Are americans really this stupid
April 18, 2000 1:35 AM   Subscribe

Are americans really this stupid or does the rest of the world just have better things to do? TV owners are suing a company for running an ad with a CGI cockroach in it after destroying their TV's while trying to kill the roach. Will wonders never cease?
posted by jedrek (12 comments total)
Unfortunately, yes, there are a lot of americans that are this stupid. At the same time, there are a lot that are clever, and only want to make a buck off other's misfortune, and the fact that juries will beleive them, and want to punish big business for dumbass stupidity.
posted by da5id at 4:34 AM on April 18, 2000

I think the US has a heritage of gullible suspension of disbelief to the point of refusing to let go. To wit: The War of the Worlds" broadcast, Quisp vs Quake, urban legend, etc.
posted by plinth at 5:46 AM on April 18, 2000

Remember that X-Files episode about the killer cockroaches? They did the same trick, having a roach crawl across the screen. So not only is Orkin getting sued, but they're getting sued for a gimmick they swiped!
posted by owen at 7:13 AM on April 18, 2000

Movies have been doing this for years because of animal rights concerns. Men In Black was the most recent example, where if you watch a "behind the scenes" program (or were part of making the movie), you would know that they have to make things like that fake in order to pass.

posted by magnetbox at 7:25 AM on April 18, 2000

In a lot of cases, these kinds of lawsuits are pushed by lawyers who know that even if even if the TV company wins, that the legal costs will be huge. Thus the TV company might decide to settle just to save money.

A lot of this kind of thing would evaporate if the laws here were changed so that plaintiffs had to pay the legal costs of defendants if the plaintiff case was declared "frivolous" by the court. Sometimes that does happen, but not very often.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:49 AM on April 18, 2000

... am I the only one who, while not being so sensitive as to object when people point out the undoubtedly stupid actions of undoubtedly stupid individuals, tends to get a little snarly when the implication is made that their nationality is to blame?

this happens a lot. it's not nice in America to make, say, "stupid Polish" jokes (and I never would anyway, the only Polish family I ever knew produced nothing but geniuses) but it pisses me off that the rest of the world has a free ticket for "stupid American" jokes.

if the phrasing had been "are people really this stupid? and is *America's legal system* so stupid that it encourages stupidity?" I'd have had absolutely no urge to once again go on a finger-shaking tirade. I'm betting televisions in other countries would have gotten broken over this ad, too, it's just that the American definition of liberty seems to involve "freedom to litigate at will". In the abstract---until faced with something as exasperating as this case---it's something I'm thankful for.

sorry for the off-topic---I've been seeing this and seeing this and unfortunately I happened to be on MetaFilter, where talkback is almost *too* easy, when I reached my limit.
posted by Sapphireblue at 11:05 AM on April 18, 2000

If you want to place the blame, place it where it belongs; on American media.

Why does a story like this get so much media attention? Why is American media saturated with stories of idiotic people doing stupid things, and/or minutia about movie and television stars?

From my vantage point, having lived primarily outside of the USA, but seeing American news and television and newspapers and magazines on a regular basis, American Media makes Americans look stupid, because it glorifies idiots like this, and that woman who sued a fastfood chain because her coffee was too hot, and kids who fall down wells, and beauty pageant winners, and people who generally get something for nothing.

If we have a 'free ticket', it is because Americans give it to us, by choosing to live in a tabloid media culture, and not doing anything about it.

posted by sperare at 12:04 PM on April 18, 2000

... I don't recall pointing any blame for anything at anyone, but since you asked:

pray tell, what is it I should *do*, exactly? other than what I *am* doing, which is to not partake of "tabloid media culture"---which itself is far from all there is to the United States; media puts out what media thinks sells and is not any sort of accurate representation of life *anywhere*; if you think you're an expert on the States because you can get Sally Jessy on satellite or read People two weeks late, you're wrong.

Judge American media all you want, speaking only for myself of course I see zero problem with that. Even more the better if you can get them to listen---they don't listen to the large numbers of *Americans* who bemoan the crap that we're fed daily, much less to people who don't so much as count toward their Arbitron/Nielsen/whatever ratings.

But media isn't life, and people who judge life, and people, and cultures, through the distorting lens of media are exactly where the media wants them to be: confusing film-at-eleven with reality. Sounds as if you may be a better customer to the American media than I am: I may live here but am smart enough not to buy the horseshit they're selling.
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:45 PM on April 18, 2000

I think that America is a great country, hell, I grew up there myself. But what's happening in the US justice systems is mindboggingly dumb. Americans are getting crap over lawsuits like this because the whole world sees not injustice but stupidity.

Hundreds of millions of dollars over spilled coffee? Massive lawsuits brought over people tripping in public places? Students suing teachers over bad grades? C'mon, is common sense really all that uncommon?

posted by jedrek at 1:21 PM on April 18, 2000

People seem to forget that the legal system, at least in the US and other countries that rely on case law, is self-healing. The federal courts have already expanded "Rule 11" from a bad-faith test to a less restrictive unreasonableness test. That is, if someone brings a so-called lawsuit against you, previously you had to prove that they knew they had no legal standing and were only trying to harass you. Now you only need prove that they failed to make reasonable efforts to determine this in advance.

Sanctions (getting compensation for being sued frivolously) have always been available as a judicial remedy, and so has a countersuit.

I don't think the mere fact that Americans can find lawyers who will file a silly lawsuit on their behalf and send out press releases about it means that our judicial system is broken. Heck, most people don't even know that the McDonald's coffee lawsuit was turned over on appeal, and not because it was outrageous, but because the punitive damages formula that the jury used was deemed inappropriate. Most people just say "remember the McDonald's lady" and go on their happy lives thinking she became a multi-millionaire by suing a corporation. In fact, she ended up settling for an undisclosed amount that is probably far short of the imagined $millions.

To some extent, the ability to file a lawsuit is an inherent right of a free society, like speech. Take that away because of some idiots, and I guarantee you'll regret it.
posted by dhartung at 5:18 PM on April 18, 2000

dan you should post more often. as in your log, you're an eloquent source of knowledge
posted by chaz at 12:32 AM on April 19, 2000

Yes, most Americans really are that stupid. Yes, our so called 'legal system' is a joke. Must kill all lawyers, now!
posted by alienation at 11:22 AM on April 23, 2000

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