Coming Attractions

The Independent:

The tape recordings that Richard Nixon made, almost obsessively, of everything that went on in the Oval Office helped bring down his presidency. And now a similarly thorough archive of video footage threatens to create a world of embarrassment – and legal liability – for Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer.

About 15,000 videotapes of Wal-Mart executives at work and at play over the past 30 years have suddenly become available to the public thanks to a series of blunders by the retail giant – which paid too little attention to the company it hired to make the tapes before abruptly terminating their relationship two years ago.

[…] Now they are available – for a price – to researchers, labour rights campaigners and lawyers looking for dirt of all kinds. It’s turning into quite a lucrative business.

A Kansas City lawyer representing a 12-year-old boy who suffered extensive burns when a gasoline can bought at Wal-Mart blew up in her face was astounded – and delighted – to find footage of employees making jokes about their gasoline cans blowing up at a Christmas party.

The lawyer, Diane Breneman, is hoping to present that footage in court to challenge Wal-Mart’s claim that it couldn’t have known the gasoline cans it sells “presented any reasonable foreseeable risk”.

The archive also includes footage of Hillary Clinton, who served on Wal-Mart’s board from 1986 to 1992, praising the company to the skies – a position she has since sought to mute.

“I’m so proud of this company and everything it represents,” Mrs Clinton said at a store opening in Arkansas in 1991. “It makes me feel real good about what we’ve been able to do.”

While I’m glad that this archive of video will be able to help people reclaim some of the dignity that was sold off at cut rate prices by Wal-Mart, the thought that it might also bring Clinton’s perverse bid for the White House to a close is heartening. Anything to get this opportunistic freak show to end just a little sooner would be a good thing.