The politics of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s criminal career

Might we consider Dominique Strauss-Kahn‘s recent troubles to be little more than a sex scandal? If we did, Strauss-Kahn would just be a cad and schmuck, like Anthony Weiner. Has he not been made ridiculous by his own hand? Are his troubles just another instance in which a powerful man is found to be undeserving of the highest honors and, perhaps, even brute sympathy? Is this scandal his alone? Or, is there more to the scandal than one man’s perverse desires and the stigma he must now wear?

I would say that Strauss-Kahn’s predicament amounts to something more than a sex scandal. Marie Bénilde, writing for Le Monde Diplomatique, succinctly gives the reasons for considering them to be so:

A positive aspect to the furore [sic] after the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges including attempted rape was the revelation of the workings of the French media. These include the extreme personalization of politics (leader writers deplore this while pursuing their own causes); the continuity between communications advisers and journalists when a “client” fits mainstream media ideology; and the close ties, always condemned but never severed, between the press and government. The DSK affair also revealed the class reflexes that move editorial writers, on the top rungs of the social ladder, when the powerful fall. The misfortunes of the weak are too banal to be news.

Some men are petty tyrants. Their crimes are matters to be handled by the police and the courts. Other men are grand tyrants. Their crimes often become political matters because their power and influence shields their actions from critical scrutiny and legal accountability. Strauss-Kahn’s troubles belong to the second category. He was a member of the French elite, a leader of the International Monetary Fund and, it seems, an abuser of women for much of his life. His sexual misadventures were not the private affairs of two or more consenting adults. They were instances in which he abused his power. And the members of his class, political party and others closely related to his milieu indirectly sponsored his criminal by providing political and social coverage for him.

Revolutions were made over lesser slights.

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