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Strauss-Kahn Conspiracy Theories And The State Of French Democracy

Editorial: Just as with the Sep. 11 attacks, a surprisingly large chunk of French society is prone to turn to conspiracy theories to explain Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sex scandal. It’s a bad sign for the health of public debate in France, says Le Monde.

Strauss-Kahn Conspiracy Theories And The State Of French Democracy

There is no end to the wild talk unleashed by Dominique Strauss-Kahn's arrest by the New York police, on May 14, over charges of sexual assault, unlawful imprisonment and attempted rape. As if the extraordinary nature of this affair and the mind-blowing – and dramatic – situation in which the former head of the International Monetary Fund now finds himself could justify the most extravagant of explanations.

Ever since the news first broke on Sunday, the notion that it was all a set-up meant to bring down Strauss-Kahn has spread like wildfire, especially on the Internet. The world of imagination being boundless, each theory brought forward seems more surprising than the other: they point to the CIA or rivals inside the IMF, to big American banks or financial interests threatened by Strauss-Kahn's push for more regulation, to murky schemes by some "black cabinet" working for Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysée palace, or even to Socialist party rivals only too eager to get rid of a dangerous candidate ahead of the 2012 presidential elections.

Conspiracy theories have been fanned by the fact that certain political figures – supporters of Strauss-Kahn, but not only – have seemed unwilling to exclude the possibility of a "trap" or of "manipulation." During an interview with the French newspaper Libération that took place on April 28, Dominique Strauss-Kahn himself had alluded to the possibility that such a set up could be organized by his enemies.

To crown it all, a poll performed on Monday by the CSA institute found that 57% of the French public believes that the former head of the IMF "is the victim of a plot," with the number reaching 70% in the case of left-leaning voters.

Regardless of whether the poll in question is legal or not – the Guigou law adopted in 2000 requires that no such polls be taken about someone protected by the presumption of innocence – the inquiry does reveal significant details about the state of mind in the country of ("I think, therefore I am" philosopher) René Descartes…and beyond.

It is only normal that most people find this matter utterly shocking – and captivating – given that the alleged sex scandal involves one of the world's most powerful men, as well as a potential candidate for the presidency of the French Republic. But does this mean that we should suddenly stop analyzing the facts with caution and common sense? Obviously not. Unless we are ready to admit that challenging all authority, and especially the authority of justice (be it American, in this case), has now reached a disturbing point of no return. Unless we are ready to say that the media's investigative efforts no longer carry any weight compared to the crazy elucubrations that the Internet instantaneously spreads around the entire globe.

We should not again find ourselves so ready to surrender to the kind of frenzy of conspiracy theories that has spawned since the 9/11 attacks. Let us not forget that this phenomenon is one of the very sources of totalitarianism, a sign of a democracy in regression.

Read the original article in French

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Legalizing Moonshine, A Winning Political Stand In Poland

Moonshine, typically known as “bimber” in Poland, may soon be legalized by the incoming government. There is a mix of tradition, politics and economics that makes homemade booze a popular issue to campaign on.

Photo of an empty vodka bottle on the ground in Poland

Bottle of vodka laying on the ground in Poland

Leszek Kostrzewski

WARSAWIt's a question of freedom — and quality. Poland's incoming coalition government is busy negotiating a platform for the coming years. Though there is much that still divides the Left, the liberal-centrist Civic Koalition, and the centrist Third Way partners, there is one area where Poland’s new ruling coalition is nearly unanimous: moonshine.

The slogan for the legalization of moonshine (known in Poland as "bimber") was initially presented by Michał Kołodziejczak, the leader of Agrounia, a left-wing socialist political movement in Poland that has qualified to be part of the incoming Parliament.

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”Formerly so-called moonshine was an important element of our cultural landscape, associated with mystery, breaking norms, and freedom from the state," Kołodziejczak said. "It was a reason to be proud, just like the liqueurs that Poles were famous for in the past.”

The president of Agrounia considered the right to make moonshine as a symbol of "subjectivity" that farmers could enjoy, and admitted with regret that in recent years it had been taken away from citizens. “It's also about a certain kind of freedom, to do whatever you want on your farm," Kołodziejczak adds. "This is subjectivity for the farmer. Therefore, I am in favor of providing farmers with the freedom to consume this alcohol for their own use.”

A similar viewpoint was aired by another Parliament member. “We will stop pretending that Polish farmers do not produce moonshine for their own use, such as for weddings,” the representative said, pointing out the benefits of controlling the quality. “Just like they produce slivovitz, which Poland is famous for. It's high time they did it legally.”

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