Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Droit de Bureaucrat

You've probably heard the sordid tale of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the International Monetary Fund honcho who stands accused of an attempted rape of a hotel maid in New York over the weekend.

Apparently that's okay with Bernard-Henri Levy, noted French philosopher and defender of the similarly situated Roman Polanski. You've heard of "Birthers" and "Truthers," right? Meet the first "Rape Denierer," or something:

I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.


And I do not want to enter into considerations of dime-store psychology that claims to penetrate the mind of the subject, observing, for example, that the number of the room (2806) corresponds to the date of the opening of the Socialist Party primaries in France (06.28), in which he is the uncontested favorite, thereby concluding that this is all a Freudian slip, a subconsciously deliberate mistake, and blah blah blah.

What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to the dogs.

Just so we're clear, "the dogs" would be us. Levy finds the American justice system to be problematic:

I am troubled by a system of justice modestly termed “accusatory,” meaning that anyone can come along and accuse another fellow of any crime—and it will be up to the accused to prove that the accusation is false and without basis in fact.
Somewhere, Emile Zola must be wondering what the hell happened to the French intellectual class.

15 comments:

Night Writer said...

j'snooze.

Gino said...

they are holed up in the halls of the vichey govt.

Anonymous said...

Not here to defend the French intellectual class: Anyone defending this vulgar misogynist deserves ridicule. And the photo of the week was watching his sorry French ass getting frog-marched into the police station in Manhattan. Just thought I would note that the intellectual class of the Vatican, led by Richard John Neuhaus, spent years defending the honor and denying accusations against Father Maciel and the Legions of Christ...in spite of overwhelming evidence against them.

Maybe it's a European thing.

Rich

Anonymous said...

Oh, wait, Neuhaus wasn't European.

Mr. D said...

Oh, wait, Neuhaus wasn't European.

Right. He's also dead. And the Maciel case has nothing to do with the matter at hand, so I'm at a loss to understand why you're even bringing it up. Maybe it's a Rich thing.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

The idea seems to be:

Since there was a sin of a particular type over here,
Therefore we can't talk with gusto about that type of sin lest we fall into hypocrisy.

This seems to be the same line of thinking that Rich followed last month:

Paul Ryan hasn't been perfect on spending issues during his time in Congress,
Therefore we need to let Democrats spend whatever they want lest we fall into hypocrisy.

It seems like a fancy way of saying shut up, but I may be reading too much into it.

Anonymous said...

Mark,
my point was that I don't think the defense of Strauss-Kahn, which hasn't exactly been overwhelming, has anything to do with the defenders being French, or European, or non-American. I thought your shot at the French was pretty lame. Collectively, we are all capable of these things. Especially when they involve public figures who we have personally endorsed, or trusted, or voted for, or vested some form of human capital in.

Look at the large amount of Liberals in this country, many claiming feminist bonafides, who were capable of dismissing Bill Clinton's piggish, immoral and illegal (he did perjure himself) actions. Look at the huge amount of American Conservatives, most of whom think of themselves as Human Rights advocates, willing to accept the most twisted and absurd redefinitions of torture so that they could come to terms with the notion that the Bush Administration wasn't torturing people in the War on Terror. (Brought to the comically absurd level, just this week, when Rick Santorum explained that John McCain just doesn't understand what torture is!) This isn't a French thing...it's a human thing. The Maciel debacle just seemed like the perfect vehicle to back this up: It was international. His most ardent defender was American. Many of his apologists and deniers were religious figures, some operating at the highest levels in the Vatican, and many were certainly 'intellectuals'. See my point?

Regards,
Rich

Joel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

yeah Mark, it's like pro-lifers who vote for democrats while complaining that KSM wasnt treated nicely enough and still ignore the tortures of partial birth abortion or leaving newborns to die in the dirty linen closet.

gino

Anonymous said...

Gino,
I am guilty of giving money directly to the Catholic Church even though I know some of it will go toward the defense of pedophiles, and to provide cover to the Church's hierarchy who aided and abetted the pedophiles for decades. I don't do it because I am pro-pedophile. I do it because I believe that the good the Church does far outweighs the bad. It's how the world works.

Regards,
Rich

Anonymous said...

Gino,
who is leaving newborns to die in dirty linen closets? Not familiar with this story, but I am curious about what that has to do with pro-lifers who vote for democrats.

Regards,
Rich

Mr. D said...

I thought your shot at the French was pretty lame.

YMMV, Rich. The main reason I wrote it is I was struck at the "accusatory" point that Levy made. It's essentially a 180 from Emile Zola's famous "J'accuse" polemic.

Is Levy emblematic of the French intelligentsia these days? Perhaps you can show me countervailing examples, but he's the leading public intellectual that the country has produced in recent years. And he's now on record in defending not only DSK in the event but also Roman Polanski. Leading French public intellectuals didn't do that sort of thing in the past.

And to your point about it being a human thing rather than a French thing, I also note that Ben Stein is now on record as a defender of DSK, for similarly silly reasons. And to hell with him, too.

And as Picklesworth rightly points out, there's a whole lot of the tu quoque ad hominem in your argument again.

Anonymous said...

Mark,
I totally, respectfully disagree. I am not trying to justify anything for anyone. And at no point do I say that you are wrong about Levy (or Stein). So I am not accusing you of a commmiting a tu quoque ad hominem fallacy. Admittedly, I was doing that vis-a-vis Ryan, but not here. Not at all. I am pointing out that virtually all people, myself included, regardless of our supposed intellectual prowess or lack thereof, are guilty of wearing intellectual blinders, esp. when someone we have supported is called into question. Doing that is commmiting a tu quoque ad hominem fallacy, and Levy does appear to be guilty of that. But that also seems to be a universal reaction in cases like these. And I think i supplied a few glaring examples.

That is why I think it was a cheap shot at the French.

Also, could you generalize a little more? Levy is now representative of all French intellectuals? Really? I think a lot of actual French intellectuals might take umbrage with that statement. Levy is a philosophical gadfly and raconteur who floats through life throwing bombs that will garner headlines and face time on television. Kinda like Trump and Gingrich with an intellectual sheen.

Regards,
Rich

Mr. D said...

I'll be honest with you, Rich. I really don't spend a whole lot of time contemplating French intellectuals. I suppose I could take a more thorough inventory of current French intellectual thought and it would be a scintillating exercise, no doubt. But it's probably not gonna happen. As I said, YMMV.

You can take this as an example of why this blog has "dilettante" in the title. I'm not trying to conduct a seminar here -- I'm just commenting on the passing scene. Sometimes we spend a lot of time on an issue, other times not so much.

As for Levy -- the point is that he's widely identified, rightly or wrongly, as a leading public intellectual, in the same manner that someone like, say, John Kenneth Galbraith or any various Schlesinger might have been so identified a generation or two previously. Perhaps Levy's as much of a gadfly as you seem to believe he is -- I'll take your word for it. The point of identifying Levy as a public intellectual is that he's someone who commands a larger audience than a deeper thinker whose reach rarely exceeds academe. Reading anything more into it than that seems, at least to me, to be more work than the matter requires.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

I am pointing out that virtually all people, myself included, regardless of our supposed intellectual prowess or lack thereof, are guilty of wearing intellectual blinders, esp. when someone we have supported is called into question.

I agree with Rich on this statement. It doesn't mean we do it equally or in all situations, but it is certainly true. I think it results from the necessity of determining the credibility that you give certain people or groups of people. It's a kind of intellectual shortcut. It's helpful, but it can certainly be obnoxious, particularly when it those shortcuts are never called into question.