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.”
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.