My first thought upon hearing the news of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest was that, if there is even a kernel of truth to the allegations, it is highly unlikely that this is the first time he has been guilty of this kind of behavior. And indeed, the stories have begun, not to surface, but to resurface, with one former Sarkozy adviser quoted a few years ago as saying, “Everyone in Paris has known for years he had something of a problem. Not many female journalists are prepared to interview him alone these days.”
If this is actually the case, then it is a condemnation not just of one man, but of an entire system. Because it is impossible to engage in this kind of behavior with impunity, and especially over the long term, without an enabling system in place. That enabling system consists of the fixers who clean up afterwards — by hiding evidence, by discouraging victims from seeking justice (whether through persuasion, bribe or threat), and by using euphemisms such as “seduction” to describe coercion or rape. But it also consists of all those who willingly avert their gaze from behavior that they know crosses the line between unseemly and criminal.
This is all too common in everyday life, but it undermines the legitimacy of the political system — and the political class — when the perpetrator is a man of power.