So, You’re A ‘French Intellectual,’ Eh?
The putrid DSK defenses prompt a closer look at les philosophes francais
David Rieff has a must-read takedown of the apologies offered on Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s behalf from several of his French friends, who doubt that their buddy the former International Monetary Fund head, known as a philanderer, could possibly have been guilty of attempted rape and other crimes, and cry foul—do they actually say sacre bleu!? I’m guessing no—at such demeaning features of the American criminal justice system as its not giving celebrities a pass. The argument that “because DSK is a valuable person, he is entitled to special treatment,” Rieff argues, “is the subtext of all the storm and fury in Paris over how Strauss-Kahn has been treated.”
I come, however, to make a different point, and it is raised by the three examples Rieff cites of DSK apologists: The freelance intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, mais, bien sûr; Jean Daniel, a prominent editor; and Robert Badinter, a human rights lawyer who, more than any other single person, is responsible for France having abolished the death penalty. What do they have in common? They are all French intellectuals. They are all, in their various idiosyncratic and self-professed ways, men of the left. They are all buddies with DSK—come to think of it, another French intellectual man of the left. Is there anything else these four share … ?
Of course, there is, and I put it to you, France: Can’t you guys get yourself some non-Jewish intellectuals? I mean it’s an improvement on the situation during the Dreyfus Affair (J’abuse!), but come on! I just named four: DSK, BHL, Daniel, and Badinter. I haven’t even mentioned the godfather of French Baby Boomer leftism, André Glucksmann, or (along with BHL) one of the other chief nouveaux philosophes who rose to prominence in the ’70s, Alain Finkielkraut. I have not yet mentioned the model for French post-Sartre engagé intellectual activity, former Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, or his longtime friend Daniel “Danny the Red” Cohn-Bendit (a French-born German citizen, which is basically exactly the point). Alexandre Adler! Pascal Bruckner! Michel Taubmann! Jacky Mamou? Jacky Mamou! A bunch of other people mentioned in this article! The fact is, France would be looking at the wholesale elimination of its entire intellectual état should, say, France ever see fit to hand its Jews over to people who wished them ill, which, fortunately, would never, ever happen.
The only three exceptions to this rule help prove it. Pierre-André Taguieff is one of us in spirit, having been accused of being one by the Islamic intellecutal Tariq Ramadan. The novelist Michel Houellebecq, the reigning Prix Goncourt winner, is a non-Jewish French intellectual, but he famously lives in deliberate exile. And, finally, there is Pierre Manent. What makes Manent the exception that proves the rule? Manent is a neoconservative, and, apparently, only American neocons are Jews.
An Indefensible Defense [TNR]