A qualifying sentence is a dead giveaway

May 17th, 2011 by |

If David can post about music every week, and Gavin can talk about wrestling, then I figure I can bring up my own little causes from time to time.  This one is getting posted here so I don’t bother my friends with it for weeks.  Plus, it involves the news, and since the news is pretty much entertainment these days, we might as well include it.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, a man named Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a maid at the hotel where he was staying.  Naturally, everyone in the world braced themselves for a wash of idiocy, and not a moment too soon.  One infuriatingly stupid contributor to the flood was Ben Stein, with a post that there is no way in frozen hell I’m going to link to.  He publishes several defenses of Strauss-Kahn, some valid, some utterly moronic.  Many of them are based on classism and add up to tautologies – people in high positions shouldn’t be seriously suspected of sex crimes because if they were suspected of sex crimes they would never manage to be in high positions.  And around we go.

But here’s where we get to the most off-putting part of the argument.

What do we know about the complainant besides that she is a hotel maid? I love and admire hotel maids. They have incredibly hard jobs and they do them uncomplainingly. I am sure she is a fine woman. On the other hand, I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics, stealing airline tickets from me, stealing money from me, throwing away important papers, stealing medications from me. How do we know that this woman’s word was good enough to put Mr. Strauss-Kahn straight into a horrific jail? Putting a man in Riker’s is serious business. Maybe more than a few minutes of investigation is merited before it’s done.

This is why I love the age of the internet.  It’s possible that, back in the day, this paragraph might have passed under the radar.  Now, we’ve all seen pages and pages of internet commenters using just this form. 

“I like black people.  I think they’re great.  On the other hand . . . ”

“I’m not sexist, but . . . ”

“Some of my best friends are Jewish!  But I’ve had some terrible experiences with . . . ”

If you have to state that you don’t have a problem with a certain person, or group of people, you are moments away from behaving in a way that indicates exactly the opposite.  No one has to add a disclaimer when they’re making a statement that is honorable and accurate.  No one has to tell their audience that they don’t hate someone unless they’re about to do everything in their power to show that they do hate someone. 

Stein could have simply said that the woman’s statements should have been more thoroughly investigated before any action was taken.  Depending on the facts of the case that could be debated.  He didn’t say that.  He pointed out that the woman was a maid.  Then he made the disclaimer, lest anyone think he had a problem with the fact that she was a maid.  Then he listed several terrible things that maids did to him over the years, mentioned that some maids were “complete lunatics” and thieves.  He finished off by implying that the police should doubt the maid’s word.  Can anyone name a group of people who they ‘love and admire,’ but who they would talk about that way?

So I’m going to take away the disclaimers, and re-write the first half of the paragraph the way Ben Stein actually meant it.  “The woman was a maid.  I don’t like maids.  I don’t respect them or trust them.  I’m sure this woman isn’t any better than the rest.  I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics, stealing airline tickets from me, stealing money from me, throwing away important papers, stealing medications from me.”

The ‘few minutes of investigation’ is clear hyperbole, so we’ll leave that behind.  The Riker’s Island reference leads back to an earlier point  in which Stein said that Strauss-Kahn’s ‘lifetime of service’ to the IMF merited better than putting him in a common prison with other common prisoners who were suspected of awful things like . . . sexual assault. 

I don’t know who’s guilty or who’s innocent.  What I do know is that Stein’s piece is the most lightly-coded way of saying, “the rich, powerful, and connected deserve better justice than the poor and obscure,” that I’ve ever seen.

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11 comments to “A qualifying sentence is a dead giveaway”

  1. Uhg, I’d forgotten what a jackass Ben Stein is.

  2. looks like we didn’t win enough of ben stein’s money back in the day, if’n he’s still talking in public like this

    No wait, that one was awful…

    What hotels has Ben Stein been staying in that have kleptomaidiacs, and ones that steal airline tickets, no less? That’s one of those anecdotes that sound like a straight up lie if you think about it at all. What’re they gonna do, scalp it? Take a free plane ride? C’mon, man, admit it: you’re lying to support your stupid point.

    I saw the non-Ben Stein part of this story on The Daily Show, which was appropriately brutal. I think I can embed it, let’s see:

    If not, awkward! Click here for it.

    Gross story all around, but Stein is doing his level best to make it grosser.

  3. Oh, god, how utterly terrible. I particularly like the implicit part of Stein’s argument: maids (while fine people) are part of a group which has lied and stolen and therefore, this maid cannot be trusted. On the other hand, people in positions of power are utterly trustworthy; none of them have ever lied, or stolen, or been insane or sociopathic, and we should of course assume that Strauss-Kahn is innocent. Of course. God, and this whole notion that the guy deserves special treatment and it’s inhumane to subject him to the legal process that works for everyone else – absolutely worthless.

  4. Very good blog entry, thanks for sharing. :smile:

  5. Thing is, I’ve actually seen this bullshit before – in recent months. One of my friends was sexually abused by a guy I had formerly been friends with, and all three of us belonged to this society on-campus. After he was arrested for assault, he got to the society first, and gave them his warped side of the story (which they instantly believed)When his accuser dropped the charges out of a combination of pity, uncertainty (they were both drunk at the time) and lack of funds for court, the society ganged up against her and said that by dropping the charges she had proven that she was making it up.

    Meanwhile, through a little research and a couple of coincidences I found out that two other friends of mine had formerly been in mildly abusive relationships with this man, but hey, if you’re convinced, you’re convinced…

  6. first, who the fuck is Ben Stein? & why should I give a toss what this obvious arse has to say? seriously, I dislike him enough already to not even waste the time looking him up on the internet. or should I say, ” some of my best friends are Ben Stein, but he’s a twat. . ? ”

    recently, I’ve been listening to a small group of otherwise thoroughly likeable friends spouting some of the vilest crap I’ve ever heard directed at the Jews. honestly, this crap is just short of out & out nazi, and is always preceeded by that hoary chestnut: ” I got nothing against the Jews personally, but. . . ” I am so sick of it. nail your flag to the mast, for crying out loud. if you’re a racist, then at least have the guts to admit that you’re a racist. if you’re a snob, or sexist, or homophobic, or whatever the fuck you are, at least show the courage of your convictions and own up to it.

    I don’t know what angers me more: the bigotry, or the dishonesty.

  7. That STEIN quote, taken on it’s own, doesn’t strike me, at all, as it does you (and, apparently, the commenters).

    “No one has to add a disclaimer when they’re making a statement that is honorable and accurate.”. That suggests that no accurate statement or honorable intent is ever misinterpreted. I would have to disagree.

    However, in the context you place it, the quote doesn’t exactly shine.

  8. Ben Stein is a straight up asshole. He’s an economist that goes on tv and talks like he knows nothing about economics. He’s been an apologist for the rich for years now. I am not a violent man, but(qualifying sentence) if I ever meet him in person I swear I’ll give him some damn ‘red eye’.

  9. Some of my best friends are Jews, but I’ve found they are a kind and humorous people.

    I have no problem with black people, but I’ve known some who are extraordinarily bright and capable.

    I’m not sexist, but women are the backbone of society.

    Hmm… You may be right.

  10. Yeeeahhhh um Ben Stein not only is a bore but is morally questionable… The things you learn these days… Sorry I can’t make too much light of this Esther because after hearing some of the media here in NYC and how quickly they jump to conclusions, I just turned the tv off. One thing I did gather is that the French Official in question has had a long history of inappropriate behavior towards women…

  11. @clay:

    actually that last one could be seen as sexist against men.