Last month I was contacted by the Italian newspaper Il Foglio and interviewed regarding criminal proceedings against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. A French banker and head of the International Monetary Fund, Strauss-Kahn has been charged with sexually assaulting a maid for the $3000-a- night hotel suite in which he was staying in New York City. To my surprise, the reporter was not interested in the legal proceedings themselves but rather in the way the case was being presented in the American mass media.
The case is still another example of the way the prosecution of a rich and/or famous person can be and frequently is presented to the public as a type of contemporary morality play, that is, as a dramatic allegory about temptation, sin, and – in the end – either damnation of salvation. Comparable media packaging of cases involving O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, and Eliot Spitzer spring to mind.
The added twist in the Strauss-Kahn drama is that the featured player in the morality play is a wealthy and worldly European who found out the hard way about down-to-earth American norms and values. The best comparison might be to the mass media’s packaging of the attempt to extradite the Polish filmmaker Roman Polansky, who allegedly raped a teenager in California. Lionized by the French artistic community, Polansky squirreled himself away in Switzerland and in the end avoided the grasp of the American authorities. Strauss-Kahn, meanwhile is under house arrest in Manhattan and waiting trial. Might Attica be his hellish fate?
The Il Foglio article appears on the front page of the “Martedo, 24 Maggio 2011” edition, but since the article is in Italian, most of us will require the good services of colleague Irene Calboli in order to read it . . . .
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