Band of Insiders

Eliot Weinberger · BHL on DSK

In 2009, Bernard-Henri Lévy circulated a petition complaining that his good friend, confessed and convicted child-rapist Roman Polanski, though known as an 'ingenious filmmaker', had been apprehended 'like a common terrorist'. Scores of writers and movie people in his circle signed.

Now, predictably, Lévy is back, defending his good friend, accused rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in The Daily Beast – a web magazine that finally lives up to its name.

Once again, Lévy claims that the rules of law do not apply to those with whom he dines:

I hold it against the American judge who... pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.

Even more incredibly, he writes:

I am troubled by a system of justice modestly termed 'accusatory', meaning that anyone can come along and accuse another fellow of any crime.

One wonders what system of justice Lévy would propose. Meanwhile, the facts are that the Sofitel chambermaid – a West African young widow, a devout Muslim who wears a head scarf – went screaming down the corridor that some naked guy in the $3000-a-night suite had assaulted her and forced her to perform oral sex. She alerted hotel security, who called the cops. Strauss-Kahn had left to have a tranquil lunch with his daughter, which, if the rest is true, suggests psychopathic behaviour. The police finally caught up with him on his Air France flight.

Strauss-Kahn has selected as his lawyer the man who defended Michael Jackson on paedophilia charges – he is apparently unperturbed at the prospect of guilt by celebrity-creep-lawyer association. The lawyer is unsurprisingly claiming 'consensual' sex – meaning either that young African women are immediately smitten by elderly fat Frenchmen who suddenly appear in the nude, or a religious single mother with precarious immigration status is willing to jeopardise a job she’s held for three years by engaging in prostitution.

More depressingly, in the familiar 'blame the victim' strategy, the lawyer has hired private investigators to look into the poor woman’s past. No doubt they’ll find something – we all have something – that can be twisted against her. American newspapers do not publish the names of alleged rape victims, but the French papers do, and her apartment is under siege by reporters and TV cameras. One other woman who says she was assaulted by Strauss-Kahn has come forward – according to Lévy, she 'pretends to have been a victim'. There are French reports of at least 14 more. Perhaps it’s time for Davos to be relocated to Devil’s Island.


  • 19 May 2011 at 8:05pm
    Phil Edwards says:
    That repeated "pretend" is surely a mistranslation of prétendre, to claim or purport. Not that BHL isn't a piece of work, mind you.

    • 19 May 2011 at 11:21pm
      pinhut says: @ Phil Edwards

      Also, while I get the reference in the last sentence, I can't really work out what it is supposed to mean. Because DKS is French, it makes a comparison with the Dreyfus case natural? Or there really is some deeper similarity? A conspiracy? Perhaps the more natural parallel is the Assange case, catching out an opponent via a purported sex crime on foreign soil. Accusations of sexual misconduct are very useful for placing liberal voices on 'the wrong side' of the ensuing debate, and already, female columnists are fanning out across the broadsheets to use inductive reasoning to declare that the behaviour this week of DSK, Kenneth Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger are clear indications that all men are philandering misogynist rapists.

      The last paragraph is exemplary of the genre.

    • 20 May 2011 at 11:44am
      Yes, but it's fun to speculate, that's the chief benefit of scandals. Your sudden faith in American justice, that's just a hat you're wearing because it suits you (and it does look fetching). What's it to us, really, one way or the other? And what are you sneering at commenters on the Internet for, as if you'd never ventured into the cesspit?

      What's annoying about the post above isn't even that he's already made up his mind, but that he works it in such a way as to suggest you're even thicker than he is. That's why newspapers are offensive, isn't it? Because people are trying to pull one over on you. That's why spin doctors are annoying, or restaurants that fiddle the bill, anything along those lines. It's insulting, even more so since it shouldn't be any skin off your nose if you were really confident of your place in the world. So unfair....

    • 20 May 2011 at 1:03pm
      cigar says: @ outofdate
      This is not the first time DSK has been accused of predatory sexual behaviour:

      But even though I have have always thought the guy is just one more rapacious goon protecting the interests of transnational corporations and big banks, I have to admit you are right, one can never be completely sure this isn't an attempt by one group or another to get him out of the way. The Nagy affair described in the Toryograph article above could have been blown into a scandal just as serious as the current one by the press, forcing him to resign. Why, unlike the neo-con Wolfowitz at the WB, has DSK never faced some kind of disciplinary inquiry from the IMF board?
      One may argue that DSK, unlike Wolfowtiz, didn't try to get his lover a better post, but his reckless behavior doesn't reflect well on his organization, specially considering how important and so visible it is to the world media.

      There's also the case of Willy Brandt, who put forward, in the 70's a relatively more humane alternative to what would become the Washington consensus. He was soon caught in a spying scandal that brought to the fore his philandering ways.

    • 20 May 2011 at 2:03pm
      See? It's fun to speculate.

    • 20 May 2011 at 2:51pm
      pinhut says: @ outofdate
      I don't see that those 'fanning out' to defend him are any better, I just don't like listening to inductive arguments.

    • 21 May 2011 at 3:07pm
      outofdate says: @ outofdate
      The example I gave before the censor struck was: 'Meanwhile, the facts are that the Sofitel chambermaid – a West African young widow, a devout Muslim who wears a head scarf...'

      Which may have its place in the Independent but not in what used to be called company, and strikes me as significantly more offensive in its intellectual dishonesty than the word 'arse'.

      On the other hand, thanks for deleting the other thing, I got carried away.

    • 21 May 2011 at 10:19pm
      He's not white, he's French.

  • 20 May 2011 at 12:11am
    outofdate says:
    Meanwhile, a Guardian writes: 'Strauss-Kahn attended the hearing wearing a grey suit and light grey shirt.' Make of that what you will...

    • 20 May 2011 at 12:35am
      pinhut says: @ outofdate
      Agreed. The head scarf may just be a slick prosecutor's touch.

      Also, the Guardian's comment regarding SKs apparel is directly at odds with its photograph. And that's a fact.

    • 20 May 2011 at 4:22am
      outofdate says: @ pinhut
      All cats are grey at night. Anyway, here she is.

  • 21 May 2011 at 11:21am
    Geoff Roberts says:
    I enjoyed reading this thread, with some of the contributors trying to be very sophisticated about the prudery of the Americans and the machismo of the Frenchman (huh - wouldn't have been half as much fun if he'd been a Dane, would it?)
    I watched some of the proceedings on BBC World News - I didn't know that his lawyer had gone into bat for Michael Jackson, but I did get the impression he was being paid $100 a word. I'd like to see the 'Three strikes' rule from California applied here.

  • 23 May 2011 at 11:19am
    Userdafi says:
    nonsense. total and utter nonsense.

    On the affaire itself:

    1) There's obviously a huge culture clash here.
    BHL is far too moderate for my taste on the ‘accusatory’ system.
    The 'accusatorial' system horrifies me.

    Désolé mais tout, ça n'a strictement rien à voir avec l'idée que nous nous faisons de la justice dans les pays latins d'Europe.

    The practice of parading a handcuffed suspect before the media (à la Enzo Tortora) is barbaric.

    2) What really interests me is to see how all this will impact the next presidential election.
    Strauss-Kahn dropping out of the race has exploded the whole campaign. The left has lost one of its leading candidates just a few weeks from the Socialist primary. If one effect of the Strauss-Kahn affair is to enhance Marine Le Pen's prospects at the expense of other candidates, it will be a disaster for the PS and a black day for democracy in France.

    • 23 May 2011 at 3:17pm
      Geoff Roberts says: @ Userdafi
      So Sarkosy is a pillar of freedom is he? I'd say that his election was a black day for democracy in France. Strauss-Kahn is a socialist? A left-winger? Is there nobody in the PS who can step up to run as president and beat Le Pen in the second round? It's almost as awful as Italy.

    • 25 May 2011 at 6:26pm
      @Thomas Jones:
      I've just realized your reply wasn't addressed to me but rather to Geoff Roberts.
      Please ignore my remarks to you in my comment di ieri....Mi scuso per l'errore.

      ps: I notice you never replied to my question on the 'PD'.
      I wasn't trying to squabble with you. I really wouldn't define that party as mainstream.
      Most Italy-watchers are still far too soft on the so-called 'center-left', I'm afraid.

      The truth is that Italians are caught between a rock and a hard place.

      I agree with Asor Rosa and Eco:

    • 26 May 2011 at 6:40pm
      I've never said that mainstream means 'good' or 'left-wing'. What i meant is that i don't think that that sorry lot represents in any possible way 'the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are shared by most people and regarded as normal or conventional'. At any rate, that's not how I would define that party. There are far better ways to define it, I think. Miguel Mora, arguably the best foreign correspondent in Rome, often calls them the 'llamada izquierda' (btw. this is how he once described 'baffino': 'verdadero cáncer vaticaliano y especular: aniquila la disidencia interna y la renovación como un servicio secreto antes de que crezca, besa sin rubor las pantuflas de la curia, odia el poder de la magistratura libre y siega la hierba bajo sus pies: como B. al otro lado'.. :)

      After all, you wouldn't define Berlusconi simply as 'mainstream', would you?
      Anyway, thank you for your 'spiegazione'....I'm off to lovely Kraków tomorrow so lets close this exchange here and move on. Thanks for answering my (silly) question. I appreciate it :)


      Mi scuso per il mio pessimo inglese.

  • 23 May 2011 at 9:37pm
    bilejones says:
    Here's the piece that really sums up what this is all about

    Not everybody is somebody, the rules apply to the peasants not the elite.

  • 24 May 2011 at 9:29am
    Userdafi says:
    Excellent exchange between BHL and Emmanuel Todd on the public lynching of DSK:

    NB: Emmanuel Todd not only agrees with BHL but goes as far as asking:
    "Les américains sont-ils des porcs ?"

    (I told you guys: We have a huge culture clash going on here).

    @ Thomas Jones: Mine wasn't a question. It was just a 'riflessione'. I was merely reflecting on the possible outcomes of this crisis.

    @Geoff Roberts: SarkoZy. Nicolas SarkoZy. Or as my beloved P. Rambaud calls him in his wonderful books: His Majesty Nicolas Ier - Sa Majesté Nicolas 1er..... Notre Fulminant Monarque, Notre Compatissante Majesté, Notre étourdissant Despote, Notre Truculent Tyranneau, Nicolas le Névrosé etc.... :)

    as for your question:
    'Is there nobody in the PS who can step up to run as president and beat Le Pen in the second round?'

    Martine Aubry, perhaps. Anyhow, I really don't see how the left could win in 2012. France has moved too far to the right for that to happen.

    My money is still on Sarkozy.

    @bilejones: well done! You have summed up perfectly the 'discours' of the FN and its friends 'les nouveaux réacs' in France:
    Anti-DSK, Anti-élites, Anti-BHL, Anti-war in Lybia....This is exactly the 'discours' of Marine Le Pen:

    This was also the kind of rhetoric used by that b.....d of Kaczyński in 'my' poor Poland.

    The Polish word "Uklad" simply means "agreement" or "system," but Kaczynskis has turned it into a politically charged catchphrase.
    As he sees it, Uklad stands for the dark powers that are responsible for Poland's problems, a sort of backroom alliance of politicians, members of the business world and the media. At first it was used to describe groups of leftist insiders and post-communist cadres but later the term was modified and its meaning broaden to include businesspeople and the wealthy in general, who it claims have gained advantages fraudulently in the privatizations of the 1990s.
    The 'Uklad' is everywhere claims Kaczyński adding that:
    ' The same law must apply to both "the weak" and the "well-situated,"

    Waldemar Kuczyński, a left-wing intellectual and a former leader of the Intellectual opposition to the PRL responded to all this paranoia by naming his blog: ' Jestem z Układu' ( I'm one of the Układ) and adding this wonderful sentence to his bio:

    "Jestem lumpen-liberałem aspirującym do łże-elit, tkwiącym w układzie i uprawiającym quasi-terror. Mój dziadek zakładał KPP i służył w Wehrmachcie, a prababcia była funkcjonariuszką carskiej Ochrany\".

    Anch' io. Ja też. Me too. Moi aussi. Yo también.

  • 28 May 2011 at 11:58am
    peapod says:
    "I hold it against the American judge who… pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other."... "pretends to be a victim"...

    Did BHL write the Daily Beast article in English (in which case he needs a better editor) or was his French translated (in which case he needs a better translator)? It's not clear from this post which is the case.

    It's a serious mistranslation, in any case.

  • 4 June 2011 at 12:23pm
    thornton says:
    As translated from Chinglish: This divertimento at least has the merit of taking our attention away from chic dissident Ai WeiWei and forces us to re-evaluate all performance art in general.

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