Monday, July 04, 2011

Anti-Americanism Reawakens in France

…with the case appearing to collapse over questions about the credibility of the hotel housekeeper from Guinea who accused him, and Mr. Strauss-Kahn freed from house arrest, the French are feeling a kind of bitter jubilation of their own, and renewing their criticisms about the rush to judgment, the public relations concerns of elected prosecutors and the somehow uncivilized, brutal and carnival nature of American society, democracy and justice
writes Steven Erlanger in an Independence Day article about how the "stunning reversals in the criminal case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a putative French presidential candidate, have reawakened a dormant anti-Americanism in France, fueled by a sense that the raw, media-driven culture of the United States has undermined justice and fair play." (Among other things, we have one (pro-American) French writer asking whether the DSK scandal is not the 21st Century's Dreyfus Affair? Incidentally, the French press is starting to reveal the identity of Strauss-Kahn’s accuser — the maid's name is Nafissatou Diallo.) UPDATE: DSK and Tristane Banon to counter sue one another
…there was a sense that it was not just Mr. Strauss-Kahn who was being so jauntily humiliated, but France itself.

… Noëlle Lenoir, a former European affairs minister, said many French felt insulted. “People were shocked by the media circus,” she said. “They thought the prosecution was making common cause with the tabloids. So there is a bit of revenge for what is seen as very anti-French behavior.”

… Though it was the American prosecutors who revealed the housekeeper’s various fabrications about her background, her asylum application and her taxes, the turnabout “does wake up this slumbering anti-Americanism, and the great losers are American justice and the New York police,” said Dominique Moïsi, a longtime analyst of French-American relations who has studied and taught in the United States. “The case does damage to the image of America and recreates negative stereotypes that existed before.”

Even in the 1990s, “when we were so close, when the cold war was over and before the second Iraq war, we were divided along the line of the death penalty,” Mr. Moïsi said.

“There is a sense in Europe that you can’t be fully civilized with the death penalty,” he said. “Now this feeling is reinforced — that the United States is not a fully civilized country with a police that behaves like that, that wants to humiliate,” he continued. “There is a sense that it’s a dangerous country.”

…The French writer Bernard-Henri Lévy, an outspoken friend and defender of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, … scolded the United States from a particularly French intellectual height. “America the pragmatic, that rebels against ideologies, this country of habeas corpus that de Tocqueville claimed possessed the most democratic system of justice in the world, has pushed this French Robespierrism, unfortunately, to the extremes of its craziness,” he wrote, invoking the ideological bloodletting of the French Revolution. “All this calls, at the least, for serious, honest, and substantial soul-searching.”

… Patrice Randé, 50, who was visiting Paris from Bordeaux, said that if Mr. Strauss-Kahn turned out to be innocent it would reveal “the colossal error” made by the American justice system — and, he feared, stoke more anti-Americanism. “For French-American relations it would actually be better if he was proven guilty,” Mr. Randé said.

… Mr. Moïsi thinks that Mr. Strauss-Kahn, whose next hearing is set for July 18, may end up politically ahead. The Socialist Party wants to win at all costs, he said, and they may decide that Mr. Strauss-Kahn has a new cachet. “If D.S.K. returns triumphantly as a victim of American justice that may change everything,” he said.

Reminder: What is the difference (if any) between French-bashing and anti-Americanism?
Here is one answer: French ugly attitudes came about (they have been existing forever, as we have seen) while sitting passively without risks on the sidelines [during the Iraq war]; America's anger comes at somebody sitting on the sidelines offering gratuitous slander (not advice, thank you very much) while their (America's) politicians, their people, and their troops took risks (good ones or ill), took action, and put its citizen (soldier)s in harm's way, i.e., in mortal danger.