[UPDATE: Snell Report link (see below) expanded –ed.]
Everyone loves a riddle [don’t start with me –ed.].
We just got off the subway, where the ads were shouting at us about buying a car. This riddle came to us.
But first, we have to tell you about the ads. They’re “funny.” Perhaps you’ve seen them: thumbs down for the guy at the lion safari park with the beast beside him in the front seat, thumbs up for the same jerk managing to keep the animal confined to the roof rack. Thumbs down for the guy entering his car through the side window; thumbs up for the same guy opening the door. Oh, and speaking of doors, our fave: thumbs down for the guy popping open his door in front of a passing cyclist; thumbs up for the same dopy schlemiel lucking out by not crunching the cyclist.
Funny? Sorry, did we say funny? We meant asinine. The routine acceptance of cultural norms: safari parks, entering through doors, not “seeing” cyclists, remind us that the sponsor of the ads, GM [that genetically modified automobile company –ed.], has a stench to it when it comes to public transit. We all know the Snell Report of course, with its investigation into and conclusion that GM destroyed, through surreptitious means and a true confederacy of dunces, the best public transit system in the United States [the report also points to their collaboration with the Nazis during the second world war –ed.] While the Snell report is today considered the ramblings of a delusional paranoiac quite possibly in the employ of GM itself, the germ of his analysis is known fact [see Al Mankoff, “Revisiting the Great American Streetcar Scandal” and “How General Motors Derailed Public Transportation to Sell More Cars” –ed.] And we all know about GM’s sickening slur on public transit in ads published more recently.
There’s a perverse logic in car companies targeting transit riders. After all, conventional wisdom [the “thumbs up/thumbs down” part of our brain –ed.] tells us people on public transit have made a sacrifice in personal comfort, expenditure of time, exposure to germs, etc. to ride the subway. Not all of them, surely, have done so out of altruism. Never mind that the subway or streetcar gives you a chance to read or have a conversation during your commute. Never mind the fact that everytime there’s a “commuter challenge” along a well-functioning transit line, the transit rider beats the driver hands down. Never mind that folks in cars are exposed to toxins of a much higher magnitude than folks on transit, without the benefit of even the slightest workout that walking to the bus or subway provides. Never mind all that. The fact is, driving a car is so durned convenient, so clean, and now, with cars that burn gas more efficiently, it’s better for the environment than ever before! Transit riders, conventional wisdom tells us, are sitting ducks for car advertising–and that’s assuming they even get a seat.
So the theory would have it that running ads for cars in the subway would be a surefire way of messing with the transit rider’s experience: turn them into car-heads. And then? Well, then the rest of the gospel of the car ad comes into play: you know, “stop road congestion by building more roads.” Join CAA [warning: offensive content –ed.] and fight for the redirection of transportation monies to automobile infrastructure in your neighbourhood. And so on.
So, here’s our riddle:
Q: When is a subway train like a horse?
A: When it’s a Trojan horse!
On a possibly unrelated note, we liked what “cantankerous Kunstler” had to say today:
If I was a kid now, I’d find a lot more to rebel against than what we faced in the 1960s: the draft and the insipid program of Levittown. I’d rebel against a generation of adults selling the future for obscene pay packages. I’d rebel against everything from the mendacious nonsense of Rem Koolhaas to the profligate stupidity of Nascar. I’d want to eat Donald Trump for lunch (and set free the wolverine that lives on his head.) I’d utterly reject the false commoditized reality and set out to discover the world. I’d get busy building a society with a plausible future (and be real excited about it).