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Jewish World Review Dec. 3, 2001 / 18 Kislev, 5762

John Leo

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Consumer Reports

Hell's litigious angels


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- America's next official victim group may be roaring your way on their Harley-Davidsons. Bikers are sick and tired of rampant antibiker bigotry, so they are seeking status as a legally protected class in Ohio, Georgia, South Carolina, and several other states.

The idea is to end all the ridicule, the tattoophobia, the tendency among apprehensive roadhouse owners to seat them at remote tables. "To me, it's kind of like the back of the bus," said a Harley-riding Georgia state senator. Watch for new legal militance among owners of SUVs-bigots make fun of them too.

Yes, it's time for our annual roundup of breakthroughs in the everyone's-a-victim movement.

The world thinks actor Robert Downey Jr. suffers from drug addiction, but actually he may be a victim of "acquired situational narcissism," a term coined by therapist Robert Millman. Millman says ASN is the result of adulation early in life, complicated by pressure and fame later on. In a sense, the real culprits are the sycophants and enablers who follow famous people around, cleaning up after them. "There is always somebody to pick up the pieces . . . because of who they are," lamented Mark Greenberg of the Betty Ford Center.

Feeling victimized by The Sopranos, HBO's popular Mafia crime series, a Chicago-based Italian-American group argued in court that the show violated the state constitution's "dignity clause," which prohibits hostile communications based on religion, race, and other affiliations. A failed hit. The suit was dismissed.

In Chicago, a woman who makes $175,000 a year embezzled nearly $250,000 from her former employer to pay for shopping binges. In court, she argued that she was suffering from a compulsive shopping disorder and that what appeared to be a crime was actually an attempt to "self-medicate" the depression behind shopaholism. Her theft-is-medicine defense worked. No jail time. Just probation and six months of home confinement on weekends.

In Britain, Woolworth stores believe that their "Father Christmas" costumes could run afoul of European gender legislation. So the stores are stocking up on "Mother Christmas" outfits to avoid being taken to court over sex discrimination. Possible next marketing step: nativity sets with interchangeable "Jesus and Jane" infants.

A judge in Germany is suing Coca-Cola, claiming his habit of drinking two Cokes a day for years played a role in causing him to develop diabetes. He also plans to sue Masterfoods, since he ate a lot of the candy they distribute- Mars Bars, Snickers, and Milky Ways.

Bethany Halliday is suing England's D'Oyly Carte opera company for refusing her the role of a teenage virgin in Pirates of Penzance. Pregnant at the time, Halliday would have been six months along on opening night.

Japan's attack on the United States on Dec. 7, 1941, was the action of a victim lashing out at a victimizer. That's what many people in Japan argued when the movie Pearl Harbor opened. The Los Angeles Times reported: "Tokyo homemaker Mikako Murakami, 28, typifies Japanese sentiment with her comments, 'I feel Japan got roped into World War II.'"

To suffer from "road rage," you have to drive a car, but you can qualify as a victim of "desk rage" just by sitting down in any workplace. Surveys report that stress has driven 23 percent of workers to tears. Two big causes are obnoxious coworkers and infuriating technology, usually computers. "Our research has revealed that computers do make us vicious," said one psychologist. Perhaps that's why PCs are now being called "slaptops."

Court investigators concluded that Los Angeles Judge Patrick Couwenberg had falsified much of his academic and military background, then lied to the governor about it to improve his chances for a judicial appointment. Couwenberg replied that he was suffering from a medical condition called "pseudologia fantastica," which compels victims to tell tall tales and mix fiction with fact. (This little-known malady might also be called "biggo whopperos.") The condition, the judge explained, pushed him toward falsely claiming that he had earned a master's degree in psychology, fought in Vietnam, and worked for the CIA.

In Kensington, Md., two residents thought they would be uncomfortable having Santa Claus at the annual tree-lighting ceremony, so the town, which is strongly anti-discomfort, banned the famous red-suited benefactor, then relented under pressure and let him come. Kensington is in Montgomery County, which became a national laughingstock by trying to ban smoking in one's own house or apartment if a neighbor complained. When the antismoking law was vetoed, one councilman said: "At least now Santa can stay home and smoke."

JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Incorrect Thoughts: Notes on Our Wayward Culture. Send your comments by clicking here.

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