Holy shit. The ludicrous Ben Stein goes completely off the rails with this loathsome commentary on the IMF rape case. Stein is a jackass of the first water, and given to weird conspiracy theories (global warming, evolution theory, and the welfare state are all secret movements designed to undermine freedom), but he likes to position himself as a simply a mild-mannered economic crank (“Beuller? Bueller? Buy mortgage-backed securities!”). It’s only a matter of time, though, for any conservative before classism and misogyny break through the surface (presumably nobody told him the woman in this case is an African Muslim – I guess he’ll need to post a followup).
The idiocy below starts out stupid and just gets gradually more offensive sentence by sentence. By the end it is almost the ugliest and nastiest thing I have yet seen posted about this case. My only hope is that this is the piece that finally takes Stein off the map as a supposed “reasonable conservative”. At his best he was a David Brooks dunderhead; today he exposes himself as an Ann Coulter psychotic, and he ought to be remembered as such.
Presumed Innocent, Anyone?
Now for a few humble thoughts about Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his recent brush with law and journalism, bearing in mind that it’s possible indeed, maybe even likely, that he is guilty as the prosecutors charge:
1.) If he is such a womanizer and violent guy with women, why didn’t he ever get charged until now? If he has a long history of sexual abuse, how can it have remained no more than gossip this long? France is a nation of vicious political rivalries. Why didn’t his opponents get him years ago?
You can’t think of a reason why one of the foremost politicians in a major country was protected by the government and the media after mistreating women? Yeah, ’cause there’s no way that ever happens.
But in this case, at any rate, he was in fact previously accused. When his accuser publicly stated she had been attacked by him, the French television station bleeped his name out to preserve secrecy for him – but not her. The woman’s own mother, also a French politician, encouraged her not to file charges because she knew what the consequences would be. Now the woman is filing again in the hope that someone will pay attention this time.
2.) In life, events tend to follow patterns. People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example. Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes? Can anyone tell me of any heads of nonprofit international economic entities who have ever been charged and convicted of violent sexual crimes? Is it likely that just by chance this hotel maid found the only one in this category? Maybe Mr. Strauss-Kahn is guilty but if so, he is one of a kind, and criminals are not usually one of a kind.
“People who commit crimes tend to be criminals.” You sure about that, Einstein?
Let’s think . . . “criminals” commit crimes, but “economists” don’t. “Heads of nonprofit international economic entities” don’t. But “hotel maids” are suspicious. So . . . what exactly is this distinction between “criminals” and “non-criminals” that he’s trying to make? . . . Right . . . rich people can’t be criminals, because they’re rich. Working class people . . . they consort with criminals.
But more than the immensely stupid elitism of all this is its presumptuous misogyny. I think Stein was not thinking of class itself so much as the basic insurmountable difference between people like him and people not like him (note Stein positions himself as a self-taught economics expert). Stein believes it is literally unthinkable that certain kinds of people could commit sexual violence toward women – and that any suggestion otherwise from a mere “hotel maid” is inherently implausible.
Part of the central issue with rape, that feminists have all too well documented, is that it does not conform to classist (and usually racist) stereotypes – that its perpetrators come from all backgrounds, and women are vulnerable in all environments. The idea that there are certain combinations of criminal and victim that are unlikely because the criminal is not one of those kinds of people is not just false, but dismissive of the reality of women’s lives, and the dangers they face from men who believe themselves to be above criticism. Stein presumptively dismisses charges against DSK because he is of the approved class; he presumptively disputes the accusations of the survivor because she is of a class that is not privileged with presumptive veracity.
3.) The prosecutors say that Mr. Strauss-Kahn “forced” the complainant to have oral and other sex with him. How? Did he have a gun? Did he have a knife? He’s a short fat old man. They were in a hotel with people passing by the room constantly, if it’s anything like the many hotels I am in. How did he intimidate her in that situation? And if he was so intimidating, why did she immediately feel un-intimidated enough to alert the authorities as to her story?
This is more of the same. How is it possible that one of the most powerful men in the world could have victimized a black immigrant hotel maid? Boy, that’s hard to imagine. As to the physical details of the crime, they have been documented in the press and are not hard to understand, unless you willfully refuse. He came out of the bathroom naked and grabbed her, tried to pull her clothes off, and did far worse. She managed to push him away and he chased her down the hall, and she finally managed to get out of the suite. What is possibly implausible about this? Nobody is so strong that they cannot be harmed, and it’s not in the least implausible that this woman was not stronger than this man, or could not immediately fight back when he jumped at her.
This is an old, vicious trope used against rape victims all the time – she must have wanted it or she would have fought back, and if she did fight back but was still raped, she obviously didn’t really mean it. That if she wasn’t actually under threat to her life from a deadly weapon, it can’t be rape. This is not just stupid, it’s ugly, hateful, and false. And it’s a standard pro-rapist tactic that can’t be given the slightest credence today.
As for the circumstances, it has been widely reported that the crime took place in a large hotel suite with an enclosed foyer, a long hallway, and a series of rooms further in. It’s not surprising that nobody might have heard, and at any rate such crimes take place in hotels all the time.
Stein seems to be building a case that there was in fact no crime. He can’t know this. He has taken one side in this case and is systematically creating a whisper campaign to the effect that the accuser in this case is lying. He has chosen to do this – on no direct knowledge, but motivated by his stereotypes of what “heads of economic entities” and “hotel maids” – or, men and women, generally – are like and how they deserve to be regarded. This is not just moral bankruptcy – it is a kind of categorical moral delusion, like his nonsense about creationism – a stereotyped view of the world in which there is a place for everyone and everyone belongs in their place, and anything that challenges his preconceptions is not merely false but a kind of threat.
As for where the survivor got the confidence to report the crime afterwards, I suspect it’s from living in a country where she has been told that women have rights, where rape is (sometimes) prosecuted by people who understand what rape is, where women can get help when they speak up about what is done to them, and where other women have created an environment in which some women can feel secure enough to stand up for themselves. In other words, from feminists. Not all women, even in the US, enjoy these luxuries. None did, just a short time ago. That people like Stein still find it confusing is merely evidence of the kind of country he is working to take us back to being.
4.) Did the prosecutors really convince a judge that he was a flight risk when he was getting on a flight he had booked long beforehand? What kind of high-pressure escape plan is that? How is it a sudden flight move to get on a flight booked maybe months ago?
Was he really “a flight risk when he was getting on a flight”?
Mr. Stein . . . Ben . . . dude . . . you are a dumbshit.
Seriously – did the little man in Stein’s head who’s supposed to keep all the stupid shit from leaking out take a break today? How did this possibly make it into print? I mean, even The American Spectator must have editors, right?
I am honestly at a loss to understand what this is supposed to mean. Up to this point, Stein has just been a classist pro-rape asshole. This is where the crazy starts to leak through. As best I can grasp it, Stein is implying that DSK can’t have been trying to escape the country to avoid prosecution because his flight was pre-booked – meaning, I guess, that it wasn’t a panicked bolt for the border. But . . . try to follow along here . . . he was undeniably leaving the country, right? On a . . . “flight”. So he seems pretty obviously to be at some likelihood of taking a flight to leave the country, inasmuch as that’s what he was actually doing when they caught him. The fact that his rape wasn’t pre-planned hardly means he gets a free pass out of the country after committing it.
5.) Mr. Strauss-Kahn had surrendered his passport. He had offered to stay in New York City. He is one of the most recognizable people on the planet. Did he really have to be put in Riker’s Island? Couldn’t he have been given home detention with a guard? This is a man with a lifetime of public service, on a distinguished level, to put it mildly. Was Riker’s Island really the place to put him on the allegations of one human being? Hadn’t he earned slightly better treatment than that? Any why compare him with a certain pedophile from France long ago? That man had confessed to his crime. Mr. Strauss-Kahn has not confessed to anything.
(1) He’s at Riker’s Island because Riker’s Island is where they hold pre-trial prisoners in New York City. DSK is there because he’s facing trial for being a rapist. So he gets to stay where they keep people like him. It’s a crappy place, from all descriptions, but I haven’t heard of Stein making any kind of plea for better conditions for prisoners on remand in New York, ever, before this.
(2) Insanely rich and powerful people with diplomatic connections who were arrested in the act of fleeing the country aren’t a really great bet for “home detention”.
(3) He doesn’t have a home in New York. That’s why he was using a hotel to rape people in.
(4) The open elitism of this passage is once again staggering. “Public service”? There’s a non-profit rapist’s exemption? (Also, despite right-winger Stein’s heartwarming approval of non-profit economists, there’s a serious question whether working for the IMF constitutes “public service”. The IMF is essentially a tool for destroying public services and privatizing state resources in poor countries – those being its standard conditions for loans for the most desperate people in the world, on behalf of wealthy countries whose corporations then purchase those resources. An ongoing debate continues as to just how many people the IMF has killed; estimates range from thousands to millions.) “Was Riker’s Island really the place to put him”? Again – yes, Riker’s Island was the place to put him. He’s awaiting trial. Riker’s Island is where you stay when you’re awaiting trial for a violent crime and have already been caught fleeing once.
But the entire message is simply that this kind of person can’t possibly be treated like the ordinary people who are in the same legal situation. Because he was powerful and prominent, he had “earned better treatment”. At this point, Stein has completely dropped the pretense that DSK – again, caught on an airplane – wasn’t a flight risk. He’s simply claiming openly that the justice system should work differently for the right kind of people.
(5) The “allegations of one human being”? Oh, go ahead and say it: one “hotel maid”. Here again it’s impossible to imagine what Stein believes he’s saying – or at least, impossible to imagine that anyone would openly say what Stein is obviously saying. Getting arrested “on the allegations of one human being” is standard practice. (Note, too, that this “human being”‘s allegations are backed by physical evidence and corroborating testimony – none of which is a legal pre-requisite to arresting the suspect.) As Stein notes, DSK hasn’t been convicted of anything yet, but that’s not what the pre-trial process is for. He has been named as a suspect, and on the basis of a credible allegation he was arrested and is being held for trial. Welcome to the world of being a rapist, D! That’s what it’s like when you’re awaiting trial for your crimes. It’s what it’s like for every defendant. Stein, again, is aghast the the rules work the same way for one of his class for any ordinary criminal. (After all, people who commit crimes tend to be criminals. You can’t possibly expect that to apply to a rapist who heads a nonprofit international economic entity.
6.) People accuse other people of crimes all of the time. What do we know about the complainant besides that she is a hotel maid? I love and admire hotel maids. They have incredibly hard jobs and they do them uncomplainingly. I am sure she is a fine woman. On the other hand, I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics, stealing airline tickets from me, stealing money from me, throwing away important papers, stealing medications from me. How do we know that this woman’s word was good enough to put Mr. Strauss-Kahn straight into a horrific jail? Putting a man in Riker’s is serious business. Maybe more than a few minutes of investigation is merited before it’s done.
I love and admire hotel maids. But you know, of course, they can be complete lunatics, thieves, paper absconders, and druggies. Just sayin’.
“How do we know that this woman’s word was good enough”? Who’s we, tiny little delusionist asshole white man? Nobody asked your opinion. You don’t have to be satisfied. We have a police force – one not noted for an unusual degree of concern for women, by the way. They got an accusation they considered credible, and apprehended the suspect. You know, like the police do. Not to your kind of people, of course, but, every once in a while . . .
Maybe they’re even going to do a few minutes of investigation, while the justice system works through its procedures. Like they do.
Christ, Stein, try to get over your shock that the system actually applies to people from your class. Statistically, of course, it’s an aberration, but, you know, this is how the law is supposed to work.
7.) In this country, we have the presumption of innocence for the accused. Yet there’s my old pal from the Ron Ziegler/ Richard Nixon days, Diane Sawyer, anchor of the ABC Nightly News, assuming that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is guilty. Right off the bat she leads the Monday news by saying that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is in Riker’s… “because one woman stood her ground…” That assumes she’s telling the truth and he’s guilty. No such thing has been proved and it’s unfortunate for ABC to simply assume that an accusation is the same as a conviction. Maybe he’s in jail because one person didn’t tell the truth. I don’t know one way or the other, but I sure know that there has been no conviction yet.
Apparently the late stages of Conservative Reading Comprehension Disorder include Conservative TV News Listening Confusion Disorder. I don’t really know what Diane Sawyer said, but there’s nothing in that quote that does any violence to the presumption of innocence. There’s no question that DSK was arrested “because one woman stood her ground”. And there’s no question that the implication of that claim – that that is a difficult and noteworthy thing to do – is true as well. You’ve already proved that people like DSK have powerful and uncritical friends who are willing to waive the rules for them. Whether or not this woman’s obviously true accusations* are borne out in court or not, it’s certainly true that it is very hard to bring any accusation against someone like this, and it took courage and fortitude for her to do so. That she had those is why he’s in jail.
Stein’s grasp of the most basic aspects of law is as weak as his grasp of . . . well, everything else. He’s certainly right that “there has been no conviction yet”. That’s because there has been no trial yet. The question of guilt has not even been raised. By definition, pre-trial arrests are conducted on a belief in the possibility of guilt, not proof of guilt; proof is what the trial is for (or was, pre-9/11). It is no defense of DSK to say he has not been proven guilty, and it bears no relation to the question whether he should have been arrested. A credible allegation was submitted to a judge, a warrant was issued, and the police and courts are acting to process the case. That’s how the system works. Stein is simply claiming his cohort should be exempt even from being submitted to a test of guilt.
8.) In what possible way is the price of the hotel room relevant except in every way: this is a case about the hatred of the have-nots for the haves, and that’s what it’s all about. A man pays $3,000 a night for a hotel room? He’s got to be guilty of something. Bring out the guillotine.
R-i-i-i-i-i-g-h-t . . . because the have-nots are constantly dragging the haves out of their first-class airplane seats and throwing them in jail on trumped-up charges. It’s just so unfair being one of the downtrodden and oppressed haves in this country.
It’s hard even to mock this sufficiently. I can’t think of a clearer or more shameless case of classist projection: “People who commit crimes tend to be criminals. Was Riker’s Island really the place to put him? Hadn’t he earned slightly better treatment? Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes? In what possible way is the price of the hotel room relevant except in every way?” Shorter Stein: procedural justice is for little people. It really panics him that someone who can afford to pay $3,000 for a hotel room could be considered guilty of a crime, let alone forced to answer to the law for it. It’s obviously a conspiracy motivated by resentment, in which complete lunatic working class women invent unthinkable sexual-assault charges against someone who is widely known for hitting on less-powerful women and has been publicly accused of rape before, because they’re angry that he’s rich. (I especially love the Louis XIV reference: serving an arrest warrant on a member of the global upper class in 2011 is literally the same as sending the French monarchy to the guillotine during the Revolution.)
I don’t know Mr. Strauss-Kahn. I have never laid eyes on him in person. He may well, in the future, be found guilty of atrocious conduct towards the complainant and maybe towards others. But, so far, he’s innocent, and he’s being treated shamefully. If he’s found guilty, there will be plenty of time to criticize him and imprison him. But nothing has been proved yet except that the way this case has been handled so far is an embarrassment to this country.
Stein, you are an embarrassment to this country. You make a living sounding off about random issues, on grounds that invariably amount to nothing but ideological pre-commitments that conveniently happen to serve your own self-interest or that of your political allegiances. You are infamous for being wrong about everything: you encouraged people to buy mortgage-backed securities one year before the Lehman bankruptcy; you predicted a growing economy and that the credit crisis was overblown, a year before the stock market crash in 2008; you made an entire movie about how creationism was the victim of a conspiracy theory by science teachers; as a Nixon flunky in the 70s, you claimed there was no Deep Throat; you then blamed Woodward and Bernstein for the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia, because they exposed the president who had carpet-bombed that country and destroyed its anti-communist government. You’re despised as a hack: you were canned from the New York Times for breaking their formal rule against making product endorsements, and then blamed it on a liberal conspiracy; you publish loads of platitudinous advice books about money, marriage, retirement planning, and every other damn thing, all of which consist of empty pabulum (“High self esteem can enable anyone to break out of any rut”; “In hot markets, your returns will depend on your entry point”); you hosted a TV show called “Win Ben Stein’s Money”, without mentioning that the money in question was a fee you were provided on every episode in order to pay it to the contestants (little-known fact: another popular game show was originally entitled “Win Bob Barker’s Goat”); you’re a global-warming denier and a War-on-Christmas advocate. Worse than all of these, and not coincidentally, you’re a misogynist creep: you claim that banning abortion would somehow “save the lives of 700,000 women a year, and save millions more from humiliation, embarrassment, dereliction, and breast cancer” – the last of which has been repeatedly and authoritatively debunked many times, the first of which is simply incomprehensible, and the rest of which is idiotic – and you have referred to abortion as “the worst form of terrorism” (making close to one million US women per year not merely terrorists, but “the worst” terrorists, for exerting control of their own bodies).
And as risible ideological idiot, hack, and misogynist creep, you take it upon yourself to all but openly accuse the woman who was raped by DSK of lying and fabricating both the story and the evidence, as part of some sort of resentment-driven discrimination against rich economists. You actually state that people of that kind “deserve better”, and should not be subject to the same terms of arrest, of detention, of investigation, and of trial as “criminals”. The logical lameness of it is as abject as the entitled special pleading. But as with most conservative “thinking”, what you prove is only the barrenness of your self and your view of the world.
The idea that justice must be different for different classes of people is the most offensive political ideology that exists – it underlies every form of oppression, and every systematic abuse. The idea that it is an imposition on the powerful to expect them to be subject to ordinary constraints and processes of law is the bulwark of inequality – the thing that makes justice unobtainable for the less powerful, an equitable participation in the wealth of the nation impossible for the less wealthy, and true freedom in one’s life unavailable to those whose lives have been consigned to the service of others. You have come out for all of these, in the most nakedly classist and self-satisfied terms, and not coincidentally to the degredation of women abused at the hands of powerful men. You are an embarrassment to yourself and to your country – though not to your political fellow-travelers, for whom such embarrassment is merely a matter of identity. You have no grasp of law, process, or right. You have allied yourself with force, entitlement, privilege, and wrong. In this you surprise no one, but you forfeit any claim to stature greater than the ideologue, hack, and creep that you have chosen to make yourself.
Stein has said that he wants two things carved on his tombstone: “He loved dogs.” and “Beuller, Beuller.”. Today he’s earned another two: “He loved rich rapists.” and “People who commit crimes tend to be criminals.”
* Oops! (If DSK doesn’t like it, he can sue me. Truth is an absolute defense to libel. I suspect he’s going to be defending too many criminal and civil suits for the foreseeable future to get around to defending himself in court against me.)