Sophie Meunier on the reaction in France to the DSK scandal:
With a few days hindsight, however, what is most surprising about the fallout of the DSK scandal in France is not how much, but rather how little displays of anti-Americanism it has provoked. To the contrary, the scandal is now turning into a teachable moment and a frank analysis of the comparative merits of French and American society. Perhaps this is the bargaining stage: if we understand the American system, perhaps we can expect it to treat one of our own fairly?
The flamboyant declarations by Bernard-Henri Lévy who was trying to help his friend by complaining that the American judge had treated DSK "like any other" subject of justice backfired. The next news cycle in France was about introspection. What if the American justice system actually had some features that could be replicated, such as the equality of treatment? A flurry of accusatory articles popped up in the French press denouncing how a defendant of DSK's stature would never have gone through the same legal troubles in France -unlike a random "Benoit" or "Karim." As socialist and DSK friend Manuel Valls publicly confessed, criticizing the American justice system also puts the spotlight on the weaknesses of French justice. This realization that perhaps the Americans might have components in their justice system that should be replicated in France might have left many with the depressing thought - "maybe we are not as wonderful and superior as we thought: so what is now our place in the world?"
[T]he French media ... quickly went into soul-searching mode. By refusing to report beyond the "bedroom door", had they been complicit? Why doesn't France have a tradition of investigative journalism? Should French reporters be importing best practices from their American counterparts?
European journalists tend to do a lot more commenting on what everyone else already knows than they do unearthing controversial new facts themselves. It's much easier to write yet another 1000 words assessing the implications of the Green Party regional conference in northern Thuringia than to trace illegal campaign contributions, assess racial discrimination in German justice, or uncover scandals within the German intelligence services.
Part of the problem is, of course, simple laziness. However, my examples aren't picked at random: they all involve writing stories that would embarrass the state. Investigative journalism in Germany is usually aimed mostly at the private sector; reports go undercover as low-wage workers, or publish exposes of lobbying scandals (for example) with some frequency. What they do less often is to publish stories that cast doubt on government officials' competence or honesty, or expose serious problems with government institutions. I think there are a few reasons for this: class solidarity between reporters and government officials, an undeveloped culture of leaking and whistleblowing, no freedom of information laws, and a general sense of loyalty to the state.
An example: a commenter to a previous post suggested that racial discrimination in German criminal justice is indeed discussed frequently in Germany, and linked to a German-language Wikipedia entry on the subject of crime by foreigners in Germany (g). However, the Wikipedia entry contains not a single reference to the possibility that some of the over-representation of foreigners in German prisons could be due to racial discrimination in the justice system. It doesn't even occur to German journalists or researchers to even ask the question whether the justice system might treat minorities unfairly.
I don't mean to single out Germany for this problem: France suffers from it as well: "For decades, French residents of immigrant origin—both the recently arrived and those whose families have been living in France for multiple generations—have complained that police target them for unfair, discriminatory, and unnecessary identity checks." The issue is now before the French Constitutional Council. But it was neither the French government nor the French press that challenged ethnic profiling: it was the Open Society Institute, an NGO founded by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. As a press release (pdf) notes, "In 2009 the Open Society Justice Initiative published Profiling Minorities: A Study of Stop-and-Search Practices in Paris, the first rigorous study to produce quantitative evidence necessary to identify and detect patterns of ethnic profiling in France."
The pattern is typical of much European journalism: After the 2005 riots in France's poor suburbs, the chattering classes produced long thumb-suckers about What it All Means, with all sorts of high-toned discussions of integration and marginalization and the Republican tradition and whatnot. But apparently nobody thought to actually study whether the protesters' complaint that they faced constant discrimination was actually well-grounded. The most obvious question went unasked and unanswered -- until the Open Society Institute came along...