“the DSK scandal is nothing short of sordid”
May 19, 2011 Leave a comment
It’s been almost a week since Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French president of the all-powerful International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been accused of raping a maid in his New York City hotel before boarding an Air France flight to Paris, where he was arrested by NYPD on sexual assault charges. Facing a sentence ranging from 20 to 74 years (the judge implied that other potential victims had come forward to testify), the man has been denied bail and is currently imprisoned at the legendary Rikers Island prison, in the Bronx.
Coverage of the scandal is substantively different depending on which side of the Atlantic Ocean one is standing. The United States coverage has been somewhat unanimous in claiming another powerful man had abused his position to obtain sexual favours. France is mourning an extremely popular presidential hopeful for the ongoing presidential campaign, that would have penned “DSK” in a tight race against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. A race so tight many claimed that the scandal itself was a set-up to clear the path for Sarkozy’s second term. Even DSK’s lawyer seems to have abandoned this line of defence.
More importantly, this scandal unfolds more than a debate on one’s alleged guilt: it uncovers a fundamental difference in judicial culture. Should powerful politicians benefit from a legal favours? How much information is too much information? Should DSK be trusted to follow legal constraints, or was the judge right in stating a risk of him leaving the United States territory? It seems the scandal goes far beyond a story of yet another politician’s mishap. It feels like France is losing hope in the only one it believed could save french politics, the one that had sought political asylum in the arms of the very country that is now prosecuting him. The end of a dream ? – Sarah K
“… but what a beautiful example of justice, one that judges the anonymous the same as the powerful.”
I woke up on sunday with a news alert flashing on my phone. Seeing Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s name appear, I didn’t give it a second thought, assuming he had finally, after a seemingly endless teasing campaign, officially announced his run in the 2012 presidential campaign. It was only later, switching on the television, that I realised the extent of the scandal.
Sunday was a particularly rich day. On television, of course, but even more so on Twitter, with this incredible flow of information, ranging from the most legit and serious to the most extravagant news. From facts to conspiracy theory. There was even a few puns and jokes (“he’s a womanizer, makes insane amounts of money and ends up in jail: DSK is your new hip-hop idol”). I am by no means a political journalist, I would even say I do not know much about politics. But everyone knew that whatever had happened in the country and out of it would change the deal as far as national representation was concerned. Even as far as the fate of the country itself (DSK was ahead in all the presidential polls).
It is obviously way too early to pen a radical speech on the story. Only a low-life like Bernard Debré (Representative for Paris, NdlR) thought it would be appropriate to dig DSK a watery grave on his blog. (1) If it is politically accepted not to blame DSK and never forget that in this story also lies an alleged victim, it could be a destructive affair of rape as well as it could be a major conspiracy aimed at destroying the man and his presidential aspirations. It wouldn’t be the first time.
I will not dive into theory or analysis; here is my personal point of view. The images and photos of the man being handcuffed and taken away by the police, then presented as such in front of the judge were hard to watch. He is not just any other man. He was a french citizen who was well on his way to become president. As far as a scandal goes, a man of his status being accused of rape and sent to Rikers Island is unheard of. The Clinton scandal, despite its many story lines and threats of impeachment, was nothing but a situation of adultery committed by two consenting adults, therefore was a private matter that shouldn’t have been addressed in the public sphere, let alone under a political angle. The DSK scandal is nothing short of sordid.
Those images of the man appearing in court and being handcuffed, in the box of the accused, should they have been released? My own curiosity, maybe misplaced, agrees. Granted, the story itself would have lost no weight nor importance without those specific images. Is he paying for what Polanski managed to escape? I believe he does, maybe a little bit. Rikers Island? I can’t help thinking this is not where he should be. But what a beautiful example of justice, the one that treats the anonymous the same as the powerful!
The next few days will be of tremendous importance. Regardless of the outcome, DSK will not be the new president in 2012. His political career is most definitely over. No way to say if his life can be salvaged.
(1) Why Does Bernard Debré Hates DSK? Rue89.com, May 17 (in french)
Nico Prat is a journalist from Paris, France and is a regular contributor to VoxPop, Technikart, and ThatMag. He also co-hosts a radio show on Le Mouv’. You can follow him on Twitter at @nicoprat and on Tumblr.