January 27, 2011

Bernard-Henri Lévy

Bernard-Henri Lévy

Hessel’s alma mater, the École Normale Supérieure, invited him to speak to the students. Then a pro-Israeli website objected. In comes our hero, Bernard-Henri Lévy, the multi-millionaire son of an Algerian timber tycoon, and one whose father I am sure never donned a military uniform for France or any other country. Lévy objected virulently to Hessel’s invitation, and the 93-year-old was silenced.

Well, I have not been silenced. I met the self-publicist and self-proclaimed philosopher once, and it was not pleasant. His trademark white shirt open to his navel was there for all to see—in the French Embassy, of all places—and his current squeeze, a blonde with whom I used to step out, introduced us. Lévy tried to stare me down like bullies do in sleazy clubs, but it didn’t work. I know how to handle phonies, and he’s as phony as they come. There are those, mind you, who take Lévy seriously—French image-makers, PR hucksters, and other such modern pests—but serious people do not. As a historian BHL has offered a very dark picture of French history in an attempt to draw attention to himself as an independent thinker. He is nothing of the kind and has never come up with a single philosophical proposition. In fact, he has been caught in his refutation of Kant quoting “the famous French philosopher Botul,” naively falling for a spoof perpetrated by a journalist who’d had enough of BHL’s phony pomposity.

Although I regret not having shoved a pie in his face, or a knuckle sandwich for that matter, what he did to the Pearl family deserved much more than lemon pies. BHL wrote a very bad book on Daniel Pearl’s murder but fictionalized it to the extent that Pearl’s widow and family were outraged, accusing Lévy’s ego of getting in the way of the truth. BHL’s methods are vile and, in the case of Israeli outrages against unarmed Palestinians, downright disgusting. No outrage by Israeli Zionists has ever caught his attention, but the moment the 93-year-old Hessel’s name came up, there was BHL, peacock-like, denouncing a fellow Jew who fought for his adopted country against the Nazis and suffered as a result.

Such are the joys of modern celebrities posing as hommes sérieux. BHL is a boaster and an impostor, a shameless publicity freak who has given philosophy a bad smell. We need to bake more pies. In a better world, he’d be eating knuckle sandwiches.


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