By Arkady Smolin, RAPSI
The “honey trap” has ceased to be an instrument of intelligence-gathering in spy games. Over the past few years, it has become a legal means of political control.
The differences between the Assange, Berlusconi and Strauss-Kahn cases make it possible to trace how confidently charges of sexual harassment have been transformed from a legal instrument protecting sexual equality to a political leverage manipulating public opinion.
Russia is among the world’s champions in this process.
Mopping up the Russian opposition field with incriminating videos depicting prominent men surrounded by naked bodies fits into the gap between the charges against Polanski and Assange, launching a new era in the application of sexual harassment.
How are they fundamentally different from the “liquidation” of Bill Clinton and former Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov? The main difference is the well-articulated “messages.” If earlier sexual allegations were directed against specific people, now they are target concepts – specific ideas and phenomena. This includes Wikileaks’ activity and the danger of expanding “Internet democracy,” changes to the IMF's strategic policies and the prospect of shifting priorities in French foreign policy, “online justice” and the fashion for protest in the Russian blogosphere.
The novelty lies in the deliberate “clumsiness” of the charges. The interest among journalists and the Internet audience lies not so much in the allegations against Strauss-Kahn themselves as the “inconsistencies” – how the maid came to be in a high-ranking official’s room where documents could be found about his talks with Merkel, how the maid's colleague lied about the room being empty, how a 62-year-old millionaire could be sexually aroused by a 32-year-old hotel maid, whose physical appearance made an ambiguous impression on lawyers and journalists.
It can be assumed that all the vagueness has two objectives – to increase the community’s outrage to impart the maximum public reaction to the charges thanks to the onslaught of information and to send an unambiguous signal to the target audience.
Neither the attempted rape, nor the trial is as important as the charges’ maximum publicity. And even Strauss-Kahn's resignation will not rescue him from disgrace. Not an individual’s actions are being discredited here, but his work. Remember how early retirement allowed Skuratov to avoid criminal punishment.
This version can only be verified after the end of the Assange investigations. It will probably coincide with Wikileaks' publication of pro-government documents or with a new lot detailing incidents of blackmail. The verdict would then be quite severe. There is speculation that the court is waiting for the appointment of a new IMF head and the announcement that Strauss-Kahn's plans for the organization’s new development strategy have been withdrawn.
How the message is formulated
The honey trap’s illegal nature, in its present form, is that the victims are both the plaintiff and the defendant because the message is directed not to him personally, but to a third party.
For clarity, we can compare similar ongoing campaigns against Berlusconi, Assange, Strauss-Kahn and ex-Israeli President Moshe Katsav.
The study of the materials in the Katsav case lasted for several years. The general public only became aware of the affair during the investigation’s final phase. And it was the most scandalous case out of those listed above in terms of the charges’ severity. However, the media and human rights activists were passive when it came to coverage. Experts have called the case’s outcome a “triumph of Israeli justice,” which later became the official message of the Katsav case.
The charges against Berlusconi appear to be just as objective as those against Katsav.
Berlusconi's history of abuse, close communication with models and young girls (bordering on pedophilia) are no secret. Therefore, the campaign to discredit Berlusconi, although by all accounts a political act, is nevertheless justified from a legal point of view. It is addressed against him personally and is based on his eccentric behavior. The same can be said for the Assange case and the extremely abstract principles of Swedish rape, implying that a woman may refuse intimacy during sexual intercourse.
The charges against Strauss-Kahn have been formulated in such a way that the case’s actual outcome has little or no value. The ex-IMF president’s sexual escapades are inflated and retold with phantasmagorical detail, with the cost of the hotel room, hired car and dinner named, and pictures of an elderly person in humiliating surroundings. Public opinion has been formed and after the French Socialists' primaries, freeing Strauss-Kahn will be quite safe.
This is double so as the message has apparently been successfully received.
Strauss-Kahn was charged and arrested on May 14. Two days later, U.S. real estate mogul Donald Trump withdrew from the U.S. presidential race. His assertion that U.S. President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake tremendously improved his chances of winning the presidency. When Obama's rating fell to a record low of 52 percent, with Trump garnering 34 percent, the latter abandoned his presidential ambitions without providing plausible reasons.
It’s worth noting that Roman Polanski's arrest in his own case 30 years ago also coincided with the release of a film in which he critically examines Anglo-American political relations.
Surely, this is a random incident, but the public's attention was successfully diverted from the object of the film’s discussion.
What did Strauss-Kahn do that was so objectionable?
Most foreign experts are inclined to think that he delivered the “sentence” himself on April 3 at the annual meeting of IMF and World Bank when he said: “Before the crisis, we thought we knew how to manage economies pretty well. This 'Washington consensus' had a number of basic mantras. Simple rules for monetary and fiscal policy would guarantee stability. Deregulation and privatization would unleash growth and prosperity. Financial markets would channel resources to the most productive areas and police themselves effectively. And the rising tide of globalization would lift all boats. This all came crashing down with the crisis. The Washington consensus is now behind us.”
The transition to a new economic model proposed by Strauss-Kahn, according to economic analysts, would lead to the collapse of the system “the world produces – the United States consumes.”
Strauss-Kahn suggested the use of an IMF currency, so-called special drawing rights, as a way to reduce the world's dependence on the U.S. dollar. In this case, the United States would have to pay back its foreign debt, which could negatively affect its national financial system.
Strauss-Kahn's arrest occurred just hours before he was to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss aid to Greece on favorable terms. This decision could have lead to a “reset” in the common European economic and political strategy.
Perhaps Strauss-Kahn even understood his own “mistake.”
Unsurprisingly, the former IMF head had foreseen being charged with attempted rape three weeks prior to the occasion. In an interview published on April 28 in the French newspaper Liberation, he said he feared possible mudslinging in the run-up to the presidential elections in France. Strauss-Kahn said his opponents could use three topics to tarnish his reputation – “money, women, and my Jewishness.”
“A woman who was raped in a parking lot and offered 500,000 or 1 million euro could come up with such a story,” Strauss-Kahn said.
It is possible that the ex-IMF head is actually guilty. However, even this does not justify the actions of the U.S. judge who left the suspect at the mercy of a crowd of journalists. We will not even mention in vain such an important concept of the Western legal system as the “presumption of innocence. This was the most significant gesture in the whole Strauss-Kahn affair. This clearly demonstrated not only that any civil servant and millionaire could be prosecuted, but that they could be deprived of all privileges, even those guaranteed by law, and sentenced in court.
Simultaneously, the media campaign was launched, forming an image of the ex-IMF head as a sex maniac. French writer Tristan Banon said Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2002. It seemed superfluous to explain why 10 years later she went to the press rather than the courts.
Harassment no longer legit
The most tragic aspect of the Strauss-Kahn and Assange affairs, among others, is that we are witnessing sexual harassment charges being applied as a political maneuver.
The metamorphosis of “harassment” into a political tool is a major defeat for feminists because now motivated forces can hinder the natural evolution of the relevant laws.
Political and economic blackmail is much easier when women are given the right to accuse anyone of sexual harassment without substantial evidence and commit perjury with impunity.
Even if the case falls apart immediately, the effect will be achieved by the accusation. And the specificity of U.S. law allows such statements to be made on a daily basis, as the court is not allowed to disclose the particular plaintiff's biography. It is unlikely that the relevant rules will be changed in the near future, even if the amendments’ initiators are women.
Thus, a special, protective legal status preventing to completely eliminate differentiation by sex will remain for a long time.