Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Swiffer Will Kill Your Puppy. Or Not.

The blog post that I am linking to contains strong language, but I endorse the spirit of the author's rant.

The internet, as wonderful a tool as it is, also turns out to be equally effective at spreading disinformation, urban legends, and just plain crap.

The article referenced above speculates, without going into much detail, that possibly the attack on Swiffer originates with a Proctor and Gamble rival. This is not all that far-fetched -- can you imagine how effective a marketing campaign for your own product would be, if at the same time your competitor's product had a negative story spreading about it on the internet?

In a similar way, consider the popular e-mail that circulates about the "Stella Awards", that supposedly celebrates frivolous lawsuits:

For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in
New Mexico where she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right?

That's right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head scratcher handy.

Then it goes on to cite outlandish awards for lawsuits, phrased in such a way as to raise the ire of any reasonable person...

...except that none of the lawsuits actually happened. Snopes ends their analysis by writing

"...Yet on the other hand, we don't want to see those who have legitimate cause denied their right to sue (or in the case of the seriously injured, their right to sue for an appropriate amount). We also don't want to see corporations run unchecked, free to turn out whatever dangerous product they like because the combination of capped awards and their deep pockets render them bulletproof.

"It's a complicated issue, one not made any easier to make sense of by lists of fake cases of horrendous miscarriages of justice. One has to wonder why someone is so busy trying to stir up outrage and who or what that outrage would ultimately benefit."

So call me paranoid, but it occurs to me in this case that weakened consumer protection laws and limitations on the circumstances under which one can sue would be just great for some corporations -- the ones that want to "run unchecked, free to turn out whatever dangerous product they like because the combination of capped awards and their deep pockets render them bulletproof".

In a similar vein, one of my favourite chain emails is the I AM A BAD CANADIAN rant that I manage to receive several times a year.


I Am the Liberal-Progressives Worst Nightmare. I am a Canadian.

So the first observation is that there is no doubt about who originated this, and who this is supposed to attack. The implication here is that if you are liberal or progressive in any way, you are not a Canadian.

I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some Liberal governmental functionary be it NDP, Liberal or Conservative!

This sentence is internally self-contradictory, but then what did you expect based on the lead-in? A member of a Liberal government wouldn't, by definition, be NDP or Conservative. Or perhaps the original author wanted to slam civil servants, whose small "L" liberal values allow the Liberal-Progressive agenda to be promoted? As far as the anti-taxation part, the author seems to be unaware that we are all connected to the economy. If the rant had been to demand maximum value for our tax dollars, that would have gotten my sympathy, but disconnecting from all responsibility for taxes is just silly. Damn, that sentiment may cause me to be reviled as a conservative in some quarters.

I'm in touch with my feelings and I like it that way!

I think owning a gun doesn't make you a killer, it makes you a smart Canadian.

Being in touch with your feelings here obviously means to shut down your brain and just make your decisions based on how you feel.

Despite gun control being well thought of by the undoubtedly Liberal-Progressive Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and a significant proportion of Canadians being in favour of it, the author seeks to draw a positive association between Canadian-ness and gun ownership. I don't buy it. I can see the need on Aboriginal reservations for hunting, and on farms and in smaller rural communities for hunting and rodent control, but it is not clear to me that heavily armed neighbourhoods would serve most communities.

I think being a minority does not make you noble or victimized, and does not entitle you to anything.

I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac, do it in English.

Here is the real heart of this screed. Being a minority does not make you noble or victimized, particularly when we come to express our opinion about how we dislike your differences. And it certainly doesn't entitle you to protection under the law when we come to kick the crap out of you, because that is an entitlement only for "real" Canadians.

Serve me that Big Mac in English, because it is clear that I don't know what a quiche is, or Tsingtao, or sushi, or biryani, even weinerschnitzel. This is a denial of the multi-cultural nature of Canada. Or even the historical nature, if you happen not to believe in multi-culturalism. But it is interesting that people can feel so threatened and respond in this way.

We're starting a major downturn in the economy. As times get harder, I expect that the "threatened by outsider" response will happen more. An example of that is the Ford dealership that ran the racist ad attacking Toyota vehicles. This example is American - I'd like to believe that this won't happen in Canada, but I've also stopped believing in the tooth fairy.

I believe everyone has a right to pray to his or her God when and where they want to.

Left unsaid, of course, is that you'd better not be praying to Allah. Or Visnhu. Or making observaces to Buddha. 'Cuz, dammit, it ain't Canadian.

My heroes are John Wayne, Babe Ruth, Roy Rogers, and whoever canceled Jerry Springer.

Here is revealed the true intellectual bankruptcy of this piece -- all of the icons invoked are American, not Canadian. What I suspect but can't confirm is that this was originally an American GOP-conservative "rally the supporters" type of notice that found its way north of the border and got edited by an enthusiastic fellow traveller.

I know wrestling is fake and I don't waste my time watching or arguing about it.

This was the only sentence in the entire piece that communicated anything useful. But remember that I, the commentator, am a conservative Liberal-Progressive, and my opinion can't be thought of as a "real" Canadian opinion.

I've never owned a slave, or was a slave, I haven't burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks and neither have you! So, shut up already.

The conclusion, once again, from this sentence is that if you are black, or Armenian, or an English Pilgrim, or a refugee, or anything else out of what the author thinks as "the ordinary", then you aren't a "real" Canadian.

I believe if you don't like the way things are here, go back to where you came from and change your own country! This is CANADA.

If you were born here and don't like it you are free to move to any Socialist country that will have you.

Because, dammit, we don't want your kind here! See above re minorities. And while we're at it, bad people are socialists, because socialists and Liberal-Progressives are somehow related.

I think the cops have every right to shoot your sorry rear if you're running from them.

I also think they have the right to pull you over if you're breaking the law, regardless of what colour you are.

And, no, I don't mind having my face shown on my drivers license. I think it's good......

There is no controversy regarding pictures on drivers licenses -- that particular point is a distraction. Similarly, Canadian police in any jurisdiction do pull people over without regard for skin colour. There are some arguments that suggest that non-whites are targeted more often for enforcement, but if so, it is not clear to me that this happens on the road, in cars -- where practically speaking, a police officer would see the car first and might not actually be able to see past the tinted glass into the interior.

And as far as being shot by the police -- anyone who believes that they are a real Canadian also knows that the police don't make mistakes.

I think if you are too stupid to know how a ballot works, I don't want you deciding who should be running our nation for the next four years.

This bit provide extra credence to my belief that this originated originally in the US. But it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the real Canadian who wrote this was unfamiliar with the way the Canadian government works.

I dislike those people standing in the intersections trying to sell me stuff or trying to guilt me into making 'donations' to their cause.

Again, this sentence speaks of being threatened. There is a lot of fear and intolerance coming out.

I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes two parents.

Unspoken: they'd better not be same-sex parents!

I believe 'illegal' is illegal no matter what the lawyers think.

This sentence is just astounding. Lawyers and judges and the Canadian parliament define what is "legal", and that definition is tested adversarially every time there is an issue. It is called "English Common Law" and has been in effect for roughly a thousand years.

I believe the Canadian flag should be the only one allowed in CANADA!

Excuse me, I need to contact the appropriate ministry in every Province and Territory to tell them that they need to get rid of their provincial or territorial flags. And I guess we'd better not have any foreign flags flying in front of embassies. The author doesn't address the UN flag flying beside the Canadian flag on various peacekeeping missions, but we probably better get rid of that as well -- gotta be a real canadian after all...

If this makes me a BAD Canadian, then yes, I'm a BAD Canadian.

If you are a BAD Canadian too, please forward this to everyone you know.

We want our country back!

At the end, there is the appeal to forward the crap on to all your friends and e-mail contacts. And closing with one final, irrational appeal to bigotry, that somehow real Canadians aren't in charge in their own country.

No one who sends me this rant (and as I said, I get it several times a year) are real Canadians in the same way that the Campbell family of Holland Township in New Jersey (or is it Pennsylvania?) are real Americans. These people are possibly real Americans to a level beyond that of the real Americans cited by Sarah Palin during the recent Presidential campaign in the US.

It seems to me that people focus on a few key words, like the bogus call to emulate a standard of real Canadian-ness, and they stop thinking about the larger implications of the hatred and bigotry in the message. And that drives me nuts.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled economic crisis.

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