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December 02, 2003

Big Lies on Tort "Horror Stories"

Dave Johnson has a piece on the conservative movement's well-funded attacks on trial lawyers summarizing a report he wrote about this media propaganda.

It turns out that these popular stories about lawsuits and their effects are almost always misleading, distorted, or outright lies. Our legal system is not collapsing, lawsuits are not causing businesses to fold, and damage awards are not why insurance rates are rising.
Instead, you have fake stories repeated endlessly by corporate-funded fronts to advocate weakening consumer protection. Johnson argues that you can't fight these issues one by one on their merits-- you have to expose the puppeteers:
Fighting back requires understanding what it is that you are fighting back against. Without understanding the involvement and nature of this underlying right wing movement, trial lawyers and consumer advocates will not be effective in their response to "tort reform" arguments. Fighting a larger, deeper, multi-issue-oriented opponent requires a broader, more nuanced response. Reactive, reason-oriented efforts - explaining the merits of the coffee-spill lawsuit, for example, or providing figures showing that damage awards are not increasing, have not been effective. Because the conservatives' perspectives on issues come from an underlying ideology, and they are marketed so heavily, it is difficult if not impossible, to refute them by addressing their arguments on specific issues. If progressives are to be successful in getting their message out to the public they must first expose and refute that underlying right-wing ideology.
The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is all too real. Whenever you hear something "you know" about an issue, you have to ask-- where did the anecdote you cite come from, who paid for the research, and do you know more than the headline-- or are you just unwittingly reading off the rightwing play book.

Posted by Nathan at December 2, 2003 12:10 PM