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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

DSK: Who's the victim here?

I've just arrived in New York from Paris, with the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn resonating on both continents. In the eyes of the law, of course, he's innocent until proven guilty. But that hasn't stopped a lot of nonsense from spouting out about the case, especially in France, where I make my home most of the year. First, about half the French seemed convince that this is some sort of a plot, launched by President Nicolas Sarkozy or by one or more of DSK's Socialist Party rivals. Key to these plots are that DSK was somehow "trapped" into attacking the hotel maid, or that she was somehow paid to make up the story; my taxi driver on the way to Charles de Gaulle airport, a Socialist and supporter of Francois Hollande, was full of such theories (yes, all journalists should be ready to pull a taxi driver story out of a hat, I'm no exception.)

Some of Slate's French collaborators dissected this notion is a piece called "Dominique Strauss-Kahn Conspiracy Theorists Are Embarrassing Themselves," which I recommend you read. The authors make the following important point:

The potential crime, as they see it, is all about DSK's weakness rather than his strength and the maid's weakness. Yes, we must respect that DSK is innocent until proven guilty. But to consider the case simply as a conspiracy theory or an "ambush" on a "libertine" is to transform the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt on the part of the accusers.

A similar point is made by the French feminist activist Magali de Haas in an interview in the weekly L'Express. The article is in French, but de Haas says that all the attention is being focused on DSK and his tragic downfall, rather than on the victim of the alleged crime. De Haas points out that many French people see this at most as a case of a lady's man going a little too far, instead of the serious crime he is accused of, and tend to think of sexual violence as some sort of joke. De Haas reminds readers that an estimated 75,000 women are victims of sexual assault each each in France, and concludes that DSK is not being accused "of an affair of morals, but a crime."

There does indeed appear to be a victim in this case, a young African immigrant who has all but been identified by name in the news media. Whether she is an agent of Sarkozy or of the Socialists remains to be seen; but I wouldn't bet on it.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello what about the presumption of innocence?
Anyone can accuse anyone else of any crime? You cannot judge someone before the trial. Its only the word of the hotel employee against that of Dominique Strauss Kahn.
And I do think that the American justice and police are going out of their way to humiliate a French Politician with an excellent reputation and a very powerful economic and political position, who does not alway adhere to the American view and policies.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem with the conspiracy theory is would you use this maid if setting DSK up for a fall? A woman who most say is average looking at best? Wouldn't you use some hot looking young lady who got DSK to have rough sex and be sure to make sure DSK left plenty of DNA in her vagina before yelling rape? That would smell of a conspiracy but this business with the maid doesn't sound like a setup.