Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Set Up?

A poll indicates that 57% of the French believe that DSK was set up. Alex Price, in a comment to an earlier post, gives an excellent response to this news, which I reproduce here:

Regarding the 57% who profess to believe in a set up…
If, like me, you counted yourself a fan of DSK, this is not a happy moment. Imagine you’re a socialist militant and were planning to work for him in the upcoming primary. Think how you would feel. (Le Monde has an article, Pour les militants PS, ‘une douche froide,’ that paints a pretty vivid picture.) Denial is said to be one of the stages of grief. If DSK wasn't set up, he is almost certainly guilty, so if you don't want to believe in his guilt, you have to opt for the set up. Everyone has been shocked, stunned, astonished and so on by this business. It was a bombe politique, un coup de tonnerre, un séisme, un tsunami, un choc terrible. But all this violent language, which is really just a pile of clichés, works to obscure the real pain and confusion ordinary people may feel when their hero has suddenly been cut down. This is why I find indignant expressions along the lines of “What about the victim? Why is no one mentioning the victim?” somewhat disingenuous. Of course no one is thinking about the victim, at least not at first. They’re thinking about the one they know and care about. Criticizing BHL’s predictably over-the-top defense of DSK today, Andrew Sullivan cites it as an example of the self-absorbed elite closing ranks around one of their own. But class has nothing to do with it. The families of murderers may be horrified by the crime, but the real punch in the gut comes from knowing that it was *their boy* who did it.
Thanks, Alex. Well said.

A friend of mine, somewhat more peremptory, puts it this way: "Sure, there was a plot. Mr. Kahn plotted against Dr. Strauss and did him in."


meshplate said...

Naturally, I disagree with Alex's explanation and with Art's endorsement of it. I don't think we should excuse the deliberate, willful and vicious nature of the "criticisms" of the alleged victim or the NY police and DA. What is most disturbing is that this kind of arrant, nasty nonsense is what passes for considered, mature reflection here in France. There is one alleged victim (the housekeeper) and one alleged aggressor (DSK) in this affair; there are no reasons to believe this is not the case - not so far. Alex's argument is too generous and so overlooks the very naked aggression at the core of much of this discourse. We are not talking about children; we are talking about mature members of the PS. the press and the intelligentsia of France. They deserve to be held to account for what they say. I am surprised that you, Art, who often make efforts to out the moral irresponsibility and intellectual mendaciousness in such extreme positions are so willing to give offer an easy out in this important instance.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

I think you're reading a bit hastily, Meshplate. Who is criticizing the victim? Failing to speak of her is not criticism, it's neglect, and Alex is explaining the neglect: not admirable but comprehensible. And a conspiracy theory is not a criticism of the victim: it's a desperate search for an explanation, again not admirable but comprehensible. As for the criticism of American justice, I've expressed my view in the dialog with Bernard Girard on his blog.

Passerby said...

I'm a pragmatic. In this situation there are three possible broad scenarios that come to mind:

1. There was a rape.
2. There was no rape, it's just an opportunistic accusation (e.g. to get money out of a DSK; like for Michael Jackson).
3. There was no rape, it's a trap setup to destroy DSK's career.

These are possibilities, I don't mean that they are equally probable. As police investigations progress, and more facts become available, the likely scenario should be known. Once these facts are public everyone will be free to make-up their mind.

I understand the disappointment & surprise, but I find incredible that a majority of the polled people, jumped directly on the conspiracy option, based on no concrete information.

brent said...

Alex Price makes a reasonable explanation of the 'grief,' and thus the 'denial' felt by Socialist Party activists and elites alike. The analogy to "families of murderers," however, is false and misleading. Political followers and allies may like to talk about being 'family,' but they're not: it's a professional relationship, and a distanced one. The 57% of French people who suspect a plot do not "know and like" DSK, even if they think they do. They--and a fortiori, the party elites--had a stake in his success, and are grieving for the political loss they are now likely to suffer. To pretend that they are driven by the deep and uncontrollable emotions that govern family relationships is to excuse what is really a rational response, an ugly one, and one largely grounded in self-interest.

This is why their delayed and half-hearted efforts to 'remember the victim' are so damning. It's not that the Socialists were too driven by grief for their 'brother' DSK, but rather that given the choice between sympathy for a powerful man (who might bring them some of that power) and an abused, powerless woman, they totally overlooked the woman. What good was she to them? And I would hazard to say, it is this reflexive inability to sympathize with the downtrodden that would explain why the PS, elites and militants alike, has lost all direction and can't find anything like a governing majority. Comparisons with Mélenchon, Autain, and the new NPA spokespersons are instructive: yes, these far-left parties were not beholden to DSK, but they also understand the vulnerabilities of immigrant hotel workers, poor women, single mothers, the people who take the early bus. Until the PS faithful learn to understand that such people, their interests, their sufferings, are EVERY BIT AS important as the anguish DSK is no doubt feeling today in his cell at Riker's Island, there really is no hope for the PS, no reason for it to govern, no moral advantage over Sarkp and his Fouquet's gang.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Brent, Well said, I stand corrected.

meshplate said...

I agree with you whole heartedly Brent: you put your finger on the problem; the PS's extraordinary inability to sympathize with the abused woman due to the self-interested sympathy for DSK is very unappealing.

Kirk said...

I've long been surprised when listening to the socialists on TV how all they talk about is deux mille douze. They don't talk about governing now, offering alternatives, suggestions, or even coming out and being constructively critical. DSK was their only hope to win - I think that now they will have little chance to unseat Sarkozy, because they're going to tear each other apart during the primary campaign. So, they say their castle in Spain being washed away by the tide of misfortune, and have to lash out at whoever they can (certainly not blaming DSK, at least not in public).

MYOS said...

Kirk, actually I disagree, I listened to Aubry and Royal and both spoke about specific issues. This is within the framework of 2012 because it's the election and if they lose it, their take on said specific issues is moot, but these two did say stuff like "we must focus on what really matters, our project that we ought to present people" (Aubry) or "although this is abominable, it doesn't change French people's daily life, with its hardships which we could alter by doing x and z" (Royal).
But if you listened to Lang or Cambadelis or various other bald PS honchos (sorry, they are so indistinguishable that Moscovici had to grow a beard to makes himself recognizable...) I could see what you mean.
on the other hand, they'd bet everything they had including heir career, on DSK as a président, so you can understand how they're in shock.
Although nothing excuses stuff like what Lang said, essentially, what's the big deal with rape? ("quand même, ya pas mort d'homme")
On the other hand, I see what Alex means because Pierre Moscovici was live on TV when the news came that DSK was denied bail; his whole face changed, liked he'd been punched in the solar plexus, and he stopped making excuses for DSK. His grief was visible, it's as if you saw that the possibility of DSK's guilt occured to him for the first time, right there and it really hurt. Moscovici is one of DSK's friends so it's normal he takes it hard.
However, the 70% PS members who jumped to the "set up" hypothesis are probably just closing ranks and refusing to indict their leaders, who MUST have known something was wrong with DSK. I mean, we don't know whether he did it, but if he did, such a reckless act suggests it wasn't the first time.
As for the 57% people: they really need to have rape-awareness and sexual harassment seminars in this country. Lack of awareness of what sexual assault is, is astounding.

MYOS said...

1. There was a rape.
2. There was no rape, it's just an opportunistic accusation (e.g. to get money out of a DSK; like for Michael Jackson).
3. There was no rape, it's a trap setup to destroy DSK's career.

I took #2 more seriously before he was sent to jail; surely she'd have put pressure on him before then, unless she's truly evil and wants him to rot in rikers for a while so that she milks millions by the time she accepts dropping her lawsuit.
Furthermore, wouldn't the ADA do something if she suddenly dropped her lawsuit midway through the trial? Wouldn't she open herself to perjury or false testimony or fallacious something?

Of course there's the Kobe precedent...
Is it likely to be acceptable in a NY court?

I realize, as Mitch explained clearly, that there's a possibility of having him found guilty in the criminal trial in order to sue him for damages in civil court; send him to jail and let him rot there just so that he pays up. Such heartless plan may be hers, but it doesn't mesh with the little we know about her. Maureen Dowd this morning summarized it well: political refugee who's had a rough life, pious and friendly, a widow at age 32, working back breaking labor to raise her teenage daughter. Doesn't fit with "evil shrew" but then again, we don't have anything from the defense and it's pretty certain they'll try to smear her so how can we even tell who she is?

Alex Price said...

Art, thank you for posting my comment -- I am honored.

Of course my “families of murderers” analogy is a loose one and could be misleading. Of course the ties between a politician and his colleagues and supporters and the general public are different in many, many ways from family ties. But it seems to me that in each case there is a felt sense of connection, even if that connection is understood to be unreciprocated. Some people feel so connected to movie stars that they are said to worship them. Whole swaths of the population become depressed when “their” football team loses. People even become deeply invested in characters they know to be fictional (witness the Sherlock Holmes Society). So I don’t think that the socialists’ grief primarily has to do with “the political loss they are now likely to suffer,” as Brent argues. In any case, while things were looking good for DSK’s candidacy, I think most socialists understood that he was far from a shoe-in in the general election (didn’t Ségolène Royal early in the last election cycle have poll numbers that showed her ahead of Sarkozy?). And given the rivalries in the leadership, not all of them were thrilled about having to name him as their champion.

At the same time, I agree that there may be something telling in the contrast between the reactions of many of the socialist leaders and those of Mélenchon, Autain and others who made a point of recalling that if a crime occurred it had a victim. The charge that the socialist party, particularly its leaders, has become distanced from the poor is longstanding (for me the gross inadequacy of the PS’s response to the riots in 2005 really brought this out). If nothing else, Mélenchon and the others were much more attuned to the symbolism of a powerful man forcing himself on a highly vulnerable chambermaid.