Proper disclosure one: I know Dominique Strauss-Kahn's wife, Anne Sinclair. I think highly of her and like her. Proper disclosure two: I think it would be right for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to become the president of France. The mix of socialism and financial expertise with leadership and organizational skills seems to me the right combination for France and Europe. That's why I was distressed by the hotel-housekeeper story and did not write about it. Even though Strauss-Kahn's weakness for women was known, it seemed to me there was a big difference between loving women and raping women.
Yet the American process of ensuring justice was decisive. It was hard to imagine that the Americans were acting so brutally without having any unquestionable proof. From the start, the whole story seemed fantastic, yet the cruel process had to run its course. Even those who found it inconceivable that Strauss-Kahn had raped the housekeeper from the Bronx had to be patient and keep quiet.
This week, after the dramatic turnaround, it seems the Strauss-Kahn saga will have far-reaching ramifications. It will not only affect the personal life of the man who became a victim of a Homerian tragedy. It will not only affect French and European politics. It will change the way we see the criminal process - the way we see sex scandals and the trendy persecution of the powerful, well-to-do and famous.
The criminal process. In a contest of the two systems, French and American, the French system has proved itself. Today it's crystal clear that the French system, which does not disclose the name of the accused in the early stages of an interrogation, is preferable to the American one. The public has a right to know. But the public does not have the right to destroy a person before a trial. In real time, the photos of Strauss-Kahn handcuffed and in the NYPD's cellars were horrific photos. And in retrospect, the photos are chilling photos of a lynching. The Americans tossed live prey to the media. There was neither democracy nor due process, only an unequivocal collective rape of an individual. Now there will be no alternative but to follow the French and protect detainees and those suspected of such despicable acts.
Sex scandals. Over the last 20 years, a very important revolution has occurred in protecting women against sexual assault and harassment. The revolution was needed, justified and crucial. Yet, like other revolutions, it went too far. It created a situation where every woman can send any man to jail by filing a complaint at the nearest police station. The Strauss-Kahn case reveals a counter-need to protect men from women's false accusations and improper use of the law. It's impossible to consider every man against whom a complaint is filed a rapist until proven otherwise. There is no choice but to revert to applying the rule of innocent until proven guilty, even to suspects in sex-related crimes.
Pursuing the powerful. Fundamentally, human rights were intended to protect every person: rich or poor, black or white, holy or despised. And yet, a view has prevailed recently whereby the blood of the powerful, the wealthy and the famous can be shed. The universal concept of human rights has been gradually replaced by the populist inclination to favor the weak as they are and to see the powerful as guilty, simply because they are powerful. If you hold a position of power, that means you are corrupt. If you are comfortable, that mean you are a thief. If you are famous, that means your reputation is expendable.
The fact that one of the world's most powerful people became the unquestioned victim of a weak woman very much proves the extent to which this populist tendency is unfair and dangerous. The powerful have too much power in the 21st century. Nevertheless, the way to deal with this excessive power is not to persecute personalities such as Strauss-Kahn in their bedrooms. The way is to transform socialists like Strauss-Kahn into the shapers of a proper social order.
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