Cars and the Crappy Society

Heather McGhee ponders an important question:

Over a two-decade career in the white-collar think tank world, I’ve continually wondered: Why can’t we have nice things?

Heather McGhee, The New York Times, February 13, 2021

McGhee explains what she means by this:

image of billboard showing american way ideology
Notice the automobile…

By “we,” I mean America at-large. As for “nice things,” I don’t picture self-driving cars, hovercraft backpacks or laundry that does itself. Instead, I mean the basic aspects of a high-functioning society: well-funded schools, reliable infrastructure, wages that keep workers out of poverty, or a comprehensive public health system equipped to handle pandemics — things that equally developed but less wealthy nations seem to have.

McGhee reviews the ways in which white racial ideology prevents this movement toward reason, comfort, and social democracy.

Here at DbC, we would endorse this but add that cars-first transportation is also a major reason we in the USA remain stuck on our continent of kooky, harmful, maldistributed geegaws. With kindest apologies to Adam Smith, it seems that, upon completion, building human societies to maximize the sale of goods and services is not quite the same thing as building human societies for the maximum benefit of all.

When you prioritize the money-seekers’ values, the end results are not, in fact, all that similar to those that maximize the general welfare. Commodities and human thriving are not, it turns out, the same thing. However much the world might have disguised this point back in the 1770s, in the 2020s, it is getting pretty hard to miss.

Automakers Now Openly Admitting to Haloware Ops

If you’ve been reading DbC, you’ll know that we have long been interested in car corporations’ efforts to implant the idea that cars are somehow still high technology, and also that we stand at the brink of a great new era of automotive ease, safety, and ecological sustainability. (Not exactly a new effort, admittedly, but one that carries a new urgency in our obviously endangered times.)

The DbC thesis is that, due to corporate capitalism’s deepest institutional priorities, this social order’s prime movers and primary beneficiaries have no choice but to keep pushing cars-first transportation in the United States and elsewhere, come –literally — Hell or high water.

Well, lo and behold! In a very macro-Freudian slip, none other than the General Motors corporation is now publicly calling its latest batch of pies-in-the-sky the Cadillac Halo Platform!

[Note: This follows earlier flirtations with tipping this particular hand.]

This is quite interesting. It comes extremely close to being a direct admission of the cynical managerial intention behind such macro-marketing endeavors.

Indeed, it begs the question: Why is GM letting this cat out of the bag right now?

Here at DbC, our hypotheses on this are two:

  1. Thanks to the remarkable sanctity of the automobile in our public culture, GM has decided that the odds of any journalist or politician reporting that haloware is being perpetrated on the American public by the makers of our epoch’s most important and dangerous product are close to zero.
  2. This is a ploy to signal investors that GM will do whatever it takes — even such extra-shameless lies — to keep its ROIs flowing for as long as humanly possible.

And voilà: It works!

And while you’re at it, take a look at how hep good old Design Chief Simcoe looks here — the retro glasses and haircut, the boutique duds! What a cool daddy-o! Next stop, the Red Planet, no doubt!

It will be interesting to see if GM keeps being this honest about this increasingly important aspect of car-selling. There is some distinct topical danger in doing so. If people ever figure out that the multiplying forms of automotive haloware are indeed haloware, things could get a bit bouncy for TPTB.

Museum of Impending Carmageddon: Piece #2

Automobiles are inherently childish objects. If our descendants luck out and somehow retain civilization, they will understand that these wildly wasteful and unsustainable machines were the apotheosis of our species’ prolonged adolescence.

In hopes of preserving the evidence of how our overclass pushing these objects on us, DbC hereby presents, as part of its new series, this typical example of toddler-level flattery, which was used to sell pickup trucks in the year 2020:

You give us your time. You give us your courage. You soldier through and make us proud.

Despite its ecocidal nature and its howling crudity, this type of indoctrination worked on enough people to justify itself, and, as it did so, also went entirely uncriticized by the wider society.

Not-So-Robo Cars

Self-driving cars…where are they?

Here is how Consumer Reports — a publication that accepts the hypothesis that the automobile is somehow a decent product and, accordingly, hands out sweetheart numbers — rates existing robotic driving systems in this, the year of our lord 2021:

rankings chart
Consumer Reports, February 2021 edition

The top overall score is 68/100. That’s a D+. 16 of the 17 overall scores are Fs.

The other noteworthy (and rather comical) point here is the “Keeping the Driver Engaged” scores, all but one of which are atrocious.

A wag might point out that staying engaged is precisely what robotic driving is supposed to eliminate the need for.

On the deathly serious side, meanwhile, the existence of some force that is task-engaged is also the entire difference between a car and a 2-ton anti-personnel drone.

Of course, other than padding price-tags, robo-driving’s real purpose is to burnish the erroneous notion that automobiles are somehow cutting-edge, rather than outdated and inherently defective, technology.

Museum of Impending Carmageddon: Piece #1

Here at DbC, it strikes us that one of things we ought to be doing is recording the basic facts of our careening epoch’s continuing promotion of the product that is speeding the nation* and the species toward Carmageddon. It is a remarkable record of overclass heedlessness and institutional inertia. The thesis behind all posts in this series is that our grandchildren, should we somehow manage to leave them the ability to learn history and sociology, will be be appalled that we sat by and took this.

Without further ado:

The first item in the DbC M.I.C. is this utterly shameful** and 100 percent diversionary advertisement from the (very recently bailed-out) Ford Motor Company, whose founder, prior to incorporating his enterprise, gushed to his brother-in-law that “there is a barrel of money in this business.” A transcript follows the video.

“You don’t become a hundred-and-seventeen-year-old auto maker in this country by refusing to change. The Ford Motor Company does not resist, deny, or ignore change. We pledge to make our most iconic vehicles electric, to use 100 percent renewable energy across all global manufacturing plants by 2035, to stand for lower greenhouse gas emissions, to stand with Americans and for the planet.” [emphasis original]

DbC transcription of Ford “Built for America: Change” television ad, aired fall 2020 in USA

Every claim in this stunningly petulant, meticulously planned assault on the public mind begs for its own corrective seminar.

For now, suffice it to note that this is an advertisement for automobiles in the year 2020. These people know what they’re doing, even if they won’t allow anybody but themselves to discuss the topic.

*To be clear, “nation” is a very dangerous idea.

**Special shame on actor Bryan Cranston, who, despite his fame and wealth, chooses to do the voiceover work on these sociopathic propaganda pieces. Mr. Cranston is certainly now a major candidate for the much-uncoveted Golden Hickie Award.