The Lessons of the DSK Affair as Seen by Bernard Henri Levy
The way in which so many on the American Left jumped to take her word reminds me of three previous examples of leftist gullibility. The first is that of the famous Duke University case in 2006, when most of its faculty and the Duke administration took the word of an African-American stripper who claimed she was raped by members of the university’s lacrosse team, with a resulting trial and the expulsion of the students, who suffered greatly until their innocence was proved.
The second example is that of Rigoberta Menchu, who became the darling of the international and American Left, although anthropologist David Stoll proved that the story she told the world was largely fabricated.
Then there were the rape allegations in 1987 by 15 -ear-old Tawana Brawley, an African-American woman who claimed she had been raped by a gang of whites, her clothes torn off, and left in a garbage bag after they smeared her body with feces. Her defense was led by the “civil rights” leader Al Sharpton, who created a huge body of supporters who backed her fraudulent charges.
The Left always jumps to defend the supposed oppressed, whom they continue to defend even after the truth comes out. Brawley and her family still claim she told the truth; the Duke faculty who signed petitions against the accused students never apologized after the truth was revealed, and continue to argue that the racism of America is rampant, and hence they have no need to make amends. And Menchu’s supporters argue that she was only speaking symbolically on behalf of the oppressed Guatemalan Indians, and hence even though she may have exaggerated her own story and told untruths, the larger truth of her story does not have to be changed.
So Levy has another valid point when he writes that for many, DSK was guilty because of the class from which he comes. He quotes the amazing letter NYT editor Bill Keller wrote to him, in which Keller wrote that he was puzzled that most of the French and the majority of French Socialists defended Strauss-Kahn, whereas “one might expect” them to be “ideologically empathetic to an African hotel maid.” Keller’s words capture precisely the mindset of the American Left -- for whom a supposedly poor immigrant African maid had to be telling the truth, since she was accusing the chief of the International Monetary Fund and one of the most well-known and wealthy individuals in the world.
I don’t know why BHL is so surprised that the Left is “bringing up political categories in a debate in which they are not relevant,” and is “introducing ideological considerations in an area with which they have nothing to do.” That is, after all, what the Left does best. Ideology trumps facts -- the poor and the oppressed have to be right, and their accusers always wrong. As Levy writes:
It’s no longer, as it once was, “bastard poor, the rich are always right,” but rather, “rich bastards, it’s the poor and the injured who are always, and inevitably, right.”
It is hard for Levy to write this, because in his own words, he views himself as a lifelong combatant on behalf of those “who have no voice.” But he is right to point out that “giving voice to the lowly is one thing” and considering their voice “as Gospel is quite another.” So Levy asks, knowing the answer in advance, how “so many great consciences and…so many feminists could take it as a given that the world of this woman…was necessarily infallible.” As with the Duke case, as Levy puts it, “the word of the System’s victims…has given way to one in which it is…attributed all prestige.”
So the victim, he argues, is the principle of the presumption of innocence. Many of us immediately assumed that Dominque Strauss-Kahn was guilty; he had to be since he is rich, he headed the IMF, and he is a French Socialist. For many of us, that was enough. Facts be damned. We reached judgement before a trial, and before all the facts were out. Now Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan DA, despite a blow to his own future political plans, is moving quickly to undo the injustice perpetrated by his office on DSK.
Levy writes that the most egregious media assault came not from the New York City tabloids (those were bad enough), but from Time magazine, which had what Levy calls “its astounding cover illustrating the ‘lies’ and ‘arrogances’ of the ‘powerful’ with a photo of a pig.”
At PJM, Clarice Feldman provides good evidence of one of BHL’s main points -- how the Left, in this case the Hotel Workers Union, rallied to the maid’s defense, using her story as proof of how hotel owners exploited the workforce on a regular basis. To them the accusations were on target, and only provided more proof of how the owners would allow sexual exploitation to take place were it not for the strong union that allowed them to speak up boldly and defend their rights against the wealthy.
So let us take pause and be grateful that DA Vance, Jr. has shown the courage to do what is right and save New York from continuing with an assault against the rule of law. As for DSK’s future, that is now up to the French people, who will decide if he can resume his political career unscathed.