Talking points. In Washington, D.C., we eat them for breakfast. In our 24 hour cable news, social media, info-explosive culture – corporations know the power of words and they regularly use them to turn advocacy groups against ourselves, to create political divisions among ordinary Americans where none exist, to play off fears and to spread misinformation. In short, they use words to spread corporate mythology. Finally, for organizations like Public Citizen that have been fighting for citizen access to justice for years there’s someone exposing the real story behind the corporate mythology of tort “reform.”
I say jury, you say ________ . I say lawsuit you say_______. According to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), “If you filled in the blank with ‘runaway’ or ‘frivolous,’ you’re a testament to the corporate propaganda campaign.” As a civil justice attorney, Susan Saladoff had seen and heard enough. She set about to expose the truth behind the corporate push for tort “reform” and started by tackling the unfortunate poster child, Stella Liebeck.
In 1992, Liebeck was burned by hot coffee from McDonald’s. How hot? 180-degrees-hot. Third-degree-burns-hot. The-doctors-weren’t-sure-she-would-live-hot. But as Saladoff explains in the opening story of her documentary “Hot Coffee” —this wasn’t the story corporate interests wanted you to hear.
The reviews for this film alone ought to be reason enough for you to tune in . . .
Hank Stuever, entertainment critic for the Washington Post writes: “Unlike so many documentaries these days, “Hot Coffee” is refreshingly unadorned or manipulated for artistic or tear-jerking effect. It winnows down complicated legal argument and anecdotal cases with compassion and clarity.”
The Daily Beast writes: “Saladoff shows with incandescent clarity that the unabashed aim of the ‘reformers’ is to shield large corporations and medical professionals from being held accountable.”
“Clarity.” That’s a nice adjective for what we need as we engage to take on corporate mythology with small budgets and big hearts.
Saladoff explained to the Washington Post, “It’s not like corporate interests took our rights from us,” she said. “We’re giving over our constitutional rights to the court system” by voting for tort reform measures and politicians and judges who favor them.
“We’ve been convinced through this massive public-relations campaign,” she added. “We’re doing it unwittingly.”
Ah, sound familiar? Read Democracy in America? The fight in the courts ties back to the fight over words and if we are to win that fight, we’ve got to get educated and wisen up to what is happening. As Patrick Henry said:
You ought to be extremely cautious, watchful, jealous of your liberty; for instead of securing your rights, you may lose them forever . . .
So gather your friends and watch Hot Coffee tonight on HBO at 9 p.m. Don’t have HBO? That’s OK, Lady Liberty doesn’t have it either but there are plenty of other options just check out http://hotcoffeethemovie.com.
Learn more about forced arbitration by reading Public Citizen’s access to justice analyst Christine Hine’s blog post, “Movie goers as advocates against forced arbitration” and then, join Public Citizen’s Civil Justice Project online where you can stay up to date on the latest bills and judicial decisions, connect with other public citizens and get action alerts.
Follow me @citvox