Bernard-Henri Levy sat down with Isaac Chotiner, and…somehow it’s even worse than I expected, which is really saying something:
Lest people think you uncritically love America—and maybe I have given that perception—it’s absolutely the case that you have criticized America. One thing you have criticized is our criminal-justice system, and particularly the cases of Roman Polanski and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Why do you think America cracked down on these men?
Because of the madness, because of political correctness having become mad. This is class justice reversed. Former Marxists spoke about class justice, which means there is impunity for the powerful, the famous, the rich, and heavy justice for the powerless, the poor, and the have-nots. Today, in America, you have this huge wave of political correctness, which was good at the start, which was good in principle, but which has, as often, produced some crazy effects, and this is one. You have class justice reversed. It was clear in the case of Strauss-Kahn that the fact that he was rich, he was white, and he was powerful made him be treated in a way particularly severe, with the perp walk and so on, with this big show of justice. This show.
You stated that Roman Polanski had “perhaps had committed a youthful error” and wrote, in 2010, “The ‘illegal sexual intercourse’ that Roman Polanski acknowledged he was guilty of 32 years ago is not, for all that, the deadly crime, even crime against humanity, that the avengers hot on his heels have been denouncing for the past 10 days. Yes, it is a crime. But there are degrees in the scale of crimes. And it is an insult to good sense, an assault on reason, a door left open to all kinds of confusion, to muddle everything, to try to make everyone believe that a rape is a crime of the same nature as, for example, the one his wife Sharon Tate was a victim of.” You say, “Perhaps had committed a youthful error.” He was, I guess, thirteen at the time. Oh no, no, his victim was thirteen at the time. He was forty-three.
What I wanted to tell you was that, a few years ago, I made a little investigation, and I discovered that the year when he committed this crime, in the same county of California, he was probably the most heavily punished among the men who did such crimes. Because he was famous and rich and so on, he was not spared by justice but exactly the reverse.
For raping a thirteen-year-old, we are talking about?
Yes, raping. Fourteen, fifteen, thirteen, whatever. It’s a crime, anyway. He was the most heavily punished. He went in jail and so forth. My point is that we are in a time where sometimes you have this class justice reversed. I remember, for the New York Times, I did an interview with Bill Keller [the former executive editor of the Times]. He told me that you, Bernard-Henri Lévy, generally defend minorities, ethnic minorities, the poor, and the have-nots. How can you defend a rich, powerful white man? And I told him, I’m sorry, but justice has nothing to do with being white or not white, powerful or not. Justice is justice. Law is law. The penalty has to be adapted to the guiltiness. The guiltiness has to be scrutinized first.
Do you feel that we have this political correctness, which you said you thought was helpful at the beginning, but now people are freaking out about raping thirteen-year-old girls?
To rape a thirteen-year-old girl is a huge crime, which deserves a huge penalty, which deserves jail and so on. But, when the penalty has been purged, the system of justice is that you have paid your debt—that’s what they tell you. To rape, in general, is a crime, and one of the good virtues of the #MeToo movement is to have imposed the idea to every single man in America and the Western world that to rape is a huge crime against the essence of humanity for a woman, or for a man when a man is raped. No, no, no, I didn’t say that. But Roman Polanski paid his debt and went to jail.
Polanski left the country.
He left the country after having paid his penalty. He went to jail first.
Remember the Bush years, when America’s elite editors decided that this pompous dipshit was an Important Thinker? Those were…alas, not really different times.
I wonder why do all these guys keep sitting down for interviews with Chotiner? Do they read they read all the interviews with people who have been given enough rope — sometimes with justifiably career-altering consequences — and think “gee, he came off great”? Do they just not Google? Being a vastly overpraised white guy is a hell of a drug.