The Critics Respond, Part Thirty-Eight

It’s not the biggest hit TTAC’s ever had; that honor, in the post-Farago era at least, goes to a short piece Ronnie Schreiber wrote about the “Porsche Design Soundbar” last year. But my analysis of the Audi ad was the fastest-moving long-form to appear on the site since my Lamborghini Urus opinion piece of 2012. And it could have been even bigger; thanks to a combination of factors including me being slow to respond on an editing question or two because I was on the way to Indianapolis to get measured for a Nomex race suit, we sent it out the door seven hours later than we should have.

Oh well. If wishes were fishes, we’d all eat salmon every night the way my father is doing in his unstinting effort to live forever. The artcle was, and continues to be, remarkably popular nonetheless, thanks to links in from a variety of general-interest heavy-hitter sites like Instapundit and the “Kotaku In Action” subreddit. As you’d expect, many of those non-automotive outlets are far more concerned with the general societal implications of the advertisement in question than they are interested in what it means for the car business.

Given some of the recent political sensitivity at TTAC among both readers and management, I made every effort to ensure that this editorial was clearly marked “before the jump” as a potentially controversial opinion piece. The opening paragraphs, and even the title, should have made the readers aware that I’d be addressing issues outside the stark sales-statistic meat-and-potatoes that defines the site’s current content and direction.

Apparently, there was one jagoff out there who didn’t see all the warning signs and managed to accidentally electrocute himself on the third rail of having to read something besides December’s CUV sales rankings.


As long-term TTAC readers know, I cherish each and every person who spends his or her valuable time visiting the site. During my tenure as the site’s last publicly named E-I-C, I banned exactly one user id, and only because I had what I felt to be incontrovertible technical evidence that the account in question was, in fact, a sock-puppet for certain people who had been forcibly removed from TTAC’s roster of contributors. I didn’t delete posts, I didn’t blackhole stuff, I did not indulge myself in the juvenile pleasure of kicking people of out my treehouse.

Were I still running this show, however, I’d make an exception for “carguy”. I have zero fucking patience in this world for people who expect that the content on an entirely free-to-read website be curated in such a way that they don’t have to be triggered by a headline. It’s one thing to draw the reader in with non-political content “above the jump” and then force him to listen to your opinions on Trump or birth control or even the hot-button issue of diesel particulates and their effect on health. That’s not fair to your customers and it’s adequate grounds for complaint.

But if you are such a snowflake that you expect to be free of even having to look at a headline while you are scanning through a free-to-read website, then as far as I’m concerned you can go straight to hell. If there really is such a thing as “privilege” in this world, then surely expecting that you have the right to be free from even having to observe the hint of a story that might disturb you — that is privilege in its most raw and loathsome form.

‘Cause if you permit this attitude to go unchallenged, if you fail to shower it with the contempt it deserves, then how far will it go? If we give carguy veto power over headlines he doesn’t like on TTAC, because he is a frequent visitor, should sites that he visits less frequently also give him that veto power, just in case he stops by? What about sites he never visits? Should we make sure that they are also safe for him to visit? Should we reconfigure the entire fucking Internet so it doesn’t offend him or upset him in any way?

This, by the way, is the logical consequence of the Facebook “filter bubble” about which so much has been written lately. The vast majority of people have accidentally “taught” all the online sources they use, from Facebook to Twitter to Google Now, to report only things that do not upset or challenge them in any way. That’s certainly how I use Instagram: it shows me nothing but BMX bikes, motorcycles, race cars, and strippers from Portland. That’s how I want it. I don’t want to be constantly annoyed with shit that is not of interest to me. But in order to prevent that kind of filtering from dominating my life, I also read everything from Foreign Affairs to the New York Review Of Books. A lot of times I don’t like what they have to say. But it’s important that I don’t accidentally let myself fall into an intellectually vacant comfort zone where everything I see has been carefully curated by machines or timid editors to perfectly coincide with my existing preconceptions.

So, in closing: carguy is wrong. But he’s more than wrong. He’s dangerous. Dangerous to the preservation of an active conversation in this country, around this globe. Dangerous to himself and to others. Only a child puts his hands over his eyes so he doesn’t have to see anything scary. An adult should be ashamed of himself if he does anything of the sort.

42 Replies to “The Critics Respond, Part Thirty-Eight”

  1. Arbuckle

    It’s almost like Mr.carguy believes that b*tching loudly about editorial content on TTAC would make it go away.

    But I wonder how he ever got that idea…

  2. Arbuckle

    I also like the irony that a commenter is telling you to “stick to cars” when Audi created a Super Bowl commercial they **explicitly** state is about the gender wage gap, which doesn’t have much to do with cars.

    I wonder if he wrote VW ordering them to stop being a culture warrior.

  3. Widgetsltd

    There’s something a wee bit subversive in showing a slim girl beating two guys who look a bit like football players…in your Super Bowl commercial. I get a kick out of that.

  4. yamahog

    It’s an interesting TLP-type analysis (although it’s hard to draw that comparison without any references to rum or quixotic tilt against narcissism).

    We’ll see how effective the ad is. I can’t tell whether the wage gap angle is sincere, an example of the left hand not communicating with the right hand, or a botched form of another idea, but it’s catching some flack in the ad world.

    It reminds me of the TLP rant about “evil slave owners” … something about “broadcasting indignancy” and saying your against something most people condemn.

    The cynic in me hopes that leasing an A4 or S3 becomes the next #activist thing to do. 1) cheap off lease cars and 2) Audi has no women on their management board. It’ll demonstrate that broadcasting indignancy is more important than doing the hard work of self-improvement and becoming the change you desire.

    https://i.imgur.com/YrLF5Nf.jpg

  5. -Nate-Nate

    ! You said ‘snowflake’ ! .
    .
    I quit ~ I’m off to my safe place : a 33 year old lumbering piece of junk that gobbles up highway miles whilst spewing Diesel carbon particulates and if you don’t like it, you’re a DOODY FACE so there ! .
    .
    -Nate
    (Who never lived in anyone’s basement either)

  6. Ron

    I note the last line in ‘carguy’s missive sounds exactly like a five-year old whining about being forced to endure some horrid torture, such as getting a haircut or going to the opera. And while it is probably unfair, I find myself wondering how hard it is to type while clutching a security blanket.

  7. VoGo

    I’m certainly not defending carguy, and I enjoy your editorials, Jack, because I appreciate them for what they are: one guy’s well written opinion. But I think that a lot of people, regardless of their politics, are looking for websites where politics does not intrude. Or, at least, contrary opinions do not intrude. Because it’s everywhere; and sometimes people want a break. I myself have curtailed my visits to a lot of sites, both on the right and the left, just to avoid the constant bickering.

    Now a logical person might tell carguy: “Dude. stick to the car stuff at TTAC, and skip the headlines that feature Trump, or the stuff that is obviously an opinion piece. And especially skip the comments.” He chose not to do that, and he didn’t like what he saw.

    I work at a large company that paints itself as being a leader in a new, exciting, fast-growing industry. But the truth is that we make most of our money off old, unglamorous products that no one likes to talk about. Not because these products are bad, they just aren’t terribly motivating and sexy.

    I think Mark Stevenson is in a similar bind. He wants TTAC to be about cars, but none of the car stuff really stands out – he’s competing with outlets with far bigger budgets and brands. And what draws in the traffic is the politics and other back-and-forth, but this material can be corrosive.

    I am curious to see how it turns out.

    • Sseigmund

      VoGo,

      The fact is that TTAC and other publications will die without talented writers. There’s not much except Jack left at TTAC to entice one to visit. Good writing in this modern progressive era is becoming more scarce by the day. And you’re right. Cars have mostly become very dull with the exception of the ever escalating supercar wars. Automakers need to be challenged by an objective press, but as we know all too well, the auto press business is really just big brothel where the manufacturers pay for what they want. TTAC was born to challenge the automotive status quo, but they are now just a degree or two away from being just another willing Ho.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      About twenty years ago, I decided that I would only put serious effort into three kinds of activity:

      * Things that paid the bills;
      * Things that I enjoyed doing;
      * Things where I have a natural competitive advantage.

      I work because I need to. I ride BMX and play guitar, even though I’m no longer any good at the former and I was never any good at the latter, because I enjoy it. And I write because I think I’m better at it than the average person or even the average published writer.

      Implicit in the above list is that I don’t bother to do shit I’m no good at and don’t enjoy. As an example: I don’t do CrossFit or powerlifting because I don’t have the joint durability for the former or the genetic predisposition for the latter. I don’t play golf because I don’t enjoy it and I’m not very good at it. I quit playing the trumpet for those same two reasons.

      TTAC was founded in opposition to the OEMs and the rest of the media. That’s our literal raison d’etre. Ed and Bertel paid lip service to it, but their hearts were never really in it. Derek understood the mission and he had the talent required, but he was too young and new to the job to be able to kick back effectively against VerticalScope management. Still, TTAC prospered because we were the only blog with that particular mission. We had no competitive set; we held an effective monopoly on the idea of being a truly independent, contrarian publication.

      When Mr. Stevenson took over, he had the idea of making TTAC a sort of junior AutoGuide or Autoblog, a manufacturer-friendly news and reviews source. When he put that idea into practice, he took us from being the only fish in a tiny pond to being an under-funded minnow in Lake Superior. We cannot compete with the big blogs or the print magazines. Motor Trend, for example, spends more on video production every month than TTAC has in annual budget. Jalopnik has ten people who earn more than I earned when I was E-I-C. It’s no wonder that we are struggling, because we are trying to do something that we’re not designed to do and something that we don’t have the resources to do as well as our competitors.

      The best musical analogy I can come up with, not that this situation requires one, is Mumford & Sons “going electric”. As a fake-Americana band, they are very good and they don’t have much competition. As an electric rock band, they’re the worst one on the charts.

      • CJinSD

        Where do you stand on trying new things? ‘Don’t do stuff you don’t like, aren’t good at, and aren’t compensated for,’ isn’t really something that should need to be codified. The alternative is self-flagellation.

        It’s a shame about TTAC. Maybe it will survive until a worthy editor is found, but would VerticalScope and the SJWs who dominate the comments accept anyone who applied a critical eye to the industry?

        • Kevin Jaeger

          It is a shame about TTAC in its current condition. I don’t find much of interest outside of Jack’s contributions.

          Is it too early to start a TTAC Death Watch?

          • Will

            Ha! I suggested a Tesla death watch and I was killed over there. I miss the irreverent articles, that’s why I came there. It’s almost like page 2 of espn.com, amazing for a short time then killed off.

        • stuntmonkey

          I just wish it would get back to being about cars. As someone who is in the market for one later this year, its striking how little actual information there is to draw upon these days from TTAC. The conversation is a sign of the times, we live in a political era… but man, if you are weighing your options car blogs are surprisingly unhelpful this year.

  8. Bigtruckseriesreview

    If there’s one thing I enjoy most about having my own platform on the internet.

    It’s the FREEDOM.

    No censorship but that I choose.

    No rules except for those I choose.

    Politics has infiltrated everything – even the Super Bowl – and Trump – or the responses to Trump have been overwhelmingly omnipresent.

    • Felis Concolor

      Precisely!

      Give a man a platform, and he’ll annoy you for a day.
      Deny a man a platform, and he’ll build his own – AND YOU’LL NEVER SHUT HIM UP AGAIN.

    • Zykotec

      You’re kinda wrong. Since your platform is dependent on visitors, you have to stay popular for your platform to still make you money. In the same way as TTAC has to stay relevant, and a presidential candidate has to be popular, your Youtube page has to be more interesting than your competition for you to make money of each hit/like/subscription.

      That means that you can offcourse stay true to your principles when tides turn, and go down with your ship, or you can do like carreer politicians and car manufacturers and other massively huge youtubers , and just change according to the taste of the majority. And then over time see all your principles being destroyed while you work yorself to the bone doing things you don’t even like doing, and as it goes on loose interest completely, and loose followers because you ‘sold out’ and ‘youre hearts not into it anymore’ and then everything goes to crap.
      Like what happened with Hillary, and arguably Metallica.

      But, then after everything goes to crap, you can do ‘the comeback’. Often that means finding God (or even worse Hubbard), or going to rehab in between, but it’s been done succesfully a couple of times.

      • Bigtruckseriesreview

        ATTENTION = MONEY

        I’ll just trade my cars…get new cars… get more views…get more money…they pay for themselves.

        Thus far my channel has paid for my 3rd M.S. degree and my vacations – not to mention my portfolio at Scottrade.

        subscribers just crossed 23,000, but subs don’t dictate money made – views and user engagement do.

        Whether they hate what I’m saying or love what I’m saying, ATTENTION = MONEY.

        Over $2000 a month from “cellphone videos”.

        No one has an excuse not to succeed on the net.

  9. jz78817

    ” But I think that a lot of people, regardless of their politics, are looking for websites where politics does not intrude. Or, at least, contrary opinions do not intrude.”

    then they can stay in their curated Facebook bubble, as described above.

  10. Donald Curton

    Since I don’t comment at TTAC, I’ll say something here. Jack, you totally missed the ENTIRE POINT of the ad. As any soccer parent (ahem) who’s living vicarious through their children’s triumph’s can attest, being at two places at once is a necessity. So ask the obvious question, “Where is the Dad standing?”

    It seems that, initially, he’s at the starting line. Yet there he is, 45 seconds later, at the finish line hoisting his daughter out of her car. They even show a different crowd (hillbilly dad?) to emphasis he’s at a completely different location. Because obviously in a downhill race, you can’t be two locations at once. Or can you?

    With Audi’s new temporal displacement engine, parents can leisurely get impossible distances in mere seconds. One child’s futball game at 7, another’s piano recital at 7:30? No issues with Audi. Stay and enjoy the entire match, then get to the recital with minutes to spare. THAT will sell Audi’s. Everything else is just noise.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I yield to your interpretation!

      Seriously, though… I always figured he was at the finish the whole time.

  11. Zykotec

    Yup. If he had bothered to read the whole article , it was in itself a criticism of the guys who made the commercial not about cars in the first place.
    The internet is turning more and more into the Tower of Bable. We literally have acess to all the information in the world, and more and more people choose to read only the things directly relevant to their personal interests.

    And though I really hate it, I fully understand why it’s happening.
    Because having to literally read through all the information in the world can be really tedious.
    Especially when it’s also totally randomly mixed with all the opinions of all the people in the world, all the images of what they done and eaten and thought , every day of their life, and everyone elses thoughts and comments on all those things.
    Already at this point finding stuff that is actual useful information, even on things you are interested in, is getting really hard, unless you choose to filter all the ‘noise’ out.
    I remember a time where all information was hard to get. Where the only peope we could ask about information was family and friends. And we had no way to check their sources until we had learned to read. At which point we could probably check the local library, but even then it was hard to find out how many books were written on whatever subject we wanted to learn about, or how biased either of those books were towards either side.

    And then we actualy had to learn stuff we had no interest in in the first place, not only to be able to find nformation, but also to sort the information we found so that we could make use of it. So we learned a lot of things we thought we didn’t need, and a lot of things we never wanted to learn. Same goes for normal TV-watching. We had to endure hours upon hours of programs we had no interest in watching while waiting for hour favourite shows. And we had to wait a whole week in between episodes.

    And that was if you like me enjoyed to actively seek information. Most people were just happy with what they got. And then they were shaped to fit the society they lived in. If you lived in a hick town, you became a hick, if you live in a leftie-hippe town, you became a leftie-hippie, etc.

    Now we (most of the western world at least, but it’s growing) have the exact opposite problem. There is so much information that we have to use our own bias to filter it out. Many people still carry their biased for generations but for the most part opinions and biases have less geographical barriers. And it can be a lot more randomized.
    If you let it be randomized offcourse. At least in the ast you didn’t have much choice, but today, with us having literally access to all the information in the world, it’s much more your own fault if you turn out a hick or a hippie.

    Before I start writing a book on how two mopar intested brothers went their own ways because one watched Dukes of Hazzard and became a hick, while the other read Stephen Kings Christine and became an agnostic leftie, I just want so mention if you are not at all interested in reading or writing about politics or religion there is always the HAMB. Those two subjects are reason for getting banned there.
    But then you have to be interested in building American made cars they way they were modified before 1965.

  12. Rock36

    Blogs, OP-eds, etc have the ability to project someone’s presence. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about that, but the commentary between the author and reader is often one direction, even on the internet which can be frustrating I think.

    As a reflective individual with my own perspectives I am very much drawn to debate and discussion. When I reply or comment, even on a blog like this one where the authors do an outstanding job engaging with their readership, there are necessary delays and they are of course limited in their ability and desire to reply to absolutely everyone.

    For me that is frustrating, because I like the quick lively debate and discussion that happens face to face, in the moment, when everyone participating is more or less focused and present during the discussion. The current format of blogs, articles, and their associated commentary don’t satisfy that particular drive for me. So I’ve resigned myself to fire-and-forget type posting, so occasionally I avoid political postings because I want to engage but know I can’t engage in the way I want.

    What does this have to do with carguy? Well maybe he isn’t motivated by safe spaces, or limiting speech, or bubbles, or censorship. Maybe all that speculation is a result of overreading his statement or filling the gaps in his comment with your own expectations. One guy in this thread evaluated “make it stop” as a childish reaction, but I read that as a way to bring levity and take the edge off his criticism.

    Maybe he is conscientious enough to understand that the time you gentlemen spend writing is finite, and since he is generally fascinated with your writing, he desires that your limited resource of time be devoted to car topics and not politics regardless of his ability to ignore the jump and move on. Which would have very little to do with.

    Or maybe Carguy is, in fact, sees himself a special snowflake, because you do know him beyond his online handle or you’ve seen enough of his commentary to develop an image.

    A real and active conversation with Carguy outside of a forum, or a single comment, would probably quickly resolve that mystery one way or the other though, but given the format and how it works, that conversation probably isn’t particularly feasible or likely.

    So his comment then becomes a vehicle in which to restate very real concerns you have about the state of discourse in modern society, and underscore those concerns even if Carguy doesn’t represent any of that in reality.

    FWIW, I don’t want you all to stop the political slant. I does make me think, even if I’m generally denied the satisfaction of participating in the discourse.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Honestly, I dont understand the guy very well, even after reading a bunch of his previous comments.

      At best, he’s one of those unexamined-life types who just says whatever’s on his mind and doesn’t trouble himself with the deeper meaning of that speech.

      At worst, he’s the proverbial cry-bully.

  13. Jeff Zekas

    Jack, what I like about your blog is that it is about IDEAS, as well as cars. I mean, the automobile itself arose from the idea of freedom, and certainly, when I grew up (in the 60’s) one’s car really WAS freedom: free from your parents, free from Los Angeles, free to drive and go to the beach and escape, up to the hills and beyond. As for Audi: jesus, pretty much every Audi driver here in Eugene, Oregon is like the guy in the commercial. For that matter, pretty much every person living in South Eugene is an upper middle class, look-down-on-blue-collar, over-educated ass. My daughter, who is covered with tattoos, learned this, when here kids were harassed daily at the “nice” school. Evidently, rich folks teach their children to hate poor folks. She eventually pulled her kids out of the “good” school, and put them in a working class school. Strange, how you cannot be a sexist, or a racist, or a LGBT hater, but yet, it is acceptable to hate folks who get their hands dirty for a living. (which is why the Democrats lost).

  14. Ronnie Schreiber

    “I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you’re dead.”

    – Tom Stoppard

  15. Dave L

    The goal of a great writer is to get read and provoke though. You my friend are a great writer and people with different viewpoints should never have the power to stop you.

  16. Scotten

    I somehow missed this post (likely bc I couldn’t watch the video at work), but this was a really good piece. Not only does it not seem to take any position (blue, red or whatever) but breaking down an advertising piece is pretty fun to read.

  17. Ken

    The Audi article, and this site in general, is what I look for: Jack’s aspergers. (I mean that as a complement.) I enjoy the well written, non-whiny, non-feelz based views that I wouldn’t experience or interpret otherwise.

  18. Hogie roll

    My Instagram is like yours except replace strippers from Portland with fitness models from Australia.

  19. Steve Renwick

    Anyway, your comment about the Audi commercial was spot on. I wouldn’t have noticed all that myself.

  20. ltcftc

    This is the best social commentary piece on the current state of affairs in the USA that I’ve read recently. I’ve made an effort to read and hear both sides (whilst ignoring the extremities), and I’ve come to the conclusion that the hatred driving people not to listen or understand the point of view of their fellow Americans is tearing the country apart.

    The world watches on to see if the current hysteria and madness will settle down into a level of normality, or whether we will continue to witness the Fall of Rome.

Comments are closed.