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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Janklow Sues Dell -- Media Casts Felon as Everyman

KELO beat me to the obvious headline...

Most convicted man-slaughterers don't get gentle, positive press like this. KELO features former South Dakota Governor and Congressman Bill Janklow as he epitomizes the everyman struggle against big business. Janklow is suing Dell over the non-functional computer they sold him in May. KELO helps turn the screws of bad PR on Dell by showing him going through the lengthy and futile maze of telephone tech support.

This lawsuit is one nearly everyone can sympathize with. A company produces an inferior product. The company makes it nearly impossible to get service to solve the problem. The consumer's only recourse is expensive legal action. (Bonus philosophical inconsistency of the day: Some of Janklow's Republican friends argue that we need to limit lawsuits. Discuss.)

I'm betting the initial reaction of nearly every South Dakotan watching is the same as mine: "Go get 'em, Bill! Make 'em pay!"

But I see another angle here. Consider how Perry Groten (of course Perry would do this story! I still love you, Perry!) frames the narrative:

Not even a former governor and U.S. Congressman has the kind of clout to fast-track a lengthy journey through the customer support maze.

What if Groten had chosen an alternative framing:

Not even a convicted felon has the kind of clout to fast-track a lengthy journey through the customer support maze.

Hmmm. KELO and the rest of the mainstream media make plenty of hay keeping us scared of the bad, bad people in our midst. But Bill Janklow gets press like any decent ordinary Joe.

I know, Bill Janklow is anything but ordinary. He's darned interesting. He makes good press. He is a historic figure. He still has valuable contributions to make to South Dakota.

But he also killed a man through sheer recklessness.

How to properly allow Janklow into the public sphere is a complicated issue. The way we treat Janklow is also worth keeping in mind as we consider the place we allow all other felons in our community.

1 comment:

  1. The bad press will hurt Dell more than any monetary settlement. That's the whole idea.

    Janklow's record is regrettable, but I can't see how it's relevant to this case.


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