Sexism, nationalism and power: the endless DSK soap opera

Posted on | mei 25, 2011 | No Comments

It seems that the scandal involving former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Khan and the lady he had allegedly assaulted, has taken on a life of its on like a TV soap opera that has no end. It many dimensions include French nationalists on side making accusations against the US, American nationalists making accusations against the libertine French; various individuals arguing the entire matter is one vast conspiracy; other arguing that the DSK case proves how well the US justice system works to protect even a low-paid hotel chamber maid; other noting that the conservatives are out to stigmatize Socialists like DSK; and so on, the soap opera goes on…

Having lived in the states for many years, it was difficult not to notice the blatant contradictions that we see society regarding the politics of sex and the culture of sex and violence. On the one hand, there is the American culture of overbearing commercialized sex-sex-sex injected into everything from beer to car commercials, while at the same time, the legal system and formal structures in general are extraordinarily puritanical and punitive at least legalistically and on the surface.

The contradiction of tantalizing the masses with commercialized sex-sex-sex, on the one hand, but then adopting a puritanical formal public position, on the other, for the sake of conformity is a part of Americana. Now does this contradiction in American society give license to any one to carry out any act of harassment, let alone assault? Does this mean that the individual is not responsible for his/her actions, especially in a matter as private as the one in which DSK has been involved?

It is important in all of this discussion to try and avoid shallow stereotypes, whether American, French or any other. I can understand the anger of some Europeans, but how differently would the French police and courts have treated an American in similar circumstances as DSK? There is absolutely no relevance between the nationality of DSK and his personal conduct, assuming that his conduct is what the prosecution has stated. Moreover, the court case will reveal details about the case that we do not currently know. We should all stand back on this one and allow the judicial process to take its course. This is the soap opera that keeps on giving, but people need to be patient for more facts to surface.

The case is criminal, but some deal could be worked out between attorneys, given that this is a high profile political person on trial, a foreign national, and there is continued media frenzy. It is hard to believe that this will drag out like any other criminal case, but one never knows. My view is that DSK should reach an out-of court settlement when the civil case follows; pay the woman, even if he is innocent, and walk away from this nightmare that he is living and he is subjecting his family, and distracting from the work that the Socialists need to do in France. In any case, he is finished politically, no matter what happens in New York. The question now is about IMF bureaucratic reform. I would not be surprised if a few among the female staff come forward and sue the Fund over past allegations, unless their internal mechanisms settle all claims to avoid publicity.

One final point, I am simply amazed that very learned and intelligent people – the latest, a prominent economist I was listening to on TV here in Europe – believe that DSK was ‘set up’. Who did this setting up and how? Dark sinister forces, namely, US, Germany and Sarkozy, all with their own motives, conspired to end IMF bailing out countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal, soon to follow Spain. But that is what the IMF has always done! It provides ‘stabilization loans’ to countries facing insurmountable deficits and have no access to capital from the private sector owing to high interest rates.

Maybe it is all true, maybe DSK was ‘set up’, but should we not wait for some empirical evidence before we jump to conspiracy theories that appeal to the irrational and cynical side in all of us? Too dark and too secretive for any details of the conspiracy to ever surface? Maybe so. The bottom line is that current IMF policy has been in place for decades, and about the only thing that DSK contributed was to work collaboratively with Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank on bailouts of Greece, then Ireland, and Portugal still pending officially. As far as we know, the US and Germany wanted him to stay as IMF chief, for he was serving IMF policy well. As far as Sarkozy is concerned, he just does not strike me as a Nixon-style politician who would engage in a Watergate-style operation, but who really knows?

DSK will make lots of money when he signs a book deal and movie rights to his sad sad story of sexism, nationalism, and power: the DSK soap opera. Soon at a book store near you; soon to follow the motion picture. This is the soap opera that keep on giving…

AUTHOR: Jon Kofas
E-MAIL: jonkofas [at]


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