The above article lays out some of the conspiracy theories people in France entertain about why the former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been arrested and charged with rape in the USA. It seems that nobody wants to admit that the reason someone accused him of trying to rape her is because he might have actually tried to rape her, rather than because she is a tool of some grand anti-French conspiracy. In Wednesday’s Guardian, Isabelle Germain, a French journalist and “founder of the online pro-parity magazine Les Nouvelles News”, wrote about similar attitudes among the French establishment and in their media.
Strauss-Kahn is indeed innocent until proven guilty, but the question must be asked why it is assumed that a politician accused of rape must be the victim of some kind of conspiracy. The man is a banker and politician and was an intending presidential candidate for the French Socialist Party, which is an established centre-left party much like Labour in the UK or the German Social Democrats. It was understandable that people thought the accusations against Julian Assange were politically motivated, because he had caused the establishment a lot of embarrassment and threatened to continue doing so. He did not have elective office and was not seeking any, and to be accused of having an affair would not have harmed him in the slightest. The same is not true for a politician. I don’t know about France, but I cannot remember any politician being accused of rape, but I can remember an awful lot of stories about extra-marital affairs which led to the resignation of the man (as I remember, it has almost always been men) involved.
In Friday’s Guardian, Kira Cochrane noted that Strauss-Kahn has a reputation in Paris in particular as someone who likes to chase women, or as they call such men there, a lapin chaud (hot rabbit). He has also been accused of attempted rape in the past, by a family friend who is a well-known journalist, but when she was interviewed about the incident on French TV in 2007, Strauss-Kahn’s name was bleeped out whenever she said it. She also noted that excuses have been made to the effect that Strauss-Kahn does not fit the profile of a rapist (when no such profile exists, and in any case, a man with a history of aggression towards women would surely fit it if there was), but overwhelmingly, the reaction seems to be indignation that one of theirs has been accused of a serious sexual offence, with articles by such men as Bernard Henri Levy who seemed to think he should not have been treated like “a subject of justice like any other”, which is, of course, exactly what he is at the moment. Suzanne Moore also notes that he defended Roman Polanski, the case against whom is much clearer. The Daily Beast, a blog based at Newsweek, notes that the French press have named the accuser and given details of her private life as well as speculated on her physical appearance and how attractive she might be. As for Bernard Henry Levy, Nick Cohen accuses him of selectively championing women’s rights in the Islamic world while denying them at home (well, his idea of championing Muslim women’s rights is to deny headscarf-wearers an education).
Strauss-Kahn’s prior remarks are also somewhat incriminating: in an interview with the French newspaper, Liberation, he suggested that “money, women and [his] Jewishness” could be used against him, and that he could be the victim of a honey-trap involving “a woman raped in a car park and who’s been promised 500,000 or a million Euros to invent such a story”. Again, why suppose that he would be accused of rape, as opposed to having an affair or perhaps sexual harassment? It seems odd that he would make such an accurate prediction about something that rarely happens, except to men who abuse women, which he knew he did all the time anyway … and if anyone wants to make sure he doesn’t become the next president of France, it’s not out of anti-French sentiment and it’s unlikely to be anyone outside France.
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