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Moos responded with a note on July 29, 1996, apologizing for his business' decline. But, she wrote, "Getting press is a double-edged sword. We did exactly what we should have done: taking the product to a regular dentist and letting them look at it and try it. We didn't influence them in any way. And the rest of the piece was light-hearted and not in the least negative." (Moos -- and CNN -- declined comment and failed to return phone calls, respectively, for this story.)
By August 1996, all 12 of Sean's salespeople had quit. By the end of the year, CVS had decided not to order more floss rings. He lost the contract.
His personal life
"I wanted to have the house and everything ready," he says. "That's the way I am. I believe in preparing for things. I'd asked her to marry me once before but she wasn't ready and I thought we'd wait and have things set, you know."
A few days after the market upset, he forgot he and his girlfriend's fifth anniversary. In honor of the forgotten occasion, she informed him she'd had an affair.
"It was a bad week," Sean says. "I shouldn't have forgotten. And then she told me the news. I don't want to badmouth her. She's a good girl, a wonderful person. It just wasn't meant to be."
Positive press, however, was still coming in. Prevention magazine ran a glowing endorsement of the rings in November 1997.
"I got almost 40 pieces of positive press in print," Sean says. "Unfortunately, CNN outweighs all that. That's just the way it is. Broadcast media outweighs print media."
With that in mind, he started mass faxing the dentist's letter to CNN. When he got no response, he sent "black faxes" -- black pages that would dry up CNN's toner cartridges. Over four days in the summer of 1998, he sent a whopping 6,000 faxes, draining toner cartridges and eventually burning up one fax machine at CNN.
The January 1999 issue of New Woman called the floss rings a "handy gadget [that] may make your smile brighter and is sure to leave your fingers snap happy." In February 1999, Indiana University released results of a study showing dental floss tied to Sean's floss rings removed 23.8 percent more plaque than traditional hand-held dental floss -- which several magazines reported.
Nonetheless, Sean believed the kudos in print couldn't counter the damage CNN had done. On Oct. 5, 1999, he protested at CNN's offices in New York. He toted a sign that said "CNN & Johnson & Johnson conspire against Dix." When he tried to enter the building, he says, he was pushed down the stairs by a maintenance worker, damaging a revolving door in the scuffle. (Sean says the worker damaged it.) He was charged with trespassing and damage to property and was carted off to jail. But the property owner didn't show up for court on three different court dates and the case was dismissed. No matter what he did, it seemed no one cared.
No one was scared, either. After Sean's fax campaign, CNN offered to chauffeur Moos to and from work. She declined the offer.
Sean was reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War which advises that if your enemy won't face you, humiliate him into confrontation.
In March 2000, he began faxing pages of pernicious, disgusting, completely fabricated allegations about Ted Turner.
"I can't repeat what they said," he says. "They were awful. I am more ashamed of that than anything I've done."
That's when Jeremiah Everett of the New York Police Department paid Sean a visit. Everett told him to lay off. Everett says he "told Mr. Dix that if he continued on this course of action, he was going to end up in jail." The detective recalls that Sean seemed like a normal guy trying to run a business.
Sean told Everett he wanted to be arrested. That way, CNN would have to face up to what it did to him.
It was time to up the ante.
Last April 18, Sean faxed the following message to CNN: "I have come to the end of my attempts to deal with you in a rational manner. ... It is with full knowledge of the law that I'm telling you that if you do not make restitution I will attempt to kill Ted Turner, and if he is unreachable in his ivory tower then I only need kill one CNN employee and it will be on your hands. Either way, you cannot ignore this letter. If you do nothing you will eventually be sued by the family of the CNN victim for not taking action to prevent this. I do not make idle threats. I believe you know that by now."
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