DSK’s Arrest and Belief in Political Conspiracy Theories

Le Monde has an interesting article reporting on a recent poll indicating that some 57% of French people believe that Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s recent arrest on charges of rape was the result of a “conspiracy” against him. Strauss-Kahn was the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and a leading projected Socialist Party candidate in the 2012 French presidential election.

In this recent post, I explained some of the reasons why belief in dubious political conspiracy theories is so widespread. The DSK case fits the established pattern well. Like America’s “birthers” and “truthers,” many of the French reflexively bought into conspiracy theories about the DSK case, despite the absence of any proof supporting them. They did so at least in part because there is little incentive for citizens to objectively evaluate political claims. Like many Americans, the French are more likely to accept political conspiracy theories that reinforce their preexisting political views. For example, some 70% of Socialist Party supporters agree that DSK is the victim of a conspiracy, compared to a much lower percentage of French rightists who think so.

In fairness to the French DSK conspiracy believers, we don’t yet have definitive proof that DSK was not the victim of a conspiracy. The New York authorities have only just begun to investigate the case. Thus, the belief that DSK’s arrest was the result of a conspiracy is not (yet) as ridiculous as birtherism or 9/11 conspiracy-mongering. Nonetheless, many of the French are still giving conspiracy claims far more credence than they deserve. Even if such theories can’t be definitively disproved, there is no evidence to justify the belief that DSK’s arrest was “certainly” (as believed by 22% of the French poll respondents) or “probably” (35 percent) caused by a conspiracy.

The full Le Monde article is available only in French, but a partial English translation is available here.

UPDATE: Note that even if the charges against Strauss-Kahn are dropped or he ends up being acquitted, that would not prove that his arrest was the result of a “conspiracy.” Prosecutors and police often make mistakes even in the absence of any conspiracy against the defendant. For that matter, even if DSK is guilty, the evidence against him might not be strong enough for a jury to conclude that his guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.