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BHL Compares DSK to Dreyfus

Here’s why he is wrong

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves court Friday.(Daniel Barry/Getty Images)

People have joked that the worst thing about the collapse of the rape case against former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is that it has vindicated Bernard Henri-Lévy’s windy, reason-lacking defenses of his good friend. Frankly, if it is true that DSK committed no crime, then the worst thing about it is that, yes, a not-guilty man was arrested, humiliated, and made tabloid fodder of. And yet to read BHL moan, “This vision of Dominique Strauss-Kahn humiliated in chains, dragged lower than the gutter—this degradation of a man whose silent dignity couldn’t be touched, was not just cruel, it was pornographic,” seems unfair to any ordinary decent person, especially given that DSK remains a total skeev whose serial adultery and cultivation of a culture of sexual harassment at the IMF is undisputed and who has again been credibly accused of rape, this time in the patrie.

And yet BHL’s cri de coeur, it gets so much worse. The prosecution is accused of “Barrèsism.” BHL explains from his perch:

What is Barrèsism? It is a worldview that takes its name from the French nationalist writer, contemporary of the Dreyfus Affair, Maurice Barrès. And it is particularly and precisely in reference to Captain Alfred Dreyfus that he uttered the famous phrase, “That Dreyfus is guilty, I deduce not from the facts themselves, but from his race.” The Strauss-Kahn affair is obviously unrelated to the Dreyfus affair.

I must state, to be clear, that I don’t think it has much to do with this worldwide religion and delirium that is anti-Semitism. But what I do believe is that this is the appearance of a new variation on Maurice Barrès’s phrase that has become, “That X—in this case Dominique Strauss-Kahn—is guilty, I deduce not from his race, but from his class.”

The Strauss-Kahn Affair is obviously unrelated to the Dreyfus Affair, but since BHL’s disclaimer seems to fly in the face of his elaborate comparison between the two, it is worth stating some of the ways how:

• The Dreyfus Affair (we know in retrospect) involved the deliberately false accusation, by means of forgery, that an innocent had committed a real crime. Dreyfus was a total innocent. We still do not know exactly what constitutes the Strauss-Kahn Affair, but one can certainly believe he did not commit rape and still believe he showed exceptionally poor political and moral judgment.

• The Dreyfus Affair had at its heart “this worldwide religion and delirium that is anti-Semitism.” The Strauss-Kahn Affair, according to BHL, has at its heart a certain sort of classism, whereby Americans are all-too-eager to see powerful men brought down. Even if this were true, these would be hugely different things, because anti-Semitism involves using the powers that be to persecute a small, relatively disempowered minority, whereas this classism would involve persecuting the very class that by definition has the power in society.

• Finally, to suggest that Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with rape because of his class is insane. It is plain to anyone who isn’t Strauss-Kahn’s good friend, and especially to anyone who read Joe Nocera’s excellent column this morning, that he was arrested and charged with rape because he was credibly accused of rape and was about to flee the country.

If BHL wished to quietly support his friend, that would be one thing. But to conjure the Dreyfus Affair where a Jewish man is potentially wrongfully accused of a crime cheapens the legacy of the episode that most exemplified all the dangers of anti-Semitism, and therefore cheapens anti-Semitism itself. Some of us find this conjuration regrettable, even condemnable, because some of us consider anti-Semitism a uniquely dangerous prejudice. Apparently BHL cannot be counted among our ranks.

5 Lessons of the DSK Affair [The Daily Beast]
DSK Case Keeps Twisting As French Presidential Hopes Are Revived, Then Dashed by New Charges [Daily Intel]
The D.A. Did the Right Thing [NYT]
Related: Strauss-Kahn Prosecution Said to Be Near Collapse [NYT]

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Good piece. Diminishing Levy’s name to BHL is deserving. The man has great intelligence but the way he uses it at times reminds me of athletes using steroids, hooking into positions that he mistakes for righteousness when they’re simply him looking to protect or amplify his own power. In this case, he was protecting a powerful man whose previous aura had made Levy shine by dint of association. I don’t think Strauss was treated well, but Levy’s rabid (and immediate) defense of him subverted his own moral integrity and probably made a lot of folks (like me) double question anything he says in the future.

jacob arnon says:

This analogy of BHL is useless.

It was the persecution that made public its incompetence while in the Dreyfus case the prosecutors did all they could to hide their malfeasance.

There are too many more discrepancies but my time is limited.

Jacob says:

He does have one point though: the perp walk is a barbaric practice, serving as character assassination of the presumed innocent. That the accused is of low character (in our opinion, if not that of BHL) should be of no matter to his right to privacy, just as the most loathsome speech is afforded the full protection of our constitution.

Are Bernard-Henri Levy and Dominique Strauss-Kahn related through marriage, via Claude Levi-Strauss?

morris wise says:

The maid will be walking the perp walk after the feds look into her large bank accounts, and the reason for five cell phones. Convictions for laundering drug money can get her more than ten years in the federal slammer.

George One says:

Whatever the outcome of this case, the US has shown that its system is not worthy of the civilised world, but more what one would expect of a banana republic or dictatorships like Iran or Zimbabwe. The prosecutor’s claim that in the US all are treated the same way is pure nonsense. Here they have punished a man on the basis of an accusation and before he was proven guilty. An accountant or a cab driver would not face the same result. DSK has been made to lose his job and his chance at running for President of France. All this for the sake of a vain and stupid Public Prosecutor trying to advance his career on a famous personality. This Prosecutor deserves to be put to clearing rubbish off the streets of New York – that’s all he’s probably capabler of.

morris wise says:

The Fifteen French detectives hired by The wife of DSK are not like the bungling French detective Jacques Clouseau. They have torn up the Sofitel Hotel until every speck of dirt was analyzed and every pimp and drug dealer identified. They also have the guest list and interviewed all the perverts that have checked into the hotel for the last six months. They will paint New York as freak city and cause the mayor to do a lot of explaining.


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BHL Compares DSK to Dreyfus

Here’s why he is wrong

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