Bernard-Henri Levy: Case Study of an Intellectual Fraud

French philosopher and serial rapist defender Bernard-Henri Levy has made a career out of pretending to be smarter than everyone else. His writing (at least his english language work) is a mixture of pompous moral posturing, pretentious word play and unbelievably bad sentence structure. In a recent piece on The Daily Beast, Levy turns his supposedly formidable intellectual prowess towards defending recently deposed IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Khan of rape. The article is an astonishing attempt to exonerate Strauss-Khan by virtue of his friendship with Levy, and by essentially accusing the accuser of lying. Writes Levy:

What I know even more is that the Strauss-Kahn I know, who has been my friend for 20 years and who will remain my friend, bears no resemblance to this monster, this caveman, this insatiable and malevolent beast now being described nearly everywhere. Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally, but this brutal and violent individual, this wild animal, this primate, obviously no, it’s absurd.

I certainly do not want to assume that Strauss-Khan is guilty – far from it. He deserves his day in court, and has every right to defend himself. As the law dictates, Strauss-Khan is innocent until proven guilty. But for Levy to hurl accusations at the alleged victim is beyond reproach. He writes:

It would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.

Implying that Strauss-Khan is innocent because, well, Levy knows him and thinks a chambermaid could not have possibly cleaned a hotel room by herself is not just maniacally egotistical, it is patently absurd. Seeing as Levy wasn’t with Strauss-Khan at the time, there is no way he can know what happened, so like the people he rails against for assuming his guilt, he should keep quiet and wait until the evidence is presented.

Levy has made a career out of injecting himself into debates he shouldn’t have anything to do with, a common trait of narcissistic self promoters who make money from their ‘enlightened’ ideas. Levy is France’s version of Christopher Hitchens – a man concerned only with himself and his relevance to society, who will defend the indefensible for the sake of self promotion and disguise his intellectual vacuity behind bravado and insatiable snobbery. At least Hitchens writes well, unlike Levy whose work resembles that of a precocious teenager turning in his first philosophy paper. Just check out this hilariously badly written sentence:

I do not want to enter into considerations of dime-store psychology that claims to penetrate the mind of the subject, observing, for example, that the number of the room (2806) corresponds to the date of the opening of the Socialist Party primaries in France (06.28), in which he is the uncontested favorite, thereby concluding that this is all a Freudian slip, a subconsciously deliberate mistake, and blah blah blah

A cash prize for anyone who can work out what Levy means here. But then that’s the point – you’re not supposed to.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.