Opinion: Navigating car culture in a post-truth world
The best definition I have ever found for bullshit can be found in Harry G. Frankfurt's 2005 book, "On Bullshit". In a nutshell the professor classifies the phenomenon as follows: A practitioner of bullshit (the Bullshit Artist, if you will) attempts to sway opinion by KNOWINGLY hiding facts from people they are attempting to influence. Facts, that if told, might just cause those very people to not go along with what the artist is proposing. Whatever you choose to call it: hyperbole, lies, falsehood, bullshit or even fake news, doesn't really matter. It exists and it is just as prevalent in the trade of automotive journalism as it is in every other job with journalist in the title.
It's easy to spot most articles in the automotive world that are attempting to sway your opinion. I'm sure we've all clicked on something and found ourselves reading an article extolling the virtues of a particular brand of car wax, air filter, synthetic oil or tire company. We've grown accustomed to these sorts of things and, in fairness, they tend to be well written and informative. That's because in order to be effective they have to be good enough to hold our attention. In certain parts of the world, they even have to come with a disclaimer stating they are paid advertisement.
But what about those Bullshit Artists that are attempting to sway opinion, but lack a disclaimer?
I assure you they exists in the automotive world. To see their handy work you don't need to look any further than the two tragedies they are responsible for in modern automotive culture.
Firstly, the rise of both the Cross Over and the SUV.
Secondly, the nonsensical idea that electric vehicles are somehow good for the environment.
Getting suburbanites to believe they needed an over priced car, the size of a tank, wasn't a very difficult task to perform and while we all lament the demise of the car this isn't the most diabolical thing they've ever done. Clearly the greater sin committed here was getting, otherwise logically thinking car lovers, to believe they are helping the environment by purchasing over priced golf carts. I might applaud it for being a stroke of freakin' genius, if their motivation wasn't evil at the core.
Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash
Modern society is being pulled in two different directions, so by extension the automotive world is as well. Much to the delight of those that are pushing identity politics (expert Bullshit Artists), clear lines are now being drawn in automotive culture.
You have those on one side that will argue something like this: EVs can not fit into my life right now. The technology hasn't progressed enough to be feasible for me to buy into. The cars are expensive, the charging times aren't quick enough and the range is too limited to be of any kind of benefit to me. In fact, they would hinder me and place an undue burden on my life. The last thing I need is something that makes my everyday more difficult.
Then you have the other side of the argument that goes something like this: I feel better knowing I am driving a car that I don't have to pump dead dinosaurs into and that gives me an aura of superiority. It virtue signals to my friends, co workers and other travelers that I have enough money to buy into the idea that I am actually doing something to help combat climate change. Additionally, I don't care that the electricity used to power my car likely comes from burning a fuel that's more detrimental to the environment than burning gasoline. I mean, I plug it into the wall. That's got to be cleaner than gas, right?
Convoluted logic aside, I can understand the appeal of EVs to a certain type of car lover. If you are fascinated by how something functions mechanically and are drawn to new things, then EVs are likely fascinating to you as they are on the cutting edge of automotive engineering. I will admit that they are interesting as machines, but they are not the greatest things to happen to the automotive world since fuzzy dice and hydraulic lifters.
People (I'm looking at you James May and Jay Leno) that are actively arguing that the rise of the EV will insure ICE cars remain for our use, are making a big leap of faith. A leap that requires us to believe that governments will continue to allow fuel to be extracted from the ground, refined and then sold to a ever decreasing percentage of the population, for an affordable price. They are also trusting that we will be able to continue to drive ICE powered cars on public roadways. That's placing a tremendous amount of trust in governments that seem to be incapable of listening to those they are supposed to be serving. I guess we can take some solace in the idea that governments are mostly inept and largely incapable of actually doing things. That just might be an example of government bureaucracy working to the benefit of car lovers.
But then again, betting the future of the internal combustion engine on a chance the government might fail to get around to banning them, seems like we are giving up the fight and turning our backs on the things that got us here in the first place. Basically, it is wrong and any free thinking car lover should be able to easily see that. No matter how well presented the bullshit is.
"The special mark of the modern world is not that it is skeptical,
but that it is dogmatic without knowing it."
- G. K. Chesterton
Keep on Crusin'!
About the Author:
Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck.