Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the Media's Weapons of Mass Distraction

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who until recently was head of the International Monetary Fund and the frontrunner to be France's next president, is accused of raping a maid from Guinea in the Sofitel Hotel in New York City.

Posted by: Noël Jones

I have been watching the coverage unfold, of the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn--one of the most powerful men in the world--who is accused of raping an immigrant maid from Guinea in a high-end New York City hotel. What I have seen in the media, and in New York's legal system, ranges from deeply troubling, to infuriating.

This man, who has more money than God, has a history of sexual abuse in France, which came to light when a journalist in his country stepped forward after he was arrested. Naturally, he has set his team into motion to try to discredit the victim. But what is most distressing, is that it is not just his team, but the D.A.'s office, the prosecution team, that has set out to discredit her, and is working to get the case dismissed.

The amazing and disgusting thing about this, is that the prosecution and the media--in particular, The New York Times--seems to be doing everything in their power to distract the public from the two things that matter most in this case: that there is powerful physical and forensic evidence to support case, and that the D.A.'s third in command is married to someone in Strauss-Kahn's family.

Instead, they would rather focus on the plight of a frightened immigrant who embellished on her immigration application to bring
her daughter to the United States, or the fact that her boyfriend is in an immigration jail in Arizona. Or the fact that she recognizes that the man who raped her is wealthy and that she might be able to win a settlement after her ordeal. I would like to make two points here:

1. In our legal system, all that matters is what happened in that hotel room. That is where the alleged crime occurred, and that is what has to be proven. It would not matter if she were an all-out criminal (which she is not), in the United States of America it is illegal to rape ANYONE. The woman has medical documentation of a bruised vagina and a torn shoulder ligament, and it is the D.A.'s duty to focus on that. Besides--who ever heard of an attorney in America, going to the media to openly discredit his own witness on a case he is supposed to be trying to win?

2. Strauss-Kahn is the accused here. Not the woman. And yet the woman is being treated as the accused, and Strauss-Kahn is being painted in the media as the victim.

I have twice seen reporters both on MSNBC and Fox News (and yes, I torture myself with both networks to keep track of the bias of each) refer to the woman or the woman's legal team as "the accused" or "the defense"--each of these reporters quickly caught and corrected themselves. But these slips say a lot. They reflect precisely what is going on with our legal system and our media coverage on this case: the victim is being painted as the accused--or more precisely--as guilty. And the accused, is being painted as the victim--especially on Fox News where Geraldo Rivera, in a bizarre commentary, told a story of "a buddy" of his who brought a mail order bride from overseas and then she "accused him of abuse" and "it turns out in America, if you're an immigrant and you are the victim of abuse, you can't be deported until the case is litigated." Fox News allowed Rivera to say this and didn't bother to correct him, in that this woman had legally immigrated and been granted asylum in the U.S. with her daughter. She had no need of any such antics to stay in the country. She was here legally. She had an apartment and a job and her daughter was in school. She was fine, until she allegedly got raped by a wealthy powerful man at work, who feels entitled to sexual access without penalty to those he sees as beneath him.

An article in The New York Times today covers a phone call made by the victim to her boyfriend, in which she is quoted second-hand by an unnamed official, saying '“She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’ ” ' (Note the number of quotation marks here). This quote comes early on the first page of the article. The Times does not mention, until the very end of the article at the bottom of the second page, that the conversation, which was recorded without her knowledge, also recounts precisely the description of the crime that she had told investigators.

Between all three cable channels (CNN, FNC, MSNBC) I have only seen one passing mention of the revelation that someone high up in the D.A.'s office is married into the Strauss-Kahn family, as stated by the woman's attorney Kenneth Thompson, in his press conference on Friday. Just one--that was Brooke Baldwin of CNN.

What is going on here is an all out abuse of wealth and power. What is alleged to have happened in that hotel room is a metaphor for what is happening to regular people--those that are not wealthy and powerful--all over the world. They are above the law--they can buy the law, buy the media, buy the right to rape people whenever they choose and not just get away with it, but quite possibly go on to be elected as the leader of a prominent country (Strauss-Kahn was the frontrunner in France's presidential race, before this incident). What is truly despicable about all this, aside from the alleged crime itself, is that the media and the courts in the United States of America are supposed to be on the side of The People.  The court system is supposed to be fair and balanced for all, and the media is supposed to be The People's watchdog over corruption of our system--they are supposed to tell the whole story, not just the story that the wealthy want them to tell.

It is a sad day when people cannot even trust The New York Times to tell a thorough story.  I have heard plenty of criticism of the Times over the years as the "liberal media." But I have watched them cow-tow to Wall Street bankers and natural gas drillers as much as they back any "liberal" cause. The New York Times is neither liberal nor conservative--it, like much of our political system, is simply corporate. It has sold out completely, and all pot-stirring of punditry about "conservatives" and "liberals," or "Democrats" and "Republicans," is just employing, as Al Sharpton put it years ago, "weapons of mass distraction" to cover up the fact that it is bankers and multinational corporations that run our country--and the world--not anyone's "side of the aisle."

Right now, in the Strauss-Kahn case, the weapon of distraction is this focus on background of the victim, rather than the crime that allegedly occurred and the cold hard evidence presented. And the media's focus on this case at all, is a mass distraction from the fact that we are about to default on our debt, and continue to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars keeping three foreign wars going so that our corporate defense contractors can continue to get richer by the minute, while average middle-class Americans struggle more and more each day. It is also a mass distraction from the fact that natural gas drillers are getting ready to drill tens of thousands of wells next to the drinking water source for 15 million of us, and that they have inflated their reserve estimates beyond their actual history of production, setting our economy up for an even deeper crash than we're already in.

But by all means, let's focus on a poor African woman who lied to give her daughter a better life in America, making the inference that it's therefore okay for a Frenchman to rape her on American soil. Let's invent things about her--like that she might be a drug-dealer, a hooker, or have AIDS--all false accusations made by the New York Post that go unpunished, and are made with the underlying suggestion, that if one commits a crime, it should then be legal for a crime to be committed upon them. So, say, if I steal somebody's car, someone else has the right to rape me. Great logic.

In this case, no such crimes have been committed by the victim, and she has never been sick with AIDS--the whole thing is an invention of the Post. She is a legal immigrant, an employee and a mother, who was allegedly raped by a wealthy, extremely powerful man. A man powerful enough to manipulate an American court system to get a case against him dismissed. A man powerful enough to manipulate the media into garnering public support for him, rather than the victim. Because who does she think she is, anyway? Just a woman, just black, just an immigrant, just a maid, just poor--powerless. She can't possibly have the right to decide who has sex with her body.

None of us do, in fact. If this man walks, the message that is sent to the world is: Don't fight it--you will lose one will support you, not even your own justice system, and the media will eviscerate you. We, the wealthy bankers and corporations, have the power to take anything we want from you, any time we want it...your body, your natural resources, your homes, your jobs, your property values, your labor, your access to information, your dignity. We rule the world. We just let you live here. We own you. Bend over and keep your mouth shut. Accept it. Stop protesting.


peterkc said...

You are right to be outraged by this story, but to see them attack the victim is not all that surprising.

You'd think they would be more sensitive to the appearance of conflict of interest, I guess -- but whether we're talking about petty crimes or major felonies, the system generally works to protect [or at least minimize penalties for] the powerful.

camille said...

well said- and so unfortunate that it even needs to be said at all. the saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words- the confusion and contempt on DSK's face when he was arraigned shows he had felt immune and above the law and did not appreciate things not going his way. the subsequent photo after he was released from house arrest spoke volumes- he was smug, and so openly enjoying his obvious power. and a picture of a bruised vagina? well that gets shut up and does not have a voice in the media, in the court, in the court of public opinion... sigh.

noel jones said...


true enough--and we all know that the judicial system often favors those with money--but what is shocking about this is that it's all in full view--it's one thing for money to win in a case that is not publicized--that happens all the time, but this is so public, so blatant, that it is distressing because it sends the message that even when abuse of our justice system is exposed before the whole nation, it will not be corrected.

this is largely the fault of the media, who decide which pundits to have on board to cover the story. know one can tell me that there isn't an army of outraged feminist scholars, and women's rights activists trying to get air time right now--they are being systematically shut out and no one is covering the Strauss-Kahn connection in the D.A.'s office--i've never seen anything like it.

noel jones said...


i suppose, if this case does not get thrown out completely (and there is a high chance of that at the moment) that the defense will say that her bruised labia was from "consensual sex" without any thought as to precisely how much force would be required to cause those bruises. imagine a man with a bruised penis from a man grabbing it and digging his fingers into the flesh so hard as to bruise it--and then someone suggesting afterwards that it--and a torn shoulder ligament--must have been caused during "consensual sex". it's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

it is very hard, no, impossible, to get a clear understanding of the facts from the media. he might have done it, she might be lying, who knows?
I've got two words for you: Tawana Brawley.
btw, what does this have to do w/ Easton?

noel jones said...

well, aside from there being a lot of WOMEN in Easton who should be concerned about the precedent a case like this could set, there are also a lot of IMMIGRANT women in the Easton area, who have very serious reason to be concerned about the message this case could send. immigrant women in service positions, such as maids/nannies/housekeepers are already often in dangerous, powerless and unsupported situations, but if he walks, the message will be loud and clear--that wealthy men who are guests in hotels can rape immigrant maids and even if they go through the proper channels, our system will not only do nothing about it, but will rake the VICTIM over the coals in public for daring to report it.

a terrifying precedent that would impact women across the country.

as for Tawana Brawley, this is a very different situation. in Brawley's case, the rape kit performed at the hospital revealed no evidence of sexual assault, where as in the DSK case, the rape kit produce very strong physical evidence, and there is also forensic evidence of the incident.

now, that case is still ALLEGED, but the job of the prosecutor is to prosecute the case to the best of his ability and try to win, not try to get the case thrown out. and that fact that his third in command is married into DSK's family is totally suspect.

what i would like to know is whether or no this case could ever go to the NY State Attorney General's office? i'm just trying to think of who in the judicial system is high enough to investigate the NYC D.A.'s office?

of course i'm dreaming...but i'm still curious.

noel jones said...

DSK is now facing sexual assault charges in France:

modern furniture said...

Media not deliver of convey the news it recreate it according to their views. Make a wrapper on it what they want to make it like. Hate this kind of journalism.
Some time victims get more intense situations just like in this case.