Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Pseudo Bernard-Henri Levy

France is justifiably proud of her great philosophers. Some have been right-minded; most have been wrong-headed. But they have mostly been serious intellectuals and exceptionally intelligent people.

Bernard-Henri Levy, known to his fans as BHL, does not count among them. More interested in preening for the camera than engaging in serious thought, BHL is a celebrity philosopher, someone who might rightly be called a pseudo-philosophe.

Until a few days ago, a French man of the left could reasonably place his  hope for the political future in one Dominique Strauss-Kahn, known to his fans as DSK.

The socialist politician, director of the International Monetary Fund, was poised to become the next president of France. To the greater glory and influence of the French intellectual class.

And then it all came tumbling down. A more savvy thinker would have realized that “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” were not going to put DSK back together again. He would have modestly awaited the outcome of the judicial proceedings.

Not BHL. Seizing the opportunity to become his generation’s Emile Zola, BHL penned an unfortunate screed denouncing, not the crime in question, not the actions of DSK, but the indignity, the humiliation that the American judicial process, to say nothing of the American press, had submitted this wonderful man, a man who had the distinction, among others, of being a close personal friend of BHL. Link here.

Where Zola had proclaimed the innocence of Col. Dreyfus in his famous “J’accuse” broadside, BHL claims to be agnostic on the subject. He is more concerned by the humiliation suffered by DSK and his wife. He is thoroughly unconcerned about the humiliation to which the chambermaid might have been subjected.

In BHL’s words: “What I know is that nothing, no suspicion whatever (for let’s remind ourselves that, as I write these lines, we are dealing only with suspicions!), permits the entire world to revel in the spectacle, this morning, of this handcuffed figure, his features blurred by 30 hours of detention and questioning, but still proud.

“What I know as well is that nothing, no earthly law, should also allow another woman, his wife, admirable in her love and courage, to be exposed to the slime of a public opinion drunk on salacious gossip and driven by who knows what obscure vengeance.”

If there were awards for sloppy thinking, BHL would certainly qualify. So many commentators have pointed it out, that further emphasis would feel like piling on.

Does BHL not know that no one is thrown in jail on “suspicions.” DSK finds himself isolated, on a suicide watch, in Rikers Island, because of serious and credible accusations of criminal behavior. One expects that the grand jury will soon deliver an indictment.

One is astonished to see this pseudo-philosophe claiming that the humiliation visited on his friend is merely the fault of the American criminal justice system and the American media. He does not have a word to say about the possibility that DSK brought it on himself.

An astonishing blind spot, to say the least.

Who knows what is passing through the nether regions of the mind of BHL? Perhaps he feels honor-bound to defend a friend in time of trouble. Perhaps he let his emotions get the better of his rational faculties. Perhaps he finds it radically impossible to imagine that he completely misjudged a man who has been his friend for twenty years.

Be all of that as it may, and given BHL’s agony over the humiliation suffered by DSK, it is only fair to remark that the famed pseudo-philosophe has managed to make a complete fool of himself.

BHL has succeeded in drawing a wave of derision on himself, in particular, and French philosophy, in general. If he has any moral sense at all, he will now be cringing with the shame that he has brought on himself. It would be more honest than his petty resentments.

BHL’s humiliation was made that much more acute by Iowahawk’s parody of his now-infamous column. Iowahawk is known to his friends as David Burge.

Iowahawk has written a parody of staggering brilliance. I will quote a few paragraphs to give you the flavor. You should definitely read the whole thing. Link here.

Iowahawk plays off of BHL’s agnostic insistence that he does not know what happened.

Let’s say that the following words were penned by the Pseudo Bernard-Henri Levy: 
“I do not know what actually happened Saturday, the day before yesterday, in the room of the now famous Hotel Sofitel in New York.

“I do not know — no one knows — because can there or cannot there be such a knowing? I do not know. All is but existential abyss. For who is to know this mocking mime which taunts us by its cruel appellation, 'reality'? Even reality itself cannot know, because have been no leaks regarding the declarations of the man in question, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. We have only the leaks regarding the leaks of his so-called ‘DNA.’ Was he was guilty of the acts he is accused of committing there, or if, or at which why, as was stated, he was having a mud bath in Baden-Baden with his daughter? Reality, you are a cruel mistress.

“I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, if knowing were indeed a matter of conceptual possibility—how a mere proletarian chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a 'cleaning brigade' to remove to the myriad of empty Dom Perignon bottles and half-smoked Gauloise crushed into beignets they should have expected from one of the most closely watched figures on the planet. In protest I have written to the Michelin guide and demanded they be demoted to 3 stars.”


Cappy said...

“I do not know — no one knows — because can there or cannot there be such a knowing?

That is the point of the trial.

puertas metalicas cortafuegos said...

What namely you're saying is a terrible mistake.