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The Lessons of the DSK Affair as Seen by Bernard Henri Levy

The latest revelations about the Strauss-Kahn affair have not only turned all of France on edge, but have raised many lessons for all of us.

First, let us look at the feminists. Katha Pollitt, the much noted columnist for The Nation, led the pack with the judgment of his complete guilt. Writing at the end of May, when his arrest took place, she wrote an open letter to the French people, announcing why she no longer appreciated the country she once loved. Pollitt wrote that “the DSK affair has given the small and internally conflicted French feminist movement new visibility and a great organizing issue.” She continued:

But, France, I don't like you anymore. Because what is the point of having all those smart, cultivated, social-democratically inclined secular people if it turns out they are such self-satisfied creeps? You should listen to yourself sometime: smug, paunchy, powerful middle-aged men parading across the media going on about how Dominique Strauss-Kahn was just engaging in some typically Gallic flirtation in that Sofitel suite in Manhattan. "It was just a quickie with the maid," said the famous journalist Jean-Francois Kahn, using an antiquated idiom (troussage de domestique) that suggests trussing up a chicken. Former culture minister Jack Lang was outraged that DSK was not immediately released on bail since after all, "no man died." (He probably didn't mean to, but he did say "no man" — Il n'y a pas mort d'homme — not "no one"). And let's not forget Bernard-Henri Levy, whose pretentious drivel has to be the worst thing you've exported to us since pizza-flavored La Vache Qui Rit. Levy can't get over the way the New York justice system is treating his friend: "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." Treating a master of the universe the same as anyone else — even the African immigrant who cleaned his hotel room, quoi — isn't that what justice is? Didn't they teach you that in high school philosophy, M. Levy?

Don’t get me wrong. I have no love for the often pretentious BHL -- as Levy calls himself -- who wants to be appreciated as much for his open shirt and hairy chest as for his claim to intellectual greatness. But, unfortunately for her, BHL had the last laugh.

Levy wrote a column on Saturday for The Daily Beast. He was trounced when he first defended his friend DSK; all those sexist men standing together in asserting their right to oppress poor single mothers from foreign lands, especially one said to be an illegal immigrant working in a fancy hotel frequented by the ruling class. Today, as the Manhattan DA is about to throw out the indictment altogether, Levy writes: “If it’s truly to be over, Dominique Strauss-Kahn must be granted not only his freedom, but — even more importantly — restoration of his honor.”

Of course, Levy turns out to merely be lucky. He too did not know all the facts when he first defended his friend’s honor; he ignored all the testimony of other women in France who testified to DSK’s record of tawdry womanizing. But now he rubs it in, writing that “[t]he ‘shame on you’s’ that greeted Dominique Strauss-Kahn as he arrived for the hearing on June 6th, shouted by battalions of hotel chambermaids who knew nothing of the actual case and whose protest had been orchestrated and scripted, were obscene. And so, too, though in another manner, was the famous ‘perp walk’ which, I’m aware, is the lot of all those charged with a crime, but which, given the identity of the accused in question, could only degenerate into globally observed torture — high punishment for a crime, which no one, at that point, knew whether or not he had committed.”

Yes, many people were happy to see DSK dragged down to the gutter, including many of those who write for this site, since we were happy to see the rich self-proclaimed French socialist who lived in $5000 a night hotel rooms and a $50,000 a month Tribeca apartment so ridiculed. Of course, BHL goes too far when he writes of how his friend’s “silent dignity couldn’t be touched.” Yet he has a point when he argues that to many in our country, he had become “the symbol of arrogant France.” And yes, to the American Left -- ignoring that DSK was a leader of the Socialist Party -- he was viewed as “the emblem of the world of the privileged, odiously sure of their own impunity. He was the mirror of this world of white global bankers that constitutes Wall Street.”

And Levy is correct when he writes that the supposed victim “was the allegory of all women who are not only battered and humiliated but poor and immigrant -- their words, silenced too long, finally expressed through hers.”

As we now know from the prosecution’s findings, the woman in question is more than likely to turn out to be a criminal involved with a ring exploiting other immigrants, perhaps a drug smuggler as well and a prostitute to boot. It is clear that since forensic evidence shows a sexual encounter did take place between the maid and DSK, the maid obviously wanted to cry rape in order to extort money from her culprit, whom she knew was very, very wealthy.

Indeed, the New York Times reported that “among the discoveries, one of the [D.A.’s] officials said, are issues involving the asylum application of the 32-year-old housekeeper, who is Guinean, and possible links to people involved in criminal activities, including drug dealing and money laundering.” Moreover, another Times story added that “ the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded. That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling about $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania.”