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Rather Goes Beyond “Blaming the Victim”

[ 116 ] May 16, 2011 |

Gilles Savary’s* entry is a strong early candidate for the worst possible commentary on the DSK case, via Gopnik:

To tell the truth, everybody knows that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a libertine; what distinguishes him from plenty of others is his propensity not to hide it. In Puritan American, impregnated with rigorous Protestantism, they tolerate infinitely better the sins of money than the pleasures of the flesh. It would be easy to trap a personality so unresistant to feminine attractions as D.S.K.

Via Drezner.

And on cue, Bernard Henri Levy steps to Strauss-Kahn’s defense.  Shorter BHL: I know DSK, and he’s totally a nice guy, so obviously this is a witch hunt.  Also, people who step forward with accusations of rape are money grubbing whores.

*Edited for clarity, given the number of people who have misunderstood the title.

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Comments (116)

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  1. Scott Lemieux says:

    Jesus Christ — it is Polanski all over again.

  2. fluffytuna says:

    Yeah, but the link is certainly no defense of the man. Quite the contrary. The quote you used was preceded by “Jacques Savary, a deputy for the Socialist party in the European parliament, wrote on his blog”

    The New Yorker author clearly doesn’t buy it. As he said, rape is rape.

    And IMO, no matter what the outcome DSK is a world class jackass.

    • elm says:

      I don’t think Rob is blaming Gopnik (the New Yorker author): he said the reaction is “via Gopnik” and also “via Drezner.”

      That said, this may be one of those cases where more context is needed (and I don’t speak French to get that context myself.) If this is one paragraph of a post that speculates that entrapment was possible, but that if it happened the way the police are reporting it, then it was a reprehensible crime, there really isn’t much of a problem with the comment beyond some conspiracy-theory element that I don’t personally accept.

  3. Norman Thomas says:

    Who uses that kind of language, anyway?

  4. strannix says:

    From Rob’s headline, I actually thought at first that Dan Rather said this. Not kidding.

  5. rea says:

    In all fairness, Gopnik goes on to say:

    “But there is a difference, obviously immense, between flirtation, seduction, or sex, and rape, and it would be fair to say that while no one in Paris would have been shocked to find him sleeping with a chambermaid, most, if not all, would be stunned if he has really assaulted and attempted to rape one. The notion that France takes these things more lightly is false; adultery has different meanings, and fidelity different rules, but rape is rape.”

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the cultural politics of rape in early 21st-century France, but there seems to be some tension between Gopnik’s claim that the French (and, he suggests, everyone else) agree about rape and the above-quoted blog post from Dan Rather Jacques Savary.

    • Manju says:

      it would be fair to say that while no one in Paris would have been shocked to find him sleeping with a chambermaid, most, if not all, would be stunned if he has really assaulted and attempted to rape one

      SHocked! Shocked, I tell you!!

      Via wiki:

      In 2007, Tristane Banon, a French journalist and writer, accused Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her in 2002, but she did not press charges.

  6. margarita says:

    … adultery has different meanings, and fidelity different rules, but rape is rape.

    Rape is rape, but is it “rape” rape or rape rape? Do the French even have a word for rape that is not rape rape rape?

  7. Manju says:

    In Puritan American, impregnated with rigorous Protestantism, they tolerate infinitely better the sins of money than the pleasures of the flesh.

    If this guy isn’t careful, he’s going to single-handedly ressurrect the American RightWing, last seen weeping over the death of OBL…with the notable exception of their last President, who was oddly eating souffle when he heard the news.

    Nontheless, one things for sure…mocking Freedom Fries is not as fun as it used to be.

  8. richard says:

    Interestingly, it seems that Strauss-Kahn will not be claiming that any sexual contact was consensual but that nothing happened – that he had checked out of the hotel and was having lunch with his daughter when the alleged sexual assault took place. That should be easy to prove or disprove – electronic evidence of checkout, credit charges at a restaurant, whether he was already booked to fly on the flight to Paris that evening, etc.

    • ema says:

      Hmm, I thought he would claim that he ordered a call girl dressed as a hotel maid and it was all just a big misunderstanding.

      • Robert Halford says:

        It seems that he can’t prove that he wasn’t there. From Le Monde:

        Plusieurs points restent à éclaircir : selon une source anonyme au sein des autorités françaises, citée par The Daily Beast, le patron du FMI aurait notamment déjeuné, le jour de l’agression, avec sa fille Camille, étudiante à l’université de Columbia. Cela lui fournirait un alibi à opposer aux enquêteurs qui indiquaient, dans un premier temps, que les faits s’étaient produits à 13 heures.

        Par ailleurs, les avocats de Dominique Strauss-Kahn, cités par BFM TV, font valoir que son départ de l’hôtel a été enregistré à 12h28. Mais entre temps, les enquêteurs auraient révisé la chronologie des événements, estimant que les faits se sont plutôt produits autour de midi, et non à 13 heures. Sur ce point, Le Monde peut confirmer que la jeune femme a alerté ses supérieurs des faits concernant M. Strauss Kahn, samedi, vers 12 h 30.

  9. ema says:

    I think this is the relevant passage. Can someone translate it, please?

    Du coup, il y est aisé d’y piéger une personnalité aussi peu résistante aux attraits de la gent féminine que Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Car, il serait tout de même hallucinant que ce dernier, instruit d’un premier incident mutuellement consenti pourtant au FMI, exposé par ses fonctions et sa présidentialisation française, se soit rué sur une femme de chambre.

    (Combo me and Google) So, it’s easy to entrap a personality with as little resistance to the fairer sex as DSK. Because, although the latter would be incredible, instruit d’un premier incident mutuellement consenti pourtant au FMI [?informed by a mutually consenting incident as per the IMF], exposed by his job and presidential aspirations, would force himself on a maid.

    • Uncle Kvetch says:

      “Because it would be incredible that the latter [i.e., DSK], having already been reprimanded over a consensual incident within the IMF, exposed by his duties and his presidential aspirations…”

      The Chewbacca defense. It just doesn’t make sense that DSK would do such a thing — therefore, he didn’t.

    • Brett Turner says:

      … because it would be completely incredible that the latter [DSK], informed of [warned by?] the first incident of mutual consent at some point in time by the IMF, exposed [to public view] by his job and his presidential aspirations, would force himself on a chambermaid.

      Two years of college French long ago, plus Google.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        I dunno, BHL has a point here. Politicians always act with their long-term political self-interest in mind, and given that political scandals are without precedent, it’s hard to argue with his logic.

  10. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    In a perpetually crowded field, BHL is probably the reigning World’s Most Useless Major Public Intellectual.

    • Warren Terra says:

      1) Where does that leave Ignatieff? Although, I suppose he is useful to Stephen Harper …

      2) Is the title of “Most Useless” self-defeating, given that their suitability as a target of derision automatically provides them with a utility that then disqualifies them for the title they possessed in the first place?

    • Malaclypse says:

      In a perpetually crowded field, BHL is probably the reigning World’s Most Useless Major Public Intellectual.

      Bill Kristol. Charles Krauthammer.

      • Colette says:

        I’d say with his disingenuous defense first of Polanski and now of DSK, he’s moved well out of the “useless” category and into “harmful.”

        • Holden Pattern says:

          Until he’s got a war to his name, he’s not even in contention.

          • Warren Terra says:

            Well, keep in mind, at least so far, these folks don’t each get a war of their own; they’ve got to share. Thus, Ignatieff and Friedman and Kristol and Krauthammer all can claim a piece of the Iraq adventure – and BHL has Libya, at the very least, so he would make at least your minimum criteria. I don’t know where BHL stood on Iraq, let alone a number of other interventions (Rwanda, where the French did intervene, albeit on the wrong side; Kosovo; Afghanistan; etcetera).

            On the other hand, the even more disastrous Public Intellectual route is cheering for wars that didn’t happen – McCain and his adviser Scheunemann promoting war with Russia over Georgia, or the various neocons advocating wars with Syria, Iran, North Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, and probably the International House Of Pancakes.

            • Malaclypse says:

              In all fairness, we would totally romp at the IHoP. Ever since they took over Applebee’s, well, I’m sure we have some reason. Plus, the CEO is a female, which will totally reinvigorate the “New Hitler” paradigm.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          Did BHL change any minds over Polanski? Will he change any minds over DSK?

          I said “useless” for a reason. He’s not the worst or most harmful. Krauthammer, Kristol, and company actually started a war or two. That’s evil and harmful, but its at least effective.

          Uselessness in my book combines utter absence of intellectual worth with a lack of any real world impact.

          BHL’s competition in the uselessness game, in my book, is more Paglia (or Paglia c. 1990) than Kristol or Krauthammer.

          • Malaclypse says:

            I said “useless” for a reason. He’s not the worst or most harmful. Krauthammer, Kristol, and company actually started a war or two. That’s evil and harmful, but its at least effective.

            Fair enough. I was allowing for negative utility in my comment.

          • hv says:

            I believe you are overlooking how popular Paglia made Madonna.

            • rea says:

              I’ll stand up for both my culture as a gay man and my contemporary at U of Michigan, and say that poor, hardworking Madonna has never done anything to deserve the likes of Camille Paglia (not even that awful movie with Sean Penn).

  11. Warren Terra says:

    I followed your link to the BHL piece, and asked Google to translate it for me. Now, I don’t stay in hotels often, nor especially fancy hotels (certainly not within an order of magnitude of $3000/night), nor do I get to New York often. Still, the folllowing translated passage strikes me as purest nonsense:

    I do not know – but this, however, it would be good if we can know immediately – how a woman could enter the room alone, contrary to custom, which in most major hotels in New York , provide “Household brigades” composed of two persons in one room of the most watched of the planet.

    Is this in keeping with anyone‘s experience? I frequently see housekeeping people on their own, to the extent that I don’t think I’ve often seen two working the same floor.

    I can’t make hear or tail of the next translated passage, but it reads like it’s completely irrelevant:

    And I am not going into low psychological considerations – as they say low police – who, claiming to enter the person’s head and watching, for example, that the number of the famous room (2806) matched the date (28.06) of the initiation of primary socialist he is the undisputed favorite to claim a measure failed, a slip suicidal, blah, blah.

    Of course, the priceless bit is this:

    I want this morning to the American judge who, upon delivering to the crowd of hunters pictures waiting outside the police station in Harlem, had pretended to think it was like any other litigant.

    Even granting Mr. BHL the benefit of the doubt – i.e. that the use of the word “litigant” rather than the more accurate and less chummy word “defendant” is Google’s fault, and not BHL’s – this is still extremely revealing. How dare the judge not protect this world-famous accused rapist from the attention of the media?

    • Hogan says:

      And it turns out 100 Center Street is in Harlem. Did I miss an earthquake?

    • richard says:

      Is this in keeping with anyone‘s experience? I frequently see housekeeping people on their own, to the extent that I don’t think I’ve often seen two working the same floor.

      I stay in hotels fairly frequently and in NYC hotels about twice a year (although not the $3000 a night variety). I’m not aware of housekeeping brigades or any prohibitions against a single housekeeper entering a room. Since he was renting a suite, its probably the case that there would be a crew to clean the room but I certainly don’t think it unusual that a single housekeeper entered the suite.

      But as I posted above, it seems that his defense is going to be that he had checked out of the hotel and was having lunch with his daughter when the alleged assault took place. If that is his defense, in this age of electronic communications (check out info, credit card charges, cell phone calls), its going to be pretty easy to prove or disprove this claim

      • Kal says:

        To be overly charitable, I bet BHL has a lot more experience than you (or me) with $3000 per night hotels. But, I nevertheless feel pretty confident in declaring his defense to be reprehensible bullshit.

        • richard says:

          I’m sure BHL has more experience with $3000 per night hotels but I doubt that this experience has translated into knowledge of the procedures for cleaning rooms

    • jaciem says:

      That last bit probably has more to do with the French law (passed in the early aughts, IIRC) that says you may not publish pictures of someone who has not been convicted in handcuffs. (Presumption of innocence and all that.)

      The gendarmes don’t get to cement guilt in the public’s mind with a perp walk the way we do over here.

  12. Larkspur says:

    “…how a woman could enter the room alone, contrary to custom, which in most major hotels in New York provide “Household brigades” composed of two persons in one room….”

    This is some primo crap. For one thing, the trend everywhere is to make fewer people do more work. When the overworked person burns out, they get a fresh one. Two cleaning women per room – for safety and/or propriety? Not bloody likely. For the purposes of defending his friend, he conveniently transforms cleaning women into ladies whose delicate sensibilities and peculiar vulnerabilities are always carefully protected. Right? Absurdité avec un visage humain.

  13. Scott Lemieux says:

    Shorter BHL: my rich friends should be ispo facto above the law.

    • Anonymous says:

      Indeed, to say otherwise would be backwards and retrogressive of you! Only true progressives will find a way to side with the more powerful party in any situation.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Thank you for contributing, Brave Sir Anonymous.

        • Anonymous says:

          Perhaps you have missed le sarcasme?

          Now, if you will excuse me, Sir Anonymous must go give birth to some rigorous Protestantism.

          • Malaclypse says:

            I did. That’s the problem with wingnuts – you can’t tell a parody from reality nowadays.

            Anyway, my apologies.

            • hv says:

              “Here comes that cannonball guy. He’s cool.”
              “Are you being sarcastic, dude?”
              “I don’t even know anymore.”

              • Anonymous says:

                I believe a true wingnut would have a hard time not dropping Duke Lacrosse into any rape apology thread, though might also have a crisis of conscience. Do they hate women or the French more? The moral dilemma of the wingnut.

              • Emma in Sydney says:

                In reply to Anon, Myles over at Crooked Timber has been embracing the power of ‘and’. Along with a lot of Chewbacca.

          • Warren Terra says:

            I would at to Malaclypse’s comment that he had over looked the sarcasm because the genuine wingers are so unhinged that they have merged with their satire one point: were you not anonymous, and instead commented with a consistent pseudonym, regular commenters like Malaclypse would be more likely to recognize you and to be in on the joke from the get-go.

  14. Simple Mind says:

    J’ai foutu, j’ai fui, je suis foutu

  15. Anonymous says:

    To tell the truth, everybody knows that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a libertine; what distinguishes him from plenty of others is his propensity not to hide it.

    If I understand Savary correctly, he’s saying “‘Course he tried to hump her–he’s French, ain’t he?”

    Talk about your bigotry of low expectations.

  16. Colette says:

    By the way, M. Farley, Gopnik has now corrected the deputy’s name to Gilles Savary – won’t you please do so, too? There’s no need to libel a perfectly respectable 17th C French merchant.

  17. Tirxu says:

    I don’t know in what sense “blame America” is beyond “blame the victim”, but I think I prefer the former. It may just be because I am not an American citizen (duh), but there is also the fact that a rape victim is a very vulnerable target, while I am pretty sure that America will recover quite easily.

    Also, about BHL: I don’t like the guy, I don’t like his comments on this, but you are quite unfair with him on this specific occasion. He does not say that DSK is innocent, he does not claim that it was a conspiracy, he does not blame this victim. Rather better than his performance about Polanski, I’d say.

    • richard says:

      What BHL does do in his column, as translated in the Daily Beast, is state that what we are proceeding on now is only “suspicions”. This is demonstrably false. A woman has come forward and made allegations of forcible sexual assault. It is, of course, possible that she’s lying (although her motivation for telling such lies is unclear unless she is mentally unhinged) but the allegations of a purported victim, and picking Strauss-Kahn out of a lineup, are not just suspicions. They are exactly the type of allegations which police always use to make an arrest and the DA always uses to bring a criminal complaint. BHL seems to be arguing that this type of evidence is insufficient to arrest Strauss-Kahn or to hold him without bail (despite the fact that he was arrested on a flight back to France which almost assuredly would never have extradited him had he arrived in Paris).

      And although he doesn’t blame the victim, he does indicate that the victim is lying based on his supposed knowledge of the procedures for cleaning rooms in NYC hotels.

  18. FMguru says:

    I’m surprised we haven’t seen the standard excuse deployed when an accused is a celebrity or sports star – he’s so rich and famous and in-demand and irresistible to women, it’s ludicrous to think he’d have to resort to raping a woman, therefore no crime could possibly have happened.

    • Colette says:

      Oh, that already happened a couple of years ago. From a book called Le Roman vrai de Dominique Strauss-Kahn:

      In the chapter deveoted to the “trumpets of rumor,” to dispel the IMF managing director’s bad reputation, the author cites Veronica Bensaid, a socialist militant from Sarcelles who became DSK’s Parliamentary Counsel at [the Finance Ministry] in 1998. She accompanied him “twice weekly” to the National Assembly:

      “Dominique was still more hunted than hunter. It was unbelievable! When we were on the podium to dicuss amendments, some women MPs passed me notes to pass on to him that were sometimes passionate, even delirious.

      I saw women practically tap dancing [for him] in ways that would have made a prostitute proud; I have seen elected officials and collaborators desperate to sleep with him.

      I noticed this phenomenon with other ministers. But with Dominique, it reached a peak. In reality, we can talk about sexual harassment. But Dominique was the victim!”

      (From this French news/editorial/gossip site.

  19. teraz kurwa my says:

    Qui connait DSK sait que sa séduction n’a jamais manqué de répondant féminin au point de prendre un risque politique et personnel aussi fou! Certes les mystères et la complexité de la nature humaine commandent de ne rien exclure.

    Rien exclure, c’est aussi ne pas exclure un guet-apens qui arrangerait beaucoup de monde en France….

    Summary translation of Savary: Given that DSK has always had plenty of women who wanted to have sex with him, why would he rape anyone? True, we can’t be absolutely sure, given the mysteries of human nature, but let’s not exclude a trap which would be helpful to many people in France…

    Not as bad as the BHL piece which resorts to numerology to explain why it’s all a conspiracy (DSK was staying in room 2806, the primaries are on June 28, the implications are clear)

  20. teraz kurwa my says:

    Also, Gopnik’s description of Segolene Royale as ‘Palinesque’ is bizarre. Yes, both are good looking and female, but last I checked Palin wasn’t a workaholic who was in the top 0.1% of her year, nationally, in academic achievement. You’d think he’d be aware that Royale is a standard issue member of the French elite: SciencesPo and ENA grad from an upper class family. Whatever issues one might have with the enarques, Palinesque is not exactly what comes to mind.

  21. In Puritan American [...] they tolerate infinitely better the sins of money than the pleasures of the flesh.

    Note the implication that the French, being so relaxed about the pleasures of the flesh, are less tolerant than Americans about the sins of money. I know this trope is routine when anyone is contrasting French and American attitudes but that is no reason to let slide such an obvious absurdity.

    I’m not saying that French politicians are the most corrupt in Europe, because Heaven knows they’re up against some serious competition, but the only indignation about the sins of money that I’ve ever observed from a French politician is when someone suspects he’s not getting his share.

  22. Good review! This is exactly the type of blog post that should be shared around the web. Shame on the Google for not positioning this blog post higher!

  23. [...] back and searched for stupid things that I’d written about the case. Fortunately, not too bad; there was still plenty of unsavory victim-blaming, although Ben Stein and BHL will have some [...]

  24. Amber Dawes says:

    It comes as a shock when our loved ones not only don’t care when we are hurt but also blame us. It’s interesting that the victim is the responsible party — not the criminal creep who assaulted her. We enter relationships and social encounters with trust. That trust makes hurting us really easy — as easy to do as it’s wrong.

    Good masking is just good disguising of the self. It’s a social skill even our best and closest loved ones can perpetrate.

    http://kissingup.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/blaming-the-victim/

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