Thursday, 19 May 2011

Ben Stein's Elitism Defence of Strauss Kahn

Ben Stein has written what I think is a really atrocious call for "perspective" on the Strauss-Kahn case, "Presumed Innocent Anyone". Despite the title, it's not an article about a failure to presume legal innocence, it's just a set of odd attempts to cast aspersions on the allegations in the case based, it appears, on the fact that Strauss-Kahn is rich and powerful and his accuser is a hotel maid. Most of his points are laughable but I'll pick out a few of my favourites:

1) "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?"   He's likely innocent because he's an economist or because he's head of the IMF.  By the same argument, I suppose, we needn't have bothered attempting to prosecute OJ Simpson (can anyone tell me of any sports broadcasters who'd been charged and convicted of violent murders?) or Martha Stewart (can anyone tell me of any home decorating gurus convicted of insider trading) or the Menendez brothers (can anyone tell me of any wealthy suburban kids who'd been charged and convicted of violent patricide and matricide?)

2) "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. "  Given the account of the struggling that went on and the fact that this is alleged to have occurred in a large suite, this point doesn't make much sense.  But note that he's 62, not 82,  and 5'7", about 3" taller than the average US female,  and his pictures suggest he's not obese or anything, but quite burly. We know nothing of the size of this maid, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that she weighed less and was shorter. Also, note that the charge is attempted rape, not rape, due, in part by the account given to the fact that the maid was partially successful in fighting him off.

3) "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?"  We should likely ignore her, or give him some super duper benefit of the doubt, because she's a maid and there have been instances of maids behaving poorly? I would add that history is replete with examples of rich, powerful people behaving poorly, but I don't think that this constitutes extra evidence of Strauss Kahn's guilt, any more than examples of hotel maids, other than the accuser, behaving poorly gives good reasons to think him innocent.

4) But then Ben Stein stops with all the subtlety and lays his cards on the table, this is not a case of rape it's really a case of the poor unjustly attacking the rich.  How do we know this? Because news articles have mentioned that Strauss Kahn was staying in a $3000/night hotel room.  "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."  (emphasis added)

ETA: Jon Stewart comments on same.

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