WASHINGTON – He’s the Charlie Sheen of philosophy, the Donald Trump of careerist showmanship, the Wall-Mart version of Sartre.
French “philosopher” Bernard Henri-Levy, the non-politician perhaps most responsible for getting NATO into war with Libya, has long been one of the West’s most scarequote-worthy intellectuals. There was the quoting of a literary hoax to attack Immanuel Kant, the dubious reportage from the Russia-Georgia mini-war, the now-more-than-ever defense of Roman Polanski’s “misdemeanor.” And let us not forget the eating-at-home-is-“repugnant” boast, the Daniel Pearl appropriation that led Pearl’s widow Marianne to describe BHL as “a man whose intelligence is destroyed by his own ego,” and a self-appointment as successor to Tocqueville so brazenly impotent that even Garrison Keillor rose above his usual torpor to snarl that “There’s no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title.” – BHL: France’s National Disgrace
When Pres. Obama bombed Libya, this ridiculous man made sure to be on the scene, pictured with the people, his passport his platform. If he’s there it must be serious.
This pontificating blowhard has been giving France a bad name for years, until he made his sojourn to America, hoping for exactly what he’s gotten, open doors and open arms, as people in the media gobbled his drivel up with a spoon.
What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to the dogs. – Bernard-Henri Lévy Defends Accused IMF Director
BHL’s efforts today, however, are really one for the books. Sticking up for a buddy who allegedly sodomized a maid, with the facts and police work looking lined up and (so far) very carefully done. An interview with TIME’S Ruth Davis Konigsberg, with Linda Fairstein, the former chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit of the New York County District Attorney’s Office, answering questions about Strauss-Kahn’s alleged crimes:
What do you think about French pundits who have suggested that it’s a setup?
One has to look at the possibility. I think he’s been saying for a long time that his enemies would do that because one of his problems has been women. You can’t close your eyes to the fact that this is a politically powerful man with a lot of enemies, so of course you consider every angle, but that doesn’t mean you slow down the case. If you think you’ve got a credible witness and done everything you can, you go ahead, but you investigate every plausible angle.
But is a setup even plausible?
It would be more likely to me if the young woman involved got her job last week when Strauss-Kahn made his hotel reservation.
But it was easy to anticipate BHL’s defensive accusations. From a profile in 2008 (h/t WSJ):
Ten years ago, Pierre Bourdieu coined a term for certain French intellectuals whose writings counted for less than their TV appearances. He called them “ les fast-thinkers.” Everyone knew who the sociologist had in mind as the prototype of this phenomenon. Long before the American public got used to hearing references to J-Lo and K-Fed, the French press had dubbed him BHL. His books, movies, TV appearances, political interventions, and romances have been a staple of the French media for more than three decades. But only in the past five years has he become as much a fixture in the U.S. media as the French.
[…] “You and your fellow Americans,” he wrote, “should realize that BHL is not a philosopher but a clown and a buffoon. You want real French philosophy, read Derrida, Foucault, Badiou, Baudrillard, if you are a right winger, read Aron, but please forget about this pompous arrogant shmuck BHL and his unending and shameless self-promotion. As a Frenchman, I am ashamed of BHL.”
We’re getting a very close look at the difference between European and American cultures. In America, though our scoundrels do their best to cover their tracks, there are those moments when class collapses and justice is blind, though they are still rare occasions. Madams are still prosecuted, while the johns are not, but that’s another subject for another time. But women assaulted who stand up do get their day, however torturous the walk.
The curtain has finally been pulled back exposing the playboy French “philosopher,” with Tina Brown giving him the space to prove conclusively exactly what he is and always has been, with Huffington Post already having an archive of his missives, with Howard Fineman obviously having more title than power. Propping up a con man must be good for business. He’s fooled people like Fareed Zakaria, with CNN a particularly soft landing pad for this vulgar opportunist, because who can resist “philosopher” as a title? It’s just so deeply French.
Throwing himself down for Dominque Strauss-Kahn, the whole sordid scandal has rendered BHL into a primal man-boy tantrum.
It starts with the inevitable, blaming the women, the media, the culture, anything but the man caught doing what he’s been doing for years.
It’s how conspiracy theories are spawned.
I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.
[…] What I know as well is that nothing, no earthly law, should also allow another woman, his wife, admirable in her love and courage, to be exposed to the slime of a public opinion drunk on salacious gossip and driven by who knows what obscure vengeance.
Ah yes, the point is to protect the wife who condones brutish behavior and perhaps help cover it up, because it’s their marriage and not the business of others. It’s the same thing the mother thought when she convinced her daughter to stay silent, because Strauss-Kahn wasn’t really that kind of man.
And what I know even more is that the Strauss-Kahn I know, who has been my friend for 20 years and who will remain my friend, bears no resemblance to this monster, this caveman, this insatiable and malevolent beast now being described nearly everywhere. Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally, but this brutal and violent individual, this wild animal, this primate, obviously no, it’s absurd.
I resent the New York tabloid press… he whines.
I am angry with all those in France... he spits.
But he seems most angry at people who, according to him, “complacently accept the account of this other young woman, this one French, who pretends to have been the victim of the same kind of attempted rape, who has shut up for eight years but, sensing the golden opportunity, whips out her old dossier and comes to flog it on television.”
No man could be more ignorant of the shame and trauma of rape than fake philosopher, professional gadfly and man about the planet, Bernard-Henri Lévy.
The world must understand, to lose Dominque Strauss-Kahn, would be for France “to lose its champion.”
Strauss-Kahn is in jail, bail denied, until Friday, as he sits in a cell at Rikers Island. He’s innocent until proven guilty, but there’s a reason the Manhattan Special Victims Unit put him where he is today, after he was identified in a lineup, with the help of a judge who knew he was a flight risk.
Bernard-Henri Lévy has gotten away with his fake philosopher posing for a very long time. But his soft spot for pathological Lotharios has finally hung him out.
Taylor Marsh is a Washington based political analyst, writer and commentator on national politics, foreign policy, and women in power. A veteran national politics writer, Taylor’s been writing on the web since 1996. She has reported from the White House, been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her blog.
Paul Szep cartoon used by permission.