Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Poor DSK!

Isabelle Germain in the Guardian:

To date, we do not know what really happened. But what we do know is that the way the French media talk about the alleged victims is crucial to cracking the code of silence surrounding sex crimes in France. As it is, whether DSK is guilty or innocent, it looks unlikely that this case will do much to break that code. (h/t TexExile)
I'm not sure that this is correct. I think that the French media, in particular have begun to question how they treat reports of sexual misbehavior. I was interviewed on this subject by Libé yesterday, but the article in which I am quoted is behind the paywall, so I can't read to it. But my feeling is that a lot of soul-searching is underway. Many initial reactions are expressions of shock, but underneath the hostility to "American justice" and its "brutal" ways is, I think, a recognition that France has been too tolerant of macho misbehavior and will have to change its ways. After all, a country that claims to be concerned with the subaltern treatment of women by one of its minorities can't fail to recognize that its majority has also tolerated and remained silent about a fair amount of oppressive behavior toward women as well.

UPDATE: Pierre Haski on the difficulty of drawing the line.


meshplate said...

Art, your link to "American Justice and its brutal ways" points to Bernard Girard's blog site. Is that correct?

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Yes, the top post on Bernard's site at the moment reflects French ambivalence. Bernard questions the silence about DSK's behavior but is also critical of the "brutality" of American justice. See my dialogue with him in comments. (I wanted to link to the top post in particular, but Bernard's site doesn't seem to do back links correctly.)

the fly in the web said...

I don't think that there is a silence on sex crimes...but there has certainly been a silence on the 'patron - client' relationship of men and women in the workplace as well as the propensity of the French press to keep quiet about the unsavoury doings of their betters.

bernard said...

Following the comments posted from this or that side of the atlantic ocean on this blog, I am struck that there are several "dissonances" with people unable to understand what others are saying. I would put that down to a remarkable ignorance on both sides of how the system and institutions on the other side are working:

- USA follows Common law, France follows Latin law, both sides are evidently certain that their way is better. Hey, if they weren't, they'd change their system. The point is these systems are radically different (I'll let the lawyers on this blog have some fun with details)

- Perp walk: standard practice in the USA, breach of the law in France, thus very shocking to French law-abiding eyes (yes, all French TVs have broken the law in this case, audience ratings, sorry, I meant the money is too attractive obviously)

- Every single French prez election since 1965 has been marked by major scandal/dirty tricks. American friends, even the most cynical French man in the street is not entirely accustomed to major presidential candidates allegedly commiting heinous crimes, thus in my view the 57%.

- Make no mistake, we consider the private sex lives of senior figures their private business whether they prefer missionary or not, but we also do know very well the difference between sex and rape.

- Also, incidentally, to US commentators who are former DAs or lawyers, please try to get a consensus in your definitive opinions, there are those of us who were actually hoping to learn something solid from what you were saying, and now we are just even more confused.

- And for those commentators who tell you the case is clear, that the NY police, DAs are super-serious: no doubt that they are highly competent and are trying their best to investigate this case properly. It remains the case that terrible mistakes do happen, even in the USA. The advent of DNA has put many prior convictions, including on death-row, in doubt, to the point where some States suspended executions a few years ago. And I seem to remember a US President being hounded for several years by an unscrupulous special prosecutor. Of course, some will answer, how about France. And I would retort, absolutely I could name a number of cases, but that is beside the point: the point is that no justice system is unfallible, and any error is a defeat of justice, anywhere.

I say, let justice take its course, don't prejudge until all parties, the DAs, the defense lawyers, the judge and, most importantly, the jury, have done their jobs. Like everyone, I have my view about this case which involves someone I've known and respected for 30 years, and my view is uninformed like that of every other commentator who has not had access to the evidence of the case, and that view is that things seem very bad for DSK (they already are unspeakably bad for the victim), but I must still refrain from proclaiming a verdict before the jury does. And I do wish everybody did, because if we do not, we do not need a justice system or democracy anymore.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Bernard, a very nice summary. As for getting our lawyer friends to agree, remember that they are lawyers. They disagree by force of habit.

Kirk said...

Bernard said:

"- Perp walk: standard practice in the USA, breach of the law in France, thus very shocking to French law-abiding eyes (yes, all French TVs have broken the law in this case, audience ratings, sorry, I meant the money is too attractive obviously)"

How is this illegal in France? If I understand the law correctly, it applies to the presumption of innoncence regarding _French law_, and has nothing to do with the presumption of innocence of someone charged in another country. I'm pretty sure I've seen plenty of footage on TV of people outside of France in handcuffs.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully the veil is lifted on the insufferable French hypocrisy and abuse of power in sex relations. Anyone who has worked in a lowly position in a French company or French government office will be familiar with the dynamics of the DSK scandal. The boss always has his or her "favorites", male or female, straight or gay. Usually a new boss hires his or her old lovers to keep company, but sometimes they find new ones on site. This "Parc aux Cerfs" situation is almost the rule, rather than the exception. Negotiating such treacherous erotic waters is a main requirement of success in French business and public life. Unfortunately it leads to a fetid atmosphere of favoritism and jealousy. Its not enough to do your job well, there are other unwelcome criteria. And despite official French blablabla about respecting the rights of women and individuals, the influence of the harem is supreme. I refer you to the articles you recommnded on Minister of Culture Fredo Mitterand, and his appointment / promotion of his mignons. But its universal (a certain recent married French Ambassador to the USA was a notorious "tombeur de filles" and respectable women gave him a wide berth).

Mr. Goldhammer's hope that "a lot of soul-searching is underway" is optimistic. "Fair treatment" is not a concept with much power in what is (beneath the rhetorical socialist nod to equality) in reality an "agonistic", highly competitive, combative, society. When it comes to their personal pleasure gratification (be it food, wine, sex, holidays) and the rather rather freewheeling exercise of power, the French will never relinquish their "droits acquis." Skirt-chasing is a national tradition, "la culture, quoi?" And if "Anglo-saxons" are shocked and disapprove, all the better.

meshplate said...

There's something awry with the blog's functioning. It says there are 7 comments to this post, but when I click to open it I see only 6. I got an email of the text of the 7th (a comment by anonymous) but it not here yet.

bernard said...


of course French law does not extend to Manhattan (though I do wish we'd kept that western half of the US, microsoft a french company, mindblowing!).

My point was french eyes only know french law and under french law in france it would be illegal. Thus french eyes are shocked. Furthermore, because the suspect is for french eyes a French senior politician, a guy they see every day on TV, the confusion gets extreme. A case of miscomprehension between nations if you ask me.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Yes, Blogger has been flagging a lot of comments as spam. I check the spam filter periodically, but not every minute, so be patient if your comment doesn't appear. Also, sometimes, I hear from people that comments simply disappear. Alas, there's nothing I can do about the latter.

bernard said...

found the text of the law: "la diffusion, par quelque moyen que ce soit et quel qu'en soit le support, de l'image d'une personne identifiée ou identifiable mise en cause à l'occasion d'une procédure pénale mais n'ayant pas fait l'objet d'un jugement de condamnation et faisant apparaître soit que cette personne porte des menottes ou entraves, soit qu'elle est placée en détention provisoire est punie de 15 000 euros d'amende"

Kirk said...


But does this say people mise en cause in France, or does it cover people accused of crimes in the entire world? Again, I've often seen footage of people in handcuffs or being arrested on French TV (I do live in France), but filmed in other countries.

Also, at no time in the footage I saw of DSK did I see handcuffs. I saw his hands behind his back, and nothing else. So, even that suggests that there is nothing illegal about broadcasting that footage.

FRANCIS said...

Can I add a moral point of view (in French):
Quand il nous est opposé que dans certains pays, le sort réservé aux femmes, aux époux infidèles, aux homosexuels, ne nous concerne pas, que c’est là une autre forme de culture, qu’il faut relativiser et laisser à l’Autre le droit de faire ce que bon lui semble si c’est son bon plaisir, nous avons toujours repoussé avec indignation cette forme suprême de la démission et de la lâcheté hypocrites.

Voilà qui nous donne le droit de crier aujourd’hui : non, la justice américaine n’est pas juste. Non, la justice américaine n’est pas humaine. Non, nous ne pouvons, en tant qu’hommes, accepter que soient transgressées les Lois les plus élémentaires sur lesquelles repose notre dignité, au prétexte que la justice américaine est « très différente » de la nôtre, que là-bas on accuse d’abord, et qu’après on vérifie s’il y avait ou non lieu de le faire, on ne menotte pas, alors qu’il est présumé innocent et qu’on ne sait même pas au juste le degré de gravité de son « crime » si les faits venaient à l’accréditer ...[the end of the paragraph is not too good]

Tout à la fois, votre justice se révèle inhumaine, peu soucieuse d’équité et de valeurs, en niant sa valeur intrinsèque à l’individu, et à son innocence de principe, et en même temps favorisant les passions basses, les émotions viles, voire sordides. Est-ce là l’Amérique, ce pays que semblent motiver davantage le scandale, le sexe quand il s’étalent, que la recherche de la vérité humaine qui se cache dans tous les drames ? Est-ce là le pays que nous aimons tous, à qui nous devons tant, qui offre au monde l’image d’un homme à terre avant d’avoir pu combattre, nié avant même de s’être fait connaître, insulté et déshonoré alors que peut-être, demain, son innocence aura été établie ?

Non. Peuple américain, ce n’est pas toi. Ta justice n’est pas juste. Et ce qui le confirme, c’est qu’elle n’a pas renoncé encore à la peine de mort.

Et qu’elle exécute avant même le prononcé de la sentence, quand le condamné par principe est de tout premier choix médiatique.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Avant de donner des leçons de morale, il vaudrait mieux réfléchir un moment. "On accuse d'abord ... et vérifie après?" Mais c'est une caricature. Et la détention avant procès existe en France aussi. Votre rhétorique est ahurissante. Je vous prie de vérifier avant d'accuser.

MYOS said...

Francis, la détention avant procès existe et elle dure souvent un ou deux ans. Ici, DSK peut avoir un examen des preuves sous cinq jours!

"Breaking the code" indeed.
Just heard Cambadelis who said that women who want to complain now should have done so when/if things happened but now is too late and they better shut up because it'll help nothing.
If indeed the prosecution sends people to France, let us hope possible victims won't be intimidated...

Question to French people: do precincts have "rape suites" or a female cop especially trained for claims of sexual assault? Many French journalists seemed to discover "rape kits" in American hospitals, for exampe - lack of knowledge or difference in procedure?

Still watching BFM...
A journalist: "should the press now cover all gossip about all party leaders whose behavior is reprehensible?"

Another one: "il y a une connivence, un mélange, entre politiques et journalistes, je ne comprends pas pourquoi par exemple un candidat aux primaires est en couple avec une journaliste politique sans que cela change quoi que ce soit".*
il ne faut pas parler de rumeurs, mais de faits."
"Qui avait connaissance de faits?"
"Oh arrêtez, on avait tous connaissance de faits"
"On va aller à Cannes parler du film La Conquête"
(debate interruption)

*Actually Audrey Pulvar, Arnaud Montebourg's girlfriend, brutally lost her job as soon as he announced he would be a candidate for the primaries. So is there another one, whose job was protected or about whom everyone in the know pretend they don't?

Cincinna said...

You are obviously not a lawyer, and obviously not French.
As every French lyceen knows, French Law is based on the Napoleonic Code. There is no such thing as "Latin Law"
American Law is based on the US Constition, derived from English Common Law.
Get your facts straight before you rant on with your America bashing. Every country has it's system of laws that must be respected by all, citizens and visitors alike.
We don't need morality lessons from French law that has no due process, allows preventive detention, and indefinite detention without being charged.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

He means Roman law. Give him that much of a break. And what do you mean when you say French law has no due process?

Anonymous said...

Jean-François Kahn finds his wit hilarious when he qualifies the crime:
"C'est juste du troussage de domestique"
roughly, it's your basic hitting-on-the-help (? my translation, not sure it's the right one)

This bring me to Maureen Dowd's column that ends with exactly that comparison, except with a different conclusion.