Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Taser International cranky about wording of blog headlines

taser intimidationTwo of the Canadian blogs listed in our Taser Blogroll in the right sidebar (Creative Revolution and Crimes and Corruption of the New World Order) have reported that the Editor in Chief of a third blog (Daily Kos) has received objections from Taser International regarding a November 14, 2007 post about the videotaped post-tasering death of Robert Dziekanski at the hands of the RCMP at Vancouver airport. See that post here. See my own post about it here. Intimidation doesn't work particularly well in the blogosphere. I am sure that Daily Kos' legal team will respond appropriately.

I understand that the manufacturer objects to the phrase “taser death” in the headline and considers it 'inaccurate, misleading, and... made with reckless disregard as to its truth'. They cite 'defamation, trade libel, and irreparable damage' to their company and its products.

Many reports of deaths following taser deployment claim contributing factors including drug use, pre-existing medical conditions, adrenaline rush, and the oft-cited, never explained, clinically resonant neologism “excited delirium”, which seems to me to have been invented for the occasion by taser apologists. That's why this blog always refers to such deaths as “post-tasering” events. Nothing about this implies post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument, it's merely a factual statement of timing. Temporal sequence does not imply causality. We'll leave statements of causality to medical professionals. If there haven't been enough of those to help you make up your mind, wait. The weapons are now common and we're hearing from more and more coroners and medical examiners about their effects on victims varying widely in age, sex, and reproductive and medical condition. It's not like the FDA tested and approved these things before they spread like enthusiastic bunnies. We the People are uncompensated guinea pigs for these medical trials and there'll be another post-tasering event soon enough. We'll let the data speak.

Taser International may also feel that their trademark name has been devalued by the widespread use of the word taser (lower case “t”), but success carries with it the benefit and stigma of name recognition. I don't know how many newsworthy incidents have involved other brands of electroshock weapons; certainly competitors may wish they had equally overwhelming national and international market share. You may eat gelatine, cover cuts with adhesive plasters, and use photocopies, but you almost certainly ask for Jello or a Band-Aid or make Xerox copies whether or not you are careful to check the brand. When you hear the phrase “Don't Tase Me, Bro!” you don't think of something called a stun gun or cattle prod or electric dog collar, you think of a Taser (tm), because, well, that's what it was, and the national media reported it as such.

Certainly print, television, and radio news outlets have deeper pockets than bloggers. They also have larger legal staffs; it's unlikely that CNN, CBS, or Reuters will receive letters of complaint. Nor will Mr. Dziekanski be writing letters to either the RCMP or Taser International because, you see, he died- not necessarily because of, but certainly after, he was tased.