of a peak at the moment, since the French left are desperate to topple Sarco and saw Strauss-Kahn as a good banner-bearer

    So they’re willing to sacrifice women to promote Socialism, which is supposed to elevate the status of women? Hypocrites. What else are they willing to do to advance their agenda?

  20. 21
    Frowner says:

    So they’re willing to sacrifice women to promote Socialism, which is supposed to elevate the status of women?

    It’s worth noting that the French Socialist party is not very socialist – it’s the Democratic Party of France. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge (two very rich, very conservative guys) were big buddies with a lot of important socialists. Note in fact that a “socialist” is a big wheel in the IMF, one of the world’s worst and most destructive organizations. Even when it’s not promoting austerity (which Strauss Kahn wants to moderate, not to abandon) it’s promoting globalization from above, privatization, foreign bankers making policy decisions, etc etc. Ask yourself “what socialist that I know personally would support the actions of the IMF?”

    I think that a lot of US political discourse gets a bit muddled because we don’t have the correct frame of reference for foreign political language. In France, for example, the Communists were against the student/worker protests of the late sixties.

  21. 22
    mythago says:

    Hugh @14: that is, the French media’s willingness to keep a “gentlemen’s silence” about the sexual behavior of powerful men towards women, even if that behavior is unethical. In that kind of climate, why on earth would there be a rush to publicize DSK grabbing women? That’s prudishness, innit?

  22. 23
    mythago says:

    You know, on second thought that isn’t entirely accurate. It would be fairer to say the sexual behavior of powerful men towards the less-powerful – as we have reports of, and tolerance of, an official who openly admitted to having sex with trafficked boys in Thailand.

    Nancy @18: I suspect the accusation was taken seriously because it was made pursuant to a police report immediately after the alleged incident. Most people treat a rape accusation differently when the victim goes straight to the police and reports it, sadly.

  23. 24
    Jake Squid says:

    You’re not from around here are you, Bema?

  24. 25
    Bema says:

    No I’m not.

    And I don’t like your tone.

  25. 26
    mythago says:

    Jesus, Jake, it admits it’s a troll, don’t feed it.

  26. 27
    Jake Squid says:

    I don’t know how I missed that, mythago. ***Feeding discontued***

  27. 28
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Where are the three little billy goats Gruff when we need them?

  28. 29
    Sebastian says:

    Why is this website tolerating such blatant racism? Yes, this man is an ordure, and yes, he has a history of attempted rapes, and very, very, VERY likely a history of rapes. He has been sheltered by the French left, by the French media, and by his entourage, and has gotten away with things that make me ashamed that I am French. Multiple women who has worked or studied under him have said that they will not be alone in a room with him, he has been described as an aggressive “chimp in heat”by at least three different women (which in at least one case led to accusations of antisemitism) and at least two avocats have claimed multiple women have contacted them YEARS ago because of DSK’s sexual depredations.

    Yes, the he is powerful man that has gotten away with a lot, and may yet get away with this. But why on Earth is it relevant that he is white? Why are we discussing HOW white he is? Whether being X% Jewish and Y% Marocain makes him Z?

    Powerful people get away with a lot. Powerful men get away with rape. The race does not matter. As far as I can tell from my 13 years in the US, black powerful men are not at a disadvantage when accused of rape. Certainly not compared to poor Asian men, for example.

    I’m going on a rant, and I don’t give a rat ass about who’s going to accuse me of trolling. I’m at least a quarter Black, and I grew up in one of the worst of Paris banlieux. As I was growing up in France, I got my share of shit. But you know what? It was for being poor, undereducated and not acting like the average Frenchman. I never felt that the color of my skin was responsible (I have Euro features, but rather dark skin) I cannot remember the last time I felt being the object of racism in France or in the UK… education and money seems to have helped a lot.

    But here in the US, I find myself interacting exclusively with Europeans. Why? Eastern Europeans, Jews, Westerners treat me as an MIT educated, halfway cultured, decently dressed (by my wife) engineer who’s being a fool to stick to manufacturing in the US. Americans? Left or right, white or black, they see a black man with a redhead wife. What the fuck is your obsession with race? Why will a random woman on the street yell at me for being with a white woman? Why would a lab mate ask my wife about how African Americans are in bed, AFTER being told we met in ’99? Why would a CalTech social science ‘progressive’ think that I want to be called African American instead of black, and that I would not take offense at being congratulated for marrying a woman with higher education that mine. (I did not marry the Hahwah Ph.D. I married my MIT squeeze) And why does the race (or gender) of the the aforementioned dumbasses matter?

    So, to come back full circle, can someone explain to me why no one is jumping on the original poster for being a racist, the way everyone would and SHOULD jump on someone who mentions that a murderer is black ten time when the race has nothing to do with the crime? And which happens all too often to my taste.

  29. 30
    RonF says:

    Sebastian, it has been my observation here that anytime two or more people of different races are involved in a situation racism is presumed as being a factor by default, without any regard as to whether there’s any actual evidence of such. I’ve called people out on it many times.

    It’ll be interesting to see what responses you get.

    MIT? I’m ’74, VII, PKT. Yourself?

  30. 31
    Sebastian says:

    The scum was given bail. How much? One paltry million. Are you telling me this travesty is because he is white?! A friend of mine got arrested for a bar brawl, and his bail was for set for $300,000 (he had disarmed a plain clothes cop who tried to draw without saying he was one)

    He had the choice to borrow and pay 30,000 to a bail loan shark, or spend significant time in jail awaiting the trial (which I am sure the Boston PD would have delayed as much as they could). I can’t help but think that if a poor student gets hit with 300 000, a rich financier should not get away with 1 000 000.

    In his case, MIT came through – bail and legal aid… Speaking of which – ’01, VI, EC4W

  31. 32
    Mythago says:

    Sebastian, thrilled as I am to hear that racism no longer exists in France, don’t you think you answered you own question? Despite what RonF would like to tell us, we have a huge problem with skin-color based racism. As you know far better than I do, I’m sure. The alleged assault happened in the US, not France. Black defendants are given a lot more scrutiny than white defendants – particularly if the accuser is white. And in the US, being a rich white guy puts you at the top of the heap.

    One thing I did find interesting is DSK’s remark about attacks from his political enemies, and one of the things he felt they would attack him on us his Jewishness. In the US that would be an odd remark, but not in France, which still has a problem with anti-Semitism.

  32. 33
    Sebastian says:

    Actually, no, I am not saying that France has no racists or racism. It’s that most people are ashamed of it, and try to pretty it up as support of French values. It still sounds bad, but at least once you get the money, the clothes and the accent right, it’s considered a TERRIBLE faux pas to notice race, and people don’t do it. I can go hang out with Le Pen’s spoor, and not even they won’t voice anything about my skin color as long as I’m French enough. Will they hate me inside? Probably, but then, I’m not exactly enamoured with them, either.

    But there’s no escaping racism here. Sure there are uneducated southern whites who have so little in which to take pride that they must believe the color of their skin makes them superior to me. But speaking strictly for myself, progressives are no less offensive with their constant insistence that race is essential, and must be brought up everywhere. As for ‘polite’ right wingers who suggest that I’m a hero for not being a disease-ridden drug user looking for someone to mug…

    Which is why, I do not like it when obvious racism gets a free pass just because it’s aimed at whites and ‘beneficial to Afro-Americans’. Beneficial how? Am I supposed to feel better when DSK’s whiteness is being brought up even when it irrelevant? You know what? By bringing his race, you enable not one, but two disgusting trolls to crawl out of the woodwork. 1.’Blacks are the rapists, look at the statistics, per capita, blacks are convicted of rape more than the whites’ 2.’It’s not us whites, it’s the Jooos! BHL is defending DSK and Polanski because all they raped is some non-Chosen.’

    Both of these avenues of attack are closed when you only talk about what’s relevant – power. We have a bunch of rich, powerful, drunk on themselves, Inchulectuuls, who see everyone else as inferior and subhuman.

    (edit) Oh, just in case someone does not get it, it’s not blacks that rape more than whites, it’s poor, angry people who feel disempowered and abuse those weaker than themselves.

  33. 34
    Jake Squid says:

    Sebastian,

    Is it possible that you missed that Jeff was pointing out racism because English isn’t your first language? Or perhaps because you are unfamiliar with the racism that pervades the US justice system?

    OP:

    How dare we have such a system that lets a lowly maid accuse a Very Important Rich White Man of a crime!

    That quote is calling out a racist attitude, it isn’t a racist statement. Unless you believe that calling out racism is racism, I guess.

    Sebastian:

    Oh, just in case someone does not get it, it’s not blacks that rape more than whites, it’s poor, angry people who feel disempowered and abuse those weaker than themselves.

    Do poor, angry people rape more than middle or upper class people? Do you have any data on this? I’m skeptical of your claim.

  34. 35
    Hugh says:

    Bema, somebody can benefit from white privilege without self-identifying as white. I’ve known many indigenous rights activists who have Anglo-sounding names, 50% or more non-indigenous ancestry, and are pretty white looking – blue eyes and blonde hair, sometimes. I don’t think that means I have the right to go around telling them they’re not white.

    I also have to object to the idea that “French people and North Africans don’t like each other very much”. Sure, there’s a lot of post-colonial dislike on both sides, but there are also many examples of intermarriage, cooperation etc etc. Jean Paul Sartre certainly liked North Africans a lot, and IAM is a very successful (and very good) France-based hip hop band with both Algerian and French members.

    As for Strauss-Kahn’s politics and the French Socialists, to be fair, he is considered to be on the right of the party (another reason, I presume, he was considered such a vote winner). But yeah, their calling themselves ‘Socialists’ is more of a historical relic than a clear description of their policies. They should really be called Social Democrats, like most other European centre-left parties are. But then France has always been weird like that. There used to be a party called the ‘Radical Socialists’ who were generally considered on the right of the political spectrum – certainly to the right of the Socialists.

  35. 36
    Sebastian says:

    Thank you for implying that after a decade years in the States, and a MEng I still don’t understand English. I know that I sometimes mix in French words, especially when I post in English after reading in French for hours, but missing the point by as much as that… I’ll assume that you are being sarcastic.

    This is what I wrote: why no one is jumping on the original poster for being a racist, the way everyone would and SHOULD jump on someone who mentions that a murderer is black ten time when the race has nothing to do with the crime?

    The original poster repeats again and again the race of the rapist. It would have been be relevant in a few cases:
    The rape was racially motivated (extremely unlikely, given the creep’s history)
    His race is what allowed him to escape justice for so long. (nonsense)
    His race is what will allow him to escape justice now. (unlikely, given that rich and powerful men of all races consistently avoid conviction for rape in the US)
    His race is what makes BHL defend him. (implausible, given that the two assholes have a lot more in common than their race)

    So, I believe that the rapist’s race is irrelevant, and repeatedly mentioning it is racism. I thought I had explained why I dislike that particular kind of racism in my previous post, but I guess my English is not up to the task.

    As for you being skeptical of my claims, that it’s perfectly fine, and there are at least two ways you can attempt to verify it. One is to look up the arrested rapists by race, and then look at the income distribution by race. I recommend using the data for California and Connecticut, because a particular Chief Attorney has already done the work, and his report is all over the Internet, so that fucking assholes can cherry pick the data to try to convince me that I’m a rapist and just don’t know it.

    The other way is to take a few facts from any site that supports victims of rape, and apply some logic on them. The facts being: 1. lowest tier income women are twice over-represented among rape victims. 2. more than four stranger rapists out of five share their victims’ background.

    Note that the above leaves out rapes by relatives. So look at the incest statistics by state, and you will get see they track income by state. Correlation is not causation, but I’m talking correlation.

  36. 37
    Elusis says:

    Well, I’m going to risk accusations of “racism” by pointing out my utter lack of surprise that the Governator’s secret affair was with a woman of color, because this narrative is so damn predictable it’s like a drumbeat at this point. Rich, powerful white man (who consistently abuses his position to sexually harass women) sleeping with the brown help and then paying out some hush money to keep the mask of his perfect white family intact. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

  37. 38
    Schala says:

    I’d loved if for all crimes, the conviction was when the media circus came in. Not the accusation.

    It’s probably true that France protects overwhelmingly important people from press scrutiny…though it’s also mostly them who’ll draw the press.

    The way it happens now (not necessarily DSK, and I won’t presume anything about his guilt or not) is this:

    1) Crime A is committed
    2) Suspect B is arrested
    3) Arrest of person B is published in newspapers (and their guilt often assumed by said newspaper), especially if the crime B is accused of would make them seem dastardly if guilty (murder, rape, defrauding thousands/millions of people), or simply if they’re famous/important like pro sports players
    4) The court of public opinion decides wether to lynch the accused or not, most likely yes (meaning loss of job, housing etc)
    5) The justice court tries the accused and eventually reaches a verdict
    6) Convicted or found not guilty, then sentenced or released by the justice system…but already judged by everyone else – often making the justice verdict moot and irrelevant (people still think you did it/are guilty, and won’t hire you, trust you around kids etc).

    If France did it uniformly for everyone, I’d support them all the way. Now I still support them more than I do sensationalist North American medias.

    Hey, if you got first-hand evidence on youtube of a crime, sure, discuss that. But speculating on the guilt of someone and deciding wether to demolish their reputation before we even have all the facts…nope, I like the presumption of innocence.

  38. 39
    Jake Squid says:

    Thank you for implying that after a decade years in the States, and a MEng I still don’t understand English.

    I in no way implied that you don’t understand English. I asked directly if, English not being your first language, you could possibly have misunderstood Jeff’s point. Just as I in no way implied that you’re not familiar with the racism that is so pervasive in the US justice system. I flat out asked you if that could be the case.

    I was, and am, perfectly serious in my question because it is glaringly obvious that, rather than making a racist point, Jeff was pointing out the racism in the situation. So…. Fine, it isn’t English not being your first language that caused and continues to cause you to reverse Jeff’s position on the matter. And it isn’t a lack of familiarity with the US justice system that caused and continues to cause you to completely misinterpret the OP. I have no further ideas on how you could be making a mistake of this magnitude. But, if you say so, I will certainly believe that it isn’t a matter of language or culture that so confounds your understanding of the OP.

    As for you being skeptical of my claims, that it’s perfectly fine, and there are at least two ways you can attempt to verify it.

    Here’s how this works in polite company. I claim X is true. You voice your skepticism and ask for support for my position. I provide evidence for my position.

    Here’s how this doesn’t work in a reasonable conversation. I claim X is true. You voice your skepticism and ask for support for my position. I tell you to verify my claim yourself.

    Whoever makes the claim is responsible for supporting their own position. Skeptics have no responsibility to support a claim of which they’re skeptical.

    Perhaps this is a heretofore unknown, to me, cultural difference.

  39. 40
    chingona says:

    Schala, would you prefer a system in which arrests and criminal charges are a secret and no one can find out about them? Because that’s the alternative to a system in which arrests are public information, and frankly, the idea of secret arrest scares the shit out of me. Remember when they wouldn’t release the names of the Guantanamo detainees to protect their privacy?

  40. 41
    mythago says:

    Hey, if you got first-hand evidence on youtube of a crime, sure, discuss that. But speculating on the guilt of someone and deciding wether to demolish their reputation before we even have all the facts…nope, I like the presumption of innocence.

    How can you like the presumption of innocence when you have no bleeding idea what that even means?

    See, “presumption of innocence,” in American law, means that the law presumes a defendant is innocent of the charges against him until the State proves them true beyond a reasonable doubt. That is why all the articles about DSK talk about the ‘alleged’ conduct: right now, legally speaking, he is as innocent of the sexual assault as you or I.

    And that would hold true even if we had “first hand evidence” in the form of a YouTube video of DSK committing rape. Because even if there is evidence, until he is found guilty, he is legally innocent. Period.

    Now, of course that’s not what you mean. By “presumed innocent” what you mean is “only I, Schala, am the rightful judge of whether or not there is enough evidence for people on the Internet to say he did it.” That’s what your little comment about YouTube means, Schala: it means that you are fine with people personally believing he is guilty, but only if the evidence is – in your eyes – strong enough.

  41. 42
    chingona says:

    After reading the post a few times and reading this thread a few more times, I think the matter of DSK’s whiteness is given more importance in the post than it probably has.

    I don’t think Jeff is accusing Levy of racism in some sort of conscious “I hate black people and love white people like me” way, and I certainly don’t think the post is racist. Jeff correctly identifies this as a case of claiming Important People shouldn’t be subject to the same standards as regular people, and Important People, more often than not, are rich, white men. That the racial dynamics of France and the U.S. are not perfectly equivalent doesn’t negate that. But there certainly have been cases of Important black athletes being treated with kid gloves by law enforcement. (In the cases where black athletes have been treated horribly by law enforcement for minor (or even non-existent) offenses, the officers involved usually didn’t realize the person they were abusing was an Important Person.)

    While I’m very glad the hotel called police right away and that the police acted swiftly in this case and that everyone seems to be taking this seriously, I’m left wondering if, rather than this being a case of police doing the right thing, regardless of the status of everyone involved, it is a case of DSK’s foreignness trumping his importance. Some of this is totally legitimate. He was a flight risk. So much so that he was literally about to fly out of the country when he was arrested. Nonetheless, I have a very hard time picturing a prominent American politician spending the night in Rikers, even if every other fact of the case were the same.

  42. 43
    chingona says:

    On the YouTube point, wasn’t there a particularly brutal rape that was videotaped and the defendants still were acquitted? I think they used some sort of “she always wanted to make a gang-bang porno” defense.

  43. 44
    mythago says:

    chingona @42: He’s got an entire wing to himself at Rikers and is being given treatment unheard-of for Joe Blow, the average non-head-of-the-IMF accused rapist. Rikers is not a super-special evil prison; it’s where you go in New York when you’re at that stage of the prison system. If anything, his foreign status is giving him a lot of special treatment, because nobody wants to have to say “Hey, France? Somebody shanked your guy on our watch. Sorry, man.”

    Certainly it’s true that being black doesn’t always mean shitty treatment, particularly when the accused has some kind of special status that “makes up for it” in the eyes of the average person, or where being black goes hand-in-hand with the reason the person is Famous and Important (such as being an athlete). But for the most part, white means privilege.

    Sebastian, the race of the accused and accuser may not matter in France, but they are relevant in the US, where being white means privilege and there are pervasive, ugly myths about black men and rape. As for being Jewish, again, that’s a big deal in France; but here it’s something people hardly notice. (Bernie Madoff, for example.)

  44. 45
    mythago says:

    Oh, and how could we overlook this:

    The court of public opinion decides wether to lynch the accused or not, most likely yes (meaning loss of job, housing etc)

    Because, of course, the court of public opinion is not only unanimous, but is busy throwing roses at the accuser’s feet.

  45. 46
    chingona says:

    @ mythago. I don’t think he’s being treated poorly or unfairly. I think he may be being treated differently than the equivalent U.S.ian person would be. I mean, if Ben Bernanke was accused of doing this, I’m not sure he would even be taken into custody. He might be asked to come in for questioning at a time of his convenience, and then after the grand jury indictment, he might have to turn himself in.

  46. 47
    mythago says:

    Bernanke is a US citizen. If he flew to a European country and we asked them to send him back, they would with no complaints because he is not one of their nationals. That said, why don’t you think they would take him into custody until a bail hearing, like they’re supposed to?

  47. 48
    chingona says:

    Right. Which is why I said: “Some of this is totally legitimate. He was a flight risk. So much so that he was literally about to fly out of the country when he was arrested.”

    They would take Bernanke, or perhaps I should say “Bernanke,” into custody after he was indicted by the grand jury. I shouldn’t have said “might.” And since a bond amount usually comes attached to an arrest warrant, a rich person only spends a few hours in jail before bonding out. Less well off people have to wait for a bond hearing because they need to argue for a reduced bond.

    But no, I don’t think “Bernanke” would be arrested as soon as an accusation was made. Why do I think that? Because I’ve seen it play out that way frequently. If the police chief or a DA didn’t want the thing moving forward, they just wouldn’t bring it to the grand jury. They would say there wasn’t enough evidence. And even if it did move forward, they would still take their time. I have almost never seen a rape suspect taken into custody within a day of an accusation.

    Let me be clear: I think DSK seems awfully guilty, and if he doesn’t like how he’s being treated, maybe he should try not raping people and then trying to flee the country. But I don’t believe he was initially treated the same as other people *of his stature.*

  48. 49
    Schala says:

    Schala, would you prefer a system in which arrests and criminal charges are a secret and no one can find out about them? Because that’s the alternative to a system in which arrests are public information, and frankly, the idea of secret arrest scares the shit out of me. Remember when they wouldn’t release the names of the Guantanamo detainees to protect their privacy?

    Is that the dichotomy? Not treating the accused as de-facto criminals versus being forced to reveal some information they’d rather not (and let’s not kid ourselves, waterboarding and possibly sexual abuse are common stuff for prisoners of Americans, like all other prisoners (in the world, of other nations) – and like for all prisoners, they just became scapegoats (because infinite torture can make even the most innocent person avow to the worst crime imaginable, or die, or become insane – nice choice isn’t it?)).

    So, wether DSK committed this act or not, he has lost his post as head of FMI, and his position as favorite for the France presidential election of 2012. He might be innocent, or ‘not guilty’, and yet, the public opinion already thinks he’s bad bad bad, unrealiable, and not a good candidate for president. How’s that fair about the presumption of innocence?

    And it’s not like it’s only high-profile rich-class people who get this treatment (though it’s still mostly famous people who get discussed nationwide). It’s amazing that I’m not even against the practice because it destroyed my own life, or someone close to me’s life, but on the principle. Because most seem to find it A-OK.

    I sort of thank my minimalist style. I don’t gather much of anything, including money, fame, or importance (never valued any of those). So I don’t have much to lose in stuff like this, not even employment since I’m unemployed. Accuse me of slacking off maybe.

  49. 50
    RonF says:

    Mythago:

    Despite what RonF would like to tell us, we have a huge problem with skin-color based racism.

    Care to back that up with a quote where I say there isn’t a problem with racism in America?

    Bernanke is a US citizen. If he flew to a European country and we asked them to send him back, they would with no complaints because he is not one of their nationals.

    I’m not sure I understood this. Are you saying that if an American citizen was accused of rape in France he’d get sent back to the U.S. if the Feds asked instead of being held for trial?

  50. 51
    Schala says:

    Because, of course, the court of public opinion is not only unanimous, but is busy throwing roses at the accuser’s feet.

    Make both unanimous EXACTLY to prevent partisanship. Prevent the accuser and the accused of being revealed prior to substantiated accusations. Don’t destroy someone on hearsay.

    Partisanship is probably the democracy-destroyer we’ve all been waiting for. It makes “being the government” in a high-school level popularity contest, financed by big corps (if not financed, you’re not even there).

    Here, following the Canadian federal election, we’ve had deputies that were never SEEN at all (by say, their county, or the province), be elected. People who can’t speak a word of French (only English) getting elected to a French-only county (in the middle of rural Quebec province), for example. She also didn’t have posts or anything to get people voting for her – they all voted for her party (Jack Layton’s NDP), and she got a 157,000$/year job out of it.

    This is what will kill democracy. She has no experience, no first-hand knowledge about politics, and certainly not French-speaking rural Quebecers issues. And will she really represent her county for the next 4ish years? Or just toe the party line until election time comes?

    She’s a politician. Her getting into press is not bad, since she’s only accused of not being up to par (while still being paid for being up to par, you can’t fire deputies). She can prove her competence in the next four years.

    Others who had no experience whatsoever in politics were also chosen, based solely on party affiliation. She got focused on because there was a mediatic silence of 3-4 days (on her side, due to Layton apparently), and knowledge she was in Vegas during election results.

  51. 52
    chingona says:

    RonF … She’s saying if a high-ranking U.S. official committed rape here and then fled to France, he’d be returned to the U.S. for trial because France wouldn’t care about him.

  52. 53
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    He could easily flee to a place where the extradition laws were weaker. Most obviously, he could flee to a friendly jurisdiction, where his host country could conclude (on its own) that he was entitled to diplomatic immunity and therefore not subject to extradition. As such, he is a relatively high flight risk.

  53. 54
    mythago says:

    Oh, Ron. I know you know that “huge” is an adjective, and that saying a problem is not huge is different than saying the problem doesn’t exist. I don’t have my copy of Capaldi handy so I’m not sure what page you took that little tactic from. I also know that you didn’t and won’t bother to back up your accusations in #30, or provide any evidence of which “people” falsely assumed racism or how they did so. I mean, it’s like this:

    RONF: Some people around here think there’s racism under every bush when it’s not there at all.
    ME: No, actually *you* think there’s a lot less racism than there really is.
    RONF: OMG WHAR IS UR EVIDENCE KTHX

    chingona @48: Rich people generally bond out quickly *if* they’re not flight risks. If Bernanke were arrested and found to be holding passports in three different names, a suitcase full of cash and a one-way ticket to a country that doesn’t extradite, he wouldn’t be bonded out quickly either. And at least where I live, even a person who can afford bond won’t be bonded out if they’re not in this country legally; they get put on an immigration hold.

  54. 55
    RonF says:

    Well, here’s how I see it.

    ME: Some people around here think there’s racism under every bush without actually looking to see if it’s really there first.
    OTHERS: The United States is a racist nation and every interaction between blacks and whites that is negative for the black person is due to racism. If you look and don’t see it you’re either naive, in denial or actively working to support racism.

  55. 56
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Sebastian, thanks for your comments. It’s interesting to know that color-blindness can work well emotionally for both whites and blacks (or at least for you, and I’d be surprised if you’re the only one) if it’s done thoroughly enough. Note that color-blindness has been tried in the US, and it wasn’t enough to clean up the overt nastiness Americans have shown you.

    You may be mistaken about the stats for blacks and rapes– now that DNA evidence can be examined (frequently against considerable resistance from the justice system), it turns out that there are a good many false convictions.

    This relentless emphasis on race is an effort to make things better, and partly a reaction to color-blindness not working very well to diminish racism, though I believe color-blindness helped. I don’t know whether the current approach is a good strategy (though it definitely suits some people), but it can certainly get claustrophobic. I don’t know what a better strategy would look like, though I nourish a wild hope that people will figure out how to be kind to each other. This seems like a straightforward idea, but seems to be complicated in practice.

  56. 57
    Sebastian H says:

    Getting between RonF and mythago is probably dangerous, but….

    It is becoming very clear that Strauss-Kahn has a history that very probably includes attempted rape of a black woman, attempted rape of a white woman (who was also the daughter of one of the high ranking women in his political party), perhaps various other women in his political party, and had a reputation such that white women in other countries had figured out that it was wise to not be alone in a room with him.

    So as far as victims go, if you are still seeing this through a racial lens, you probably are finding racism where it isn’t.

    As far as victimizers go, he is a sort-of white male for various definitions of the term. But the dimensions of his privilege appear to be money and political power in non racially coded ways. Seeing it through a racial lens is again almost certainly finding racism where it isn’t. You can if you want *force* a racial component into the story by suggesting that a black man with similar power and political dimensions in France wouldn’t have gotten away with it for so long (or simply wouldn’t have existed). But that is forcing a racial outlook on something that is almost entirely dominated by troubling non-racial power issues, and is precisely what the other Sebastian is complaining about.

    There are all sorts of interesting and troubling power dynamics that feminism can contribute to looking at. Why does France cultivate a culture of seduction that seems to allow for rape in a way that would make what is often described as a “rape culture” in the US blush? Why was a very credible rape attempt swept under the rug? Has he gotten away with coverups so many times that he felt almost a permission to rape? If so, how active was the complicity of other people who knew? Why did the parents of someone who was willing to go to the police earlier (a brave choice in itself) talk her out of it [and continue to work with him].

    None of these questions seem better analyzed by injecting a racial focus on the question.

    Racism can exist a lot more than RonF thinks. But if you’re looking at it here, he may still be right that you over-find for it.

  57. 58
    Mythago says:

    Sebastian, respectfully, the person beating the drum loudest about a “racial component” here is you.

    Jeff did not say anything about the maid’s race, or about colonialism and rape. He noted (correctly) that DSK’s perceived status as “white” is one more thing that, like being rich, puts him in that class of Important People that scum like BHL reflexively defend.

  58. 59
    Mythago says:

    And your other questions do raise very important issues that I hope you’ll discuss. But it wasn’t Jeff who suggested a “racial lens”.

  59. 60
    RonF says:

    Has he gotten away with coverups so many times that he felt almost a permission to rape?

    I’m guessing that he felt the permission to rape when he first started out on his career. He probably has always expected to get away with it.

    This is not a word that I often use, but there seems to be a lot of classism in Levy’s comments. He seems appalled that a mere chambermaid could bring down one of the most important men in France. It’s almost as though the fact that it is someone so lowly who has accused him (as opposed to someone of Levy’s own social status) makes the offense of the accusation, arrest and arraignment much worse. Of course, if the other women who have come out to speak against Kahn (KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!) are to be believed, women of his own social status were reluctant to accuse him because it would offend their friends or be destructive of political ends that they favored.

    Which I am still having trouble wrapping my head around. The arguments on here that I’ve heard regarding why women will not report rape – lack of evidence it was non-consensual, being subjected to “blame the victim” and fear of retribution – make sense to me. I can see here in the U.S. that people might be reluctant to accuse someone their circle of friends know, but I get the sense that here in the U.S. that would dissipate if it there was proof that the accusation was true. I’m getting the impression that in France – or at least in the particular circles these people travel in – the truth of such an accusation would not matter as much.

    And “it would bring harm to the Party” is just amazing to me. For example, from what I’m reading Newt Gingrich’s biggest problem among conservatives is his private life, not his politics. I can’t speak for the left. Although I do recall that people on the right were kind of surprised at how firmly feminist groups seemed to embrace Bill Clinton despite his personal foibles. My reaction when that all came out was not so much that he’d gotten a BJ in the Oval Office. I mean, like he’s the first President who ever did that. No, it was that he’d abused the power relationship between himself and Monica Lewinski.

  60. 61
    lauren says:

    “Don’t attack someone on our team!” is not a uniquely french way of silencing victims. Ever looked at the way victims are treated when they come forward against, for example, sports team members at their universities? Or professional athletes? A lot of the attacks are focused on or at least contain a lot of “how dare she threaten the success of our team over this!”

    Or, for a more “political team”, remember how outraged so many people were that someone dared to accuse Julian Assange? “He’s the hero of the movement. Attacking him threatens our success!!!”

    This is not at all something that US citizens are above. People in France are not uniquely more evil (or universally more sexually open, for that matter).

  61. 62
    Sebastian H says:

    Just want to be clear, I’ve only commented one other time on this thread (#57).

    I’m the Sebastian who regularly commented around here two or three years ago, but not very much recently.

  62. 63
    Hershele Ostropoler says:

    chingona, 42:

    I have a very hard time picturing a prominent American politician spending the night in Rikers, even if every other fact of the case were the same.

    If, say, Ruben Diaz were arrested for being a dipshit or whatever, he might well be released on his own recognizance: his base is in the Bronx, he lives there, he frankly has more to lose than gain by going away, even to Bayamon, rather than staying where he’s lived since he was 12. DSK’s base is in France, he lives there — extradition laws aside, he has more to gain than lose by going back there, even if it means he can never set foot on U.S. soil again.

    And again, he might not be. Carl Kruger — not nationally prominent, but certainly locally — doesn’t seem to have been released.

    EDIT: Fifteen minutes after I posted this my girlfriend put on CNN, which was reporting DSK has been released on bail. I trust this will satisfy those who deem that a right and not a privilege.

  63. 64
    chingona says:

    Let me say it a third time. DSK was a flight risk. He was trying to fly away when he was arrested. He was a flight risk. He was a flight risk. He was a flight risk.

    But sure. You all are absolutely right. Prominent people don’t get any deference in our system ever. We have a completely egalitarian justice system. You’ve convinced me.

  64. 65
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    chingona, do you think DSK was treated too well, or the average person accused in NYC is treated too badly?

  65. 66
    mythago says:

    Prominent people don’t get any deference in our system ever. We have a completely egalitarian justice system.

    Yes, chingona, that’s *exactly* what everybody else was saying. Christ.

  66. 67
    tvexpert says:

    I would just like to point out that Kobe Bryant was Released on $25,000 BAIL.
    Therefore rendering all implication that race has anything to do with this, absolute nonsense.
    When he is pronounced innocent, then you can complain about his whiteness getting him a free pass.

    Or, for a more “political team”, remember how outraged so many people were that someone dared to accuse Julian Assange? “He’s the hero of the movement. Attacking him threatens our success!!!”

    I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but many people, including me found it absolutely peculiar that the accusations came just after the biggest whistle blower scandal of the United States military and State Department in the latest years.

    I think it would be great if people could defend themselves from allegations of rape without getting extradited and tried for Espionage.

  67. 68
    RonF says:

    Here’s a citation referencing a French site:

    According to a poll, 57% of the French public and 70% of French Socialists believe that Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) was the victim of a set-up (I couldn’t find a gender split on the numbers). The French have an admirably long history of political intrigue. Yet, it seems a bit rich for Socialists to overwhelmingly take the side of the wealthy powerful politician with a history of sexual abuse allegations against what appear to be quite credible allegations of a poor Guinean refugee. Our new favorite magazine has some theories as to why so many Frenchmen think DSK was framed.

    There’s other links in that paragraph over at the source, I just didn’t put them in.

  68. 69
    Cut the Crap says:

    I am disguisted at Bernard-Henri Levy’s defense but not surprised. His defense of the rape by DSK is as pathetic as that of Polanski. His defense, like that of Ben Stein, is based on the Jewish tribe sticking together no matter the crime. If the woman had been a poor Orthodox Jewish maid and the attacker a powerful Arab or Muslim man, these guys would have been calling him a ‘Nazi’ and demanding the death penalty.

    The fact that so many French people buy the conspiracy theory (and believe a powerful Jewish male with a history of sexual abuse over a poor and devout African Muslim) tells me that DSK is not the only one who is sick. In fact, France is more racist and pathetic than I ever imagined!

  69. 70
    lauren says:

    Seriously? The jewish conspiracy? And you think they are the racists?

    I am disgusted by Levi. Somehow, I don’t need to resort to anti-semitism to express this.