Posted by: Martin Scherer | 18/05/2011

Oh dear what can the matter be? A Frenchman in a NY jail

This one has rattled around Europe like an indignant woman. How could the US put the President of the International Monetary Fund, a future President of France, in the dock handcuffed like a desperate criminal?  With Mc Donald’s and Cokes everywhere, we may think the West is all much the same today, but this one is a real culture clash.

In the US, you can look but not touch. And you must not look leeringly. Women can walk about ridiculous platform heals, that make their bums stick out on endless luscious legs, but men must bite their tongues, cross their legs and go have a cold shower. What I’ve never understood is why women dress like that at work, but the moment they are home to their husbands they kick off their heals, wipe off the war paint and put on jim-jams.

It’s got like that in the UK. No longer do building site workers whistle as passing office girls. A labourer could get sacked, entrapped by ‘une agent provocateur’. How does a woman know men find her attractive unless some guy makes a pass? In France, it is compulsory. If you don’t flirt a little, a woman might slap your face for ignoring her. Apparently, the IMF President is a master flirt.

Of course, there are lines you do not cross. Every Frenchman knows when a woman says ‘No’ she means ‘NO’. None of this silly Anglo-Saxon game were no may mean yes. A peck on the cheek, maybe a light kiss, but after that, you’d better be invited.

A British female friend once told me after a formal gathering with wine that a good friend of mine had come on heavy rubbing himself on her. Now that crosses a line to me but clearly he did not think so. Who was supposed to teach him? Me or her? Should I come riding to the rescue leading to a fight? Or should she kick him in the crutch and pour her wine over his head? Everyone present would have known exactly why she did it and admired her all the more for teaching the guy a lesson. By not protesting in public, she left herself open to him following her home. That is the difference with French women. They will teach a guy a lesson and if they want to go further, that is their choice. France is not 1950’s office America.

Astounded by the scene, the French are dreaming up all minds of conspiracy theories. The most obvious – NY is teaching France a lesson for not jumping to the Iraq war on terrorism. From within France – It was a honey trap set up by the existing French President to get rid of his competitor. Neither are true. The truth lies in the difference of US and French legal procedures. The UK sits somewhere in the middle.

An arrest in the US is the start of a dehumising, humiliating, punishment. He might be a 70 year old, unlikely to run when accompanied by two cops bearing arms, but he still has to have his hands cuffed behind his back. Why? Has this got anything to do with TV? The cops get ten minutes of fame and just to prove it they have such a desperate criminal he is unshaven in handcuffs. And on it goes. Why not put the guy on house arrest? Because it’s not so newsworthy? The picture of that IMF President has appeared on every newspaper and news TV around the world. If it is a conspiracy, it is a media conspiracy.

In France, they would never do such a thing. A man or woman is presumed innocent until the court find otherwise. The same assumption is made in the UK but we have a US style paparazzi. So suspects are allowed to cover their heads when exposed to the public. Telling the world exactly what he is accused of doing in all its gory detail before the case has opened? Such exposure of suspects before judgment risks perversion of justice. It is the bedrock of western law. That is not my opinion, that is the view of every American lawyer interviewed for European TV.

In the same day’s UK news was a ten-minute fame girl, who had met a big star footballer. Later she told him, she needed £50,000. He sent her a sign soccer shirt. She replied she now needed £100,000, or she would have to tell her story to the press. The soccer star brought an injunction to stop the press reporting anything. The newspaper went to court to lift the injunction. The judge said, “This sounds like blackmail.”

No American press can be gagged. Absolute Freedom of Speech is carved into the stone of the US Constitution. But what about the right of privacy embodied in universal Human Rights law? What about the right to protection from false accusation? In the US, the only protection is 24/7 CCTV surveillance.

If the IMF President is proven guilty, he is a very silly old man and deserves what he gets. But whatever he did, the US media promotion is leaving a dirty taste in the mouths of Europeans. If he is found innocent, that is all that will be left. The message will be simple, ‘Do not go to the USA, you could get accused and found guilty before you have a chance to prove your innocence.’ That would be bad news for everyone.



  1. The press in the United States is no longer an instrument of news but a bunch of gossips looking for the next sensational story to blow out of proportion. The country can be sinking in debt. Thousands of homes are being flooded. Unemployment is at 10 percent. They could care less but a Diplomat on the prowel, now that’s news. That he’s a French Diplomat, they will be able to tweak a week out of that. What sanctimonius hypocrits!

  2. so let get this straight…
    “hi mum, sorry to hear some guy butt-naked was in the room when you went to check on rental. and further, sorry to hear he bent your ass over and sodomized you!”
    “next time Mum, stay out of rental till you know no one is there. it’s your fault for exciting that EUROPEAN vacationer. he probably thought you were part of the welcome package all EUROPEANS get when they visit.”

    “Did ya hear all about that terrible flooding hitting europe. we should put together a care package like we did the last time they had terrible flooding over there.”
    “ya, i know we have bad mississippi flooding here, but it’s worse over there”

    and very simply…the rule of law applies…you attempt to RAPE someone, be prepared to face the judge!
    period…we don’t care who the F%$# you are!

    and you can all vacation some place else if you prefer. i hear HAITI has some great deals and are probably more accomadating for “old sodomizers”

    • I agree. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Transparency is not a bad thing, people should learn to behave themselves in an appropriate manner – they KNOW what kind of world we live in. I also agree there is a cultural disparity, but not to this degree. People in high places think they can whatever the hell they like, and we don’t mind seeing them slip in their own sheit! 😉

  3. @mike spallone
    Sometimes it is better to be thought a loud, sanctimonious jerk then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  4. Thanks for your contrinbutions.

    Rape is an issue where rational reason disappears down a black hole. The consequence is always that the victim suffers twice. Insulting people, Jamie, merely reinforces entrenched attitudes.

    Keryn, you want one law for the rich and another for the poor? I thought that is exactly what the law should not be in a democratic society. Mike, are you seeking to draw an analogy between god’s rape of the countryside by flood and a man’s rape of a woman?

    The issue here is not rape. It is trial by media.

    Let’s put that trial by media into historic context. The days when trial by the media was trial by the mob. In America’s history – when the mob hung black men on trees. In Christian history – when a man was nailed to the cross. If both times had trail by jury of one’s peers, then no black man would have been hung from a tree and Christ would have lived a long life.

    Trial by jury is clearly preferable.

  5. Are you with Ken Clarke then?!

  6. The issue here is not rape. It is

    1. Trial by media.
    2. The cultural differences between France and the USA.

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