David Blackburn

The fallout from the DSK affair

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It was an eventful day in New York yesterday. The rape case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn collapsed and, soon after, an earthquake struck that corner of the States’ eastern seaboard — thankfully there have been no reported deaths and damage appears to have been light, although there were fears about the safety of an ageing nuclear plant after the tremors.

Medieval chroniclers might have drawn equivalence between the two events: the natural disaster being the judgement of God on the human drama in court. DSK was the premier contender for the Socialist presidential nomination to fight the despondent Nicolas Sarkozy, a battle he might have won. Those ambitions almost certain never to be realised, not least because the judge, Michael Obus, said there had been no determination on whether or not DSK was guilty (£). The case collapsed because the plaintiff’s evidence did not convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The facts still point to a “hurried sexual encounter”, the nature of which only the two protagonists will know. The Big Beast’s name has not been cleared.     

This has angered elements of the French press this morning, who have abandoned their default deference. An article in Le Monde praises the adversarial judicial system in America, but suggests there will be concern in France about the permanent damage done to DSK’s reputation. The paper also recalls the outrage in France when DSK was forced to do a ‘Perp’s walk’, which it terms a “barbaric practice”.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has vowed to make full statements on these matters when he returns to France, but he did say yesterday that he has been punished “mercilessly” by the media. The article in Le Monde concedes that the press has played a part in DSK’s downfall, on both sides of the Atlantic. But, the paper believes this was positive, as DSK was the author of his own fall:

‘[The affair] has revealed aspects of his personality, his relations with women and money. Like most French politicians, he thought protected by our strong tradition of respect for the private sphere.’

Perhaps, after these events, the French press will respect the private sphere a little less.