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.