The French Are Fascinated by DSK's Trip to Rikers

Today's headlines are all about details of his imprisonment

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Media coverage of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (who has quickly been reduced to the monogram DSK) is rapidly becoming a study in cultural divides. Yesterday, the French media and chattering class wer shocked by the photos from Strauss-Kahn's "perp walk." Today, the headlines are full of details of his imprisonment. "First night behind bars for DSK," reads the the leading article for Le Figaro. "Dominique Strauss-Kahn is in prison," informs Libération. Not just any prison: "After the hearing yesterday, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was sent to the Rikers Island prison." That made headlines in Le Monde, too: "Dominique Strauss-Kahn incarcerated at Rikers Island," proclaims the article, which also goes into the details of the grand jury process for French readers.

"Rikers Island, a dangerous and noisy prison," writes Le Figaro's Marion Brunet, seeming to get right to the heart of French fascination and concern. As an indicator of French coverage devoted to Rikers Island, check out the map offered by Libération on their updating page on the DSK story (full size). "It's one of the largest incarceration complexes in the world," she notes, going into details geographical and physical. "One center specializes in the detention of prisoners suffering from transmissible diseases." DSK himself "will take his meal alone in his cell, and may not have any contact with the more than 11,000 prisoners currently living in the various buildings of Rikers Island." She quotes lawyer Gerald Lefcourt saying that the food there is horrible, and that "there's a real danger for celebrities to be attacked."

Meanwhile, the French media are also covering political implications, and one of those involves suing papers that showed the images of Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs. Though an American tradition, in France that's illegal, as it is seen as violating a presumption of innocence. One of Strauss-Kahn's French lawyers says there will be a decision "in the two or three days ahead" over lawsuits against French media outlets. In this case, there's more than just dignity at stake, as there usually is. There's also major political fallout, some of which is probably unavoidable, no matter what photos get circulated.

"Nicolas Sarkozy deliberately didn't say the name Dominique Strauss-Kahn" at his breakfast Tuesday, notes a Le Monde blog post. But "in private, the head of state thinks the affair is a disaster for the socialist party, which will lose part of the fight for the presidential election: the moral one." Libération, its site filled with three or four page-lengths of DSK headlines before you get to any other news, leads with "Aubry's orders: 'unity, responsibility, combativeness.'" Aubry is Martine Aubry, First Secretary of the Socialist Party.

Finally, in a spectacular bit of transatlantic mutual meta-observation (considering similar New York preoccupation with what the French are thinking right now) a Le Monde blog post notes English-language stories about the number of "moral scandals that France has tolerated." It reads: "particularly severe, the Anglo-Saxon press spotlights French responsibility in this scandal."

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