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Volume 3, Number 3
March, 1998

Victim Chic

by David Mandell

 Do you want to earn fame and fortune in America today? It's easier than you think. All you need to do is become a professional victim. Victims are everywhere.
 From the pregnant actress Tylo Hunter, to unemployed former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones and injured golfer Casey Martin, victims are our latest growth industry.
 Despite its recent prominence, victimhood goes back a generation. Its founding father was Richard Nixon. Although not known as a cultural leader, Nixon became the first celebrity victim when he lost an election for governor of California back in 1962. Rather than graciously congratulating the winner, Mr. Nixon blamed the press and said they wouldn't have Nixon around to kick anymore. Bathed in victimhood, Nixon spent the next six years presenting himself as a victim and was elected President in 1968.
 In the seventies victimhood took a great leap forward. Courts began awarding huge judgments to anyone who could convince a jury that he or she was a victim.The Supreme Court of California ruled that anyone who saw an accident was a victim and entitled to money. You didn't even need to be hurt to recover. Do you have emotional stress? Answer yes and you are a victim. Residents who lived near a train derailment became victims even if they did not inhale anything toxic. Just thinking about it was enough.
 By the nineties a new type of victim emerged. We now have the career victim. Take Paula Jones for example. No one other than Jones and Bill Clinton knows for sure what happened in that Little Rock hotel room. If the accusations are true, Jones had an unpleasant and disgusting encounter with a serial groper. However for the last five years, Jones has made a career out of her victimhood. From talk show, to news conference, to deposition, Jones has been everywhere. Her original team of lawyers withdrew when their client rejected their advice to take the money and move on. Victimhood is just too intoxicating to let go.
 Jones is small change compared to the professional victims of Hollywood, sports, and government. The latest Hollywood victim is soap opera actress Tylo Hunter. When the actress became pregnant, and was denied a role as a sultry vixen, she sued the producers. Hunter donned the mantle of victimhood, claiming that regardless of her appearance, she had a right to the part. A jury bought her counsels' argument, awarding her millions. Perhaps actors who resemble Newman on Seinfeld will sue when they are passed over for Brad Pitt at the next audition.
 Sports has two prominent victims these days. The first, Casey Martin, is a talented golfer with a foot disorder that impedes his walking. Martin claimed victimhood when he demanded to use a golf cart instead of walking the course. While the other golfers trudge through eighteen holes in the sun, he can drive from hole to hole. Unless the NBA lowers the rim next season it can expect to be sued by slow guys who can't jump.
 The NBA has its own professional victim now, Latrell Sprewell. Suspended after choking his coach, Sprewell is a victim today. The millionaire basketball player was not given proper treatment at practice by his coach. When his arbitration concludes we can expect a big lawsuit by the misunderstood ball player.
 We now even have the criminal as victim. When the chief judge of New York's highest court, Sol Wachtler, was convicted for threatening his mistress, he pronounced himself a victim and went on a book tour after his release from prison. The judge was, of course, a mere victim of mental disorders, never properly understood by his doctors.
 Victimhood is becoming the national pastime. If the latest accusations against him are proven, expect to see President Clinton join the victims' parade. We'll hear that he is a victim of poor impulse control syndrome, unable to control himself. Psychologists will appear on Oprah and Larry King to explain the newly discovered disorder. Welcome to the neighborhood, Mr. President.

David Mandell is a practicing attorney in Connecticut.
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