Dominique Strauss-Kahn, jailed in New York on charges that he tried to rape a hotel maid, resigned as managing director of the International Monetary Fund late Wednesday. He still maintains his innocence, however, and the French, it seems, agree. In a French poll, 57 percent of respondents said Strauss-Kahn is the victim of a plot; when the tally is restricted to members of Strauss-Kahn's Socialist Party, the number jumps to 70 percent. Conspiracy theories are flourishing, but why does so much of France believe them?
1. The French are anti-American
"I am staggered by this poll," says Michael Streeter at Charente Libre. Given Strauss-Kahn's history with women, the charges aren't exactly outlandish. So I'm blaming French "antipathy towards the U.S." You have to wonder "whether there would have been so much outrage and belief in conspiracy theories here had the arrest of Strauss-Kahn taken place in another country."
2. It's just human nature to buy wild theories
People are naturally drawn to conspiracy theories, says Ilan Shrira in The Washington Post. After all, a good one is "sensational and [features] complex plots and powerful players." Asking why the French believe that Strauss-Kahn is being framed is "a bit like asking, why do people have such a drive to enjoy gossip. Because it's interesting."
3. The French are hypocrites
Some argue that the peccadillo-tolerant French are blaming this on moral Puritanism in America, says Christopher Hitchens at Slate. But the French were all too happy to use American Paul Wolfowitz's long-term, consensual relationship with an employee to hound him out of his job as World Bank chief. Yet now, when serial molester Strauss-Kahn, a Frenchman, is accused of "the attempted rape of a chambermaid"? It's "some kind of a setup." What hypocrisy.
4. The conspiracy theories are plausible
"You don’t have to be a knee-jerk conspiracy buff to entertain the notion that Strauss-Kahn just may be the victim of a setup," says Tom Sancton at Vanity Fair. A rich, powerful, uncommonly intelligent international banker who's a shoo-in to be France's next president risks it all to assault a hotel maid? Who can blame the French for suspecting that the maid was paid off by one of Strauss-Kahn's powerful rivals?
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