I’m sure that somewhere there is a gang of civil rights activists and defense attorneys saying, “So, we’re only going to talk about this if it happens to a rich European?” But hey, let’s not dwell on why the perp walk is suddenly generating some controversy, and instead embrace the fact that people are willing to talk about it at all.
As you may have heard, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in Manhattan over the weekend on sex crime charges. As is customary in this country, Strauss-Kahn was paraded before the news media in handcuffs (see picture; feel free to point, stare, laugh, as is traditional).
This common American practice is illegal in France. Under French law, the media is not allowed to show pictures of people in handcuffs unless they’ve been convicted of a crime. Apparently, the French believe that such pictures are highly prejudicial to the defendant.
We’re not so much worried about that in America….
The French aren’t the first people to complain about the perp walk. I mean, anybody who has even a fleeting belief that a person is innocent until proven guilty has to be at least a little uncomfortable about a “perpetrator’s walk” before anybody has been convicted of anything.
The thing is, the people complaining about perp walks are usually minority affinity groups and defense attorneys. And that’s great, but they don’t generate a lot of media buzz. Here, we’ve got a respected, wealthy, western country, questioning America’s application of justice. That doesn’t happen everyday.
What does happen everyday is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg waking up and telling people where they can shove their complaints about his rule. From the Village Voice:
Michael Bloomberg has little worry about that — or concern for justice, seemingly — telling reporters that being photographed in custody “is humiliating, but if you don’t want to do the perp walk, don’t do the crime.” He added, “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for that.”
I wonder if the Mayor has any sympathy for somebody who did not do the crime, and yet is dragged before the entire New York media in handcuffs? Actually, check that, I know damn well that Mike Bloomberg doesn’t have “sympathy,” full stop.
But I’ll give Bloomberg credit for this: if Bloomberg had said anything approaching “maybe now that a rich white man has been caught up in this we should rethink the perp walk,” I would have hit the roof. I would have gone absolutely ballistic. What’s good for scores and scores of poor minority defendants has to be good for a wealthy Frenchman.
So, even though I think Bloomberg is wrong here, I respect that he’s consistent. Hell, I’m thankful that he’s consistent.
And it’s not like the French public is a paragon of enlightened treatment towards those caught in a scandal. Again, from the Voice:
What’s not frowned upon, though, as it is in the United States, is publishing the name of the alleged victim, whose life and family are now up for scrutiny in the French press (and on the internet)…
Slate’s French edition and other news websites from France, such as Le Nouvel Observateur are publishing as much information about the woman as possible, including not only her full name, but the names of family members, her nationality and more.
Bitch when the rich man is shown in an unflattering photo, but drag this poor woman into the full public spotlight? You know who I don’t have a lot of sympathy for? The French.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn Gets ‘No Sympathy’ From Bloomberg, Digs Smiley Face Emoticons [Village Voice]
Dominique Strauss-Kahn In Handcuffs Is Not Okay, But Revealing Rape Accuser’s Name Is? [Village Voice]