January 15, 2004

Wisconsin Case May Herald End of Decent Society

BACK IN THE EARLY NINETIES, when we were but an out-of-sorts high school student growing up in a small Midwestern city, we sometimes made the common mistake of considering something cool when it was merely outside of our normal experience. Thus it was that we would occasionally watch "Catastrophe!", a particularly bad 1977 disaster film, with some of our friends.

How bad is the film? Well, consider that William Conrad (of "Jake and the Fatman" fame) is the narrator. Consider that all it contains is footage of such events as the infamous 1974 Xenia Tornado and 1969's Hurricane Camille. Consider that it contains some real howlers for lines, such as: "Auto racing: America's #1 sport!" Yep. It is that bad.

Anyway, because this movie was made in the Seventies, it will be no surprise to know it ended with a screed against the nuclear power industry. If we remember right, viewers were informed that -- despite the presence of a massive fault line underneath -- Actual Nuclear Power Stations operated in the general area of Northern California. Hence, the film argued, it was only a matter of time before a tremendous earthquake leveled the area, and spilled our precious nuclear fuel into the environment. Our civilization, Mr Conrad warned, could end "not with a bang, but with a whimper."

Well, as it turned out, Mr Conrad wasn't just whistling Dixie.

For we have learned of an incident so small that it could be considered a whimper on the news cycles; yet we believe it heralds trouble for decent society in the United States. But don't take our word for it. Let's turn to the Fond du Lac (Wisc.) Reporter for more details:


Cable TV made a West Bend man addicted to TV, caused his wife to be overweight and his kids to be lazy, he says. And he’s threatening to sue the cable company.

Timothy Dumouchel of West Bend wants $5,000 or three computers, and a lifetime supply of free Internet service from Charter Communications to settle what he says will be a small claims suit.

Dumouchel blames Charter for his TV addiction, his wife’s 50-pound weight gain and his children’s being “lazy channel surfers,” according to a Fond du Lac police report.


We'll let that sink in for a bit before we continue. Besides, we're out of drink and are saving our leftover pain medicines for special occasions; so we personally need to give it some time ---

(Typesetter's note: at this point, the two minutes immediately following were redacted from the finished transcript on the request of Mr Kepple. At the two minute one second mark, it picks up as follows).

-- FRICKING KIDDING. GOD ALMIGHTY, IS NOTH -- oh! you're still here. Um. Hi! Anyway, back to this fellow in West Bend, Wisc. We will be charitable, and say only that we believe he is not the sharpest nail in the drawer.

It's not simply that he blamed the cable company for the problems in his life. It's not just that, according to the story, the fellow's alleged actions at an earlier date got the police involved in the matter. It is that he has further alleged openly that his children are indolent and his wife is overweight. This, as the saying goes, was dumb. For it is hence very likely that none of them are all that happy about being described as such not only in "the paper," but to urbi et orbi.

Of course, the story gets better. From the Reporter:


Charter employees called police to the local office at 165 Knight’s Way the evening of Dec. 23 after Dumouchel showed up with a small claims complaint, reportedly intimidated an employee and made “low-level threats” to employees’ safety, according to a police report.

The report states Dumouchel gave an employee five minutes to get a supervisor to talk to him or their next contact would be “in the ocean with the sharks.”

According to the report, Dumouchel told Charter employees he plans to sue because his cable connection remained intact four years after he tried to get it canceled.

The result was that he and his family got free cable from August of 1999 to Dec. 23, 2003.


There are no words in human speech which can convey our reaction to that. Well, there are, but let's just say things are still sinking in. Hence, we shall again turn to the Reporter:


“I believe that the reason I smoke and drink every day and my wife is overweight is because we watched TV every day for the last four years,” Dumouchel stated in a written complaint against the company, included in a Fond du Lac police report.

“But the reason I am suing Charter is they did not let me make a decision as to what was best for myself and my family and (they have been) keeping cable (coming) into my home for four years after I asked them to turn it off.”

According to the police report, Dumouchel called Charter to stop his cable service in August of 1999 and was taken off the billing but not the cable service.

In a written statement, he said he put the family TV in the basement in 1999 after he had called to get cable disconnected, but soon thereafter, his wife had moved it back and hooked up the cable connection, and it still worked.

He stated he “made a deal” with her that “she could watch TV as long as the cable worked.”

He then went back to Charter and asked that they disconnect his service, which they reportedly never did.


Now, we do not argue that this fellow's statement does not have some element of truth to it. After all, if you watched a steady diet of "MTV's Newlyweds" and the Game Show Network, "Manimal" reruns and syndicated episodes of "Jake and the Fatman," you'd have gone to pot faster than Brian Wilson too.

However, millions upon millions of Americans enjoy cable television on a daily basis, and show no such ill effects. This is because they still practice what was once known as personal responsibility. Antiquated though it may seem, this practice could have helped out this fellow and his family. Yet, instead of following this time-honored tradition, this fellow wants to sue instead -- even though there's clearly no civil wrong present, even though he has not exhausted all his options, even though it's bloody insane.

This, we would submit, is the rub. In this case, an everday average citizen has abjured his personal duties to the point of ridiculousness. But not only has he completely refused to accept that his own actions brought about the state in which he now exists, he seeks to blame a wholly innocent party for his own troubles.

What's important is that this case isn't isolated; it seems as if a growing number of people sue someone else as the cause of their problems, instead of looking in the mirror to find the culprit. Perhaps this facet of our modern-day existence may not truly be worthy of inclusion in "Catastrophe!" But it is not something that we think bodes well for life in America either.

(link via Damian Penny)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at January 15, 2004 02:29 AM | TrackBack

Oh good Lord!! That is just mind-numbing.

Posted by: Kevin White at January 15, 2004 07:27 AM