Extremes of Craziness
Bernard-Henri Lévy explains why you're wrong about Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Man: This animal who did this disgusting thing to you—do not let the police handle him. Jail is too good for the old pervert. I know someone who will kill him, slowly, with a knife. Maybe I will break out and go kill him myself.
Woman: Calm down. This guy is rich and powerful. I know what I'm doing.
It could be that Bernard-Henri Lévy is fluent in Fulani, and that is the source of his confidence. But the only authority he has offered so far, in his counter-prosecution, is that of his friendship and class-fellowship with Strauss-Kahn, a man of blinding integrity, who is self-evidently incapable of the vile acts attributed to him. Perhaps this greater-than-human nobility—joined with Strauss-Kahn's charisma and potency—has caused at least two women, from wildly different cultural backgrounds, to invent oddly similar fantasies of debasement at his hands.
"He pulled me toward him, we came down, and we fought on the ground for several minutes," the French writer Tristane Banon reportedly told L'Express. She had described the alleged assault back in 2007 on television, but with the assailant's name bleeped out. It's possible that the hotel maid watched French television and is a lip reader.
Or it's possible that Lévy is blowing smoke. The New York case, he writes, demonstrates American "Robespierrism":
It's a word taken from the French Revolution, of course, one that describes the way those behind the terror at the time took hold of a man of flesh and blood and dehumanized him by transforming him into an abstract symbol, and, as the literal incarnation of that symbol, tailored his person to fit the skin of all they had decided to purge from society of the Ancien Régime.
Well, we are compelled to observe that, regarding the Strauss-Kahn affair, America the pragmatic, that rebels against ideologies, this country of habeas corpus that de Tocqueville claimed possessed the most democratic system of justice in the world, has pushed this French Robespierrism, unfortunately, to the extremes of its craziness.
The extremes of its craziness, the French intellectual writes. I must have missed the part of the coverage where, when Strauss-Kahn marked his first night out of jail with a $700 meal at a restaurant, the food went in his mouth and trickled out his severed esophagus, because the crazy Americans had cut off his head. That's what actual Robespierrism involved—mass guillotining in lieu of justice. Strauss-Kahn got called bad things in the newspapers. If he's so concerned about his honor, he can always sue them. That's what his accuser is doing.
Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.
Photograph of Bernard-Henri Lévy by Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images.