Dominic Strauss-Kahn will take the hit for bankers, and be fed like so much meat to the New York sharks.
In today’s Independent on Sunday, a piece by David Randall is headlined ‘DSK: More hotel staff propositioned’. The ‘more’ is actually one. In the second paragraph, the author refers to the former IMF boss as ‘an electronically tagged, armed guarded, rape suspect’. There is no question of rape here, this is an attempted rape. Earlier in the week, Mary Riddell of the Telegraph referred to ‘the disgraced IMF boss Dominic Strauss-Kahn’. He’s not disgraced until the jury finds him guilty, Mary. The Sunday Telegraph has a piece about ‘more revelations of sexual misconduct’, but not one of the accusers will go on the record.
People might find these observations pedantic – and perhaps they are. But multiply them across press, TV, and internet media, and they add up to a man assumed by most to be guilty – outside of France. Here – be they UK expats or French nationals – the overwhelming view expressed is that the case represents mass hysteria and/or a setup by the US Government to doom the euro.
But the coverage in the UK is as nothing compared to the atmosphere now developing in New York. As Strauss-Kahn was finally granted bail last Thursday, the Murdoch Post ran this headline: ‘FROG LEGS IT’. The story went on to call DSK ‘a French big-shot’. You always know where you are with Rupert: everything his tabloids write is a foul brew of half-truth, envy, bigotry, prurient puns, and rabble-rousing hypocrisy.
So herewith my last and final attempt to point out some Page One stuff I’ve been banging on about since Day One in relation to this sordid case. First, all of Jeffrey Shapiro (Diallo’s lawyer), the DA’s office and the NYPD have misrepresented facts about the maid’s background, portrayed her as the Muslim Mother Theresa – but gone out of their way to make DSK look and sound like a bestial – perhaps diabolical – swine. He may well be: but that’s for the jury to decide – not the media, or vote-centric public officials. Strauss-Kahn is a suspect, period.
In America, the senior posts when it to comes to crime go way beyond the Mayor. The key positions in the DA’s office are all elected, the police chief is elected – and of course, top-notch lawyers earn their reputations primarily through high-profile media coverage of murder, mayhem, divorce, substance abuse, personal injury damages, and unveiled sexual peccadilloes.
Just as Mr Murdoch knows his market, so too does the DA: essentially, those whose knuckles leave drag-marks on the carpet. Indeed, Murdoch papers have helped grow their own readers by making cruelty seem the norm….and positively desirable. The Post, lest we forget, coined the ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ line when France wisely stayed out of the Iraq dust-up.
Given the state of the media these days, if ever there was a body of evidence about why I don’t want elected police chiefs in this country, the DSK case covers most of it.
I could live with this as an environment in which to try the former IMF boss on a series of seven sex allegations – if those were all the charges he’ll face. He does, after all, appear either to have antediluvian attitudes to sex manners, or to be delusional about his right to droit du seigneur. If that’s true – and he has also used the power of his position to consummate his desires – then he is despicable, and should go down.
But Strauss-Kahn faces several other charges. They’re not written on the DA’s charge-sheet, but they’re there.
Dominic Strauss-Kahn has come to represent all that is bad for New Yorkers: he’s a banker of sorts, he’s French, he’s misogynist, and he has a wealthy lifestyle that most would like to have. Hate, xenophobia, pc, and envy do not make for calm judgments. Especially when those much higher up the New York social scale often manage to combine an extraordinary level of intolerance with a penchant for sanctimonious frenzy.
People who’ve spent time in the company of this stratum will know what I’m describing. Until you’ve experienced it, you have no idea how insanely out of whack these people are. It is ironic, in fact, that DSK fits the exact crown-size required to be a senior member of this club. And it’s obvious that, when in town and not asking strangers for a date, he wore the headgear as often as possible.
There is not exactly an image-based focus among New York’s chatterati. There is an image compulsion – an obsessive fear of being thought ‘wrong’ that permeates every facet of cultural outlook, behaviour, social engagement, lunch and dress 24/7. Tom Wolfe made a living analysing these metropolitan victims during the 1970s and 1980s,when they were – his own famous invention, this – the radical chique. Being a genius, Wolfe was one of the first to see what free-market capitalism was turning his subjects into. And thus emerged his only successful full-length novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and his best-drawn character: self-styled Master of the Universe, Sherman McCoy.
After thirty years of unbridled Mammon, the radical chique have been partly ousted by (and partly morphed into) a sort of gigantic masked ball. You can meet them, ask “Who was that masked man?”, and be sure of two things: it ain’t the Lone Ranger, but he very probably is completely Tonto. To borrow from another great summer-up Frederic Raphael, this elite mob are what I’d call the Glittering Guises.
Somewhere not far beneath a superficial skin, the GGs want only to be rich, famous, admired and seen. But their chosen disguise is a display of carefully posed outrage about the Fallen – and apparently long-held admiration for the newly Rising. They are politically correct in all senses of the term, and this comes back again to the truly OCD part of their personalities: the terror of making a mistake, the constant nightmares about that faux pas which just might be enough to earn a blank look next time from the Maitre D’ at Eleven Madison Park. Verily, the fast-flowing waters of the GG river run shallow: once you’re out, the only way is down, down, down.
I’m describing only one of New York’s tribes, but the GGs are by far the wealthiest and most influential of them. Most of them are over forty, and probably a majority are in their fifties. One such is the novelist Jay MacInerny.
In July 2009, Rachel Cooke wrote on novelist Jay McInerny in The Observer: ‘There are some men who you wish would just grow up, and some men you hope will remain forever the same: boyish, eager, occasionally ridiculous … fun. Jay McInerney is one of the latter.’
I think Rachel Cooke’s first stab at getting a steer on McInerny was the right one. And here, I must declare an interest: I don’t like his novels. The ones I’ve read really do not do it for me at all – any more than those of his fellow former enfant terrible Bret Easton Ellis did. They’re slight and coke-headed and morally evasive and…crap.
But Ms Cooke’s gushing profile of the man will give you some idea about what turns him on:
‘…the extremely well-placed table he has bagged in one of New York’s best restaurants (“the best restaurant,” he says)….chef rushes from the kitchen for a bear hug; sommeliers stand sentry-like at his elbows; social x-rays flirt with him, sexlessly. “We miss you!” they say, frowning – or trying to – with sincerity. “Are you coming out at the weekend?” (“Out” is a reference to the Hamptons, Long Island)….’
Yet despite living this utterly unreal lifestyle of radiated fawning, Jay feels in a position to judge:
‘…my most representative characters are privileged educationally and culturally……these people are influential. They have a lot to do with the way the rest of us end up living. I don’t think they should escape our scrutiny. They own TV stations and newspapers; they manipulate the markets. It’s interesting to check in on them……”
‘The rest of us’ is perhaps the best self-accusatory irony I’ve seen this year. Yup, be in no doubt: Jay McInerny is a GG.
He was given a column in the Independent yesterday, from which he offered a New Yorker’s view of the Dominic Strauss-Kahn phenomenon. As in his novels, the column shows Jay doing what he does best: approving and yet not approving, desperate to appear hip….and displaying that fundamental cultural sociopathy so apparent among his class. Here is a classic example:
‘Back in the 1980s, during one of Wall Street’s earlier bursts of irrational exuberance and criminal excess, then prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani made a specialty of cuffing white-collar criminals and presenting them for the cameras. Giuliani was criticised by some people for this behaviour, especially after some of the accused were acquitted, but the general public enjoyed seeing stockbrokers and investment bankers treated in the same fashion as other putative thieves…There’s something deeply satisfying in the apparent incongruity of a well-cut business suit and handcuffs…”
So: Wall Street is horrible – ugh! I hate the rich – yo! Giulinani put them in cuffs – waydergo! The general public loved it – result! But why is the demise of someone you don’t know so ‘deeply satisfying’? Self-hatred perhaps?
On the so-called ‘perp walk’ (arrested person frog-marched while cuffed, with unsuitably rough treatment) McInerny offered this gem:
‘Mayor Michael Bloomberg, responding to criticism of the so-called perp walk, defended the practice: “The public can see the alleged perpetrators,” he said. “I think it is humiliating,” he added. “But if you don’t want to do the perp walk, don’t do the crime.”‘
Where to start with this one? “He’s not a perpetrator you dummy, he’s a suspect. He didn’t necessarily do the crime Bloomberg, you brainless klutz.”
That’s what I’d say, but McInerny doesn’t: he leaves it hanging. He wants to be sure he’s backing the right horse here. But this won’t stop him from lauding the views of a lumpen proletariat with whom he has nothing in common. This is macho Jay, wannabe Hemingway Jay:
‘….[Bloomberg’s] statement probably reflects the attitude of his constituents pretty accurately. New York’s a tough place. Deal with it.’
Yurrh. Noo Yoik’s a tough place, punk: deeyal wid it, buddy’. What utter, posturing tosh. Here’s another belter:
‘…..we will eagerly monitor the overseas press for complaints from those who feel that the ankle bracelet is an undignified accessory for such an important man….’
We? We? What’s with this ‘we’, Gatsby? Well, even if the claim has no credibility at all (and it doesn’t) McInerny has another pop at the privileges of the super-rich – those privileges to which he himself is so addicted: (my italics)
‘On Thursday Strauss-Kahn, who has engaged some of the most expensive and successful lawyers in New York, was granted bail, and is being released under house arrest into the custody of a private security firm.’
Nafissatou Diallo’s lawyer Jeffrey Shapiro is a low-cost intern, I suppose? Er, no actually. He’s a graduate of Columbia State and Golden Gate Law School. According to the site Atlantic Wire, he’s ‘a borderline ambulance-chaser who takes injury cases he thinks he can win’. That reflects his behaviour in rushing to take this case: he quickly sussed that this was one he couldn’t lose. In the past, Shapiro has obtained a $22.1 million award for a Brooklyn patient who sued her surgeon for perforating her bowel during a hysterectomy. He also won $2.79 million for a student who fell under a school bus, and $1.65 million for a teacher whose arm was caught in a door. A novice he ain’t.
Or put anther way, he’s the worst kind of daytime TV I-can-get-you-dosh-you-don’t-deserve heel who has a standing Google alert for any mention of ‘avoidable accident involving poor person’. A veritable GG in the making, in fact.
As every writer with even the slightest degree of introspection realises, however hard you try to hide your own personal issues, they will surface without warning throughout your prose. And I’m sure this piece is no exception.
But what Jay McInerny unconsciously demonstrates in his truly silly Indie article is that Dominic Strauss-Kahn has two chances of getting a fair trial in New York City – none, and the other slightly ruder one.
Over the last few days, I have been genuinely appalled by the inability of seemingly bright people to separate their emotional agenda from a rational respect for the Rule of Law. I expect this down among the dingbats and throughout the harder sections of the feminist movement: they respect only their neurotic needs, and to Hell with equality before the law. But to read some of the comment threads here….well, as I’ve observed from time to time before, it’s profoundly depressing to see the triumph of ignorance over intelligence.
The naifs masquerading as cynics revel in asking, “What do you expect?”, to which my answer is unchanging: something better.
As the celebrated adman Leo Burnett remarked, “If you don’t aim for the stars, chances are you’ll end up in the ditch”. Per adua ad astra is not naivety, it is aspiration. We should all try and remember that.