Bailout Watch 291: DetN Fans the Flames of Hatred

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
bailout watch 291 detn fans the flames of hatred

“In Woodhaven on Friday,” The Detroit News reports, “someone punctured the tires of five foreign cars — a Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Toyota and Volkswagen — and used a marker to scrawl ‘Buy USA’ on the sides of the vehicles, in the lots of Lowe’s and Kohl’s stores near a Ford plant.” As TTAC’s publisher, I decided not to blog the story. There was no proof that the a Ford worker had carried-out the attack. As an isolated incident, I felt the vandalism didn’t deserve what Margaret Thatcher called “the oxygen of publicity.” We can debate the ethics or wisdom of that decision all day long. But today’s DetN story is flat-out incendiary. “Backlash brews in wake of Big 3 bashing” is strong beer. With that kind of headline, the onus is on scribe George Hunter to prove that Detroit is about to erupt into violence– the clearly implied and then directly stated premise of the piece. “After a month of Detroit-bashing in Washington and nationally,” Hunter writes. “some say a backlash is forming among Metro Detroiters, annoyed by the attacks on their lifestyle and angry at their neighbors’ choices of vehicles. Some fear that simmering resentment could turn to outright hostility.” Some? You mean like some people you specifically rounded-up to prove your inflammatory central thesis? Yeah, like that.

“‘I’m afraid we may be about to see a rerun of a bad nightmare we lived through in the late ’70s and early ’80s,’ said Helen Zia, co-founder of the American Citizens for Justice, a civil rights group that serves Michigan’s Asian-Americans. ‘We’re in the midst of tough economic times, and when that happens you get scapegoating.'”

If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And if you’re a responsible journalist you have to have a screw loose to prompt someone with an axe to grind to grind it exceedingly fine. By the same token, if you’re a hack writing crap copy, generalities are your best weapon in the fight for attention.

“Most agree the current climate doesn’t approach the open disdain in the 1980s and early 1990s, when workers used sledgehammers to destroy Hondas and Toyotas in union parking lots. But some worry that antipathy toward Asians could return.”

Most? How scientific is that? Could? Keep this up and it just might. Keep in mind this story is speaking to the emotions of scared, desperate people. Or, rather, that’s what Hunter and his editors should have kept in mind. So what else you got, George?

“And it’s not just Michigan: In South Carolina, a Ford dealership began airing ads this month blasting Congress and claiming that Japanese cars are ‘rice ready, not road ready.'”

The dealer’s ad was stupid (and that we did blog). But it’s hardly what I’d call a call to arms. And Hunter is running out column inches. Here’s the “best” he can do:

“But some [!], including retired autoworker Joe Babiasz of Huntington Woods, do blame foreign competition for the state of the Big Three. ‘Not enough people recognize the importance of doing the right thing for their country, which is to buy American,’ he said. ‘My dad, his brothers and his cousins all fought the Germans and Japanese to have what we have today. And with all respect to the German and Japanese people, I’m not going to give away everything my relatives fought for through the automobile industry.'”

How long did it take Hunter to find that guy? How many people did he have to go through who didn’t talk about German or Japanese people? Hunter then trots out the organizer of the boycottalabamanow website, without once mentioning the level of support he’s receiving. Or isn’t. [Hint to George: Google Analytics and you’re done.]

Folks, this is the worst kind of journalism imaginable. Check this:

“The situation has some [!] who drive foreign cars re-thinking their decisions. More than a year ago, Jonathan Barlow, 24, of Detroit bought a used Lexus in part because of its gas mileage. Now, his next purchase could come from the Big Three. ‘Most everyone in my circle looks to hopefully buy some type of hybrid in the near future from a U.S. automaker,’ said Barlow, a community organizer. ‘The choice before was what color would you prefer. … But the thought now is: Who would you support?'”

I realize that some of you, Schreiber, are going to defend the central theme of this report. I’ve got no problem with that. I have no doubt that there is considerable anger towards Washington and Senators Corker and Shelby and consumers who buy “foreign cars.” But this is not the time to fan the flames of hatred. Rather, it is the time to encourage rational if passionate debate, and a clear-headed look at how Detroit can have a future.

Oh, and this poll question– Over the weekend, Woodhaven police investigated a rash of vandalism on foreign cars that some fear could signal a growing wave of resentment. Is buying a foreign car un-American?— is simply beyond the pale.

Shame on The Detroit News for publishing this rubbish.

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  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Dec 17, 2008

    Interestingly, I would bet most of the world does hold us all responsible for our President.

  • Vozilka Vozilka on Dec 17, 2008
    Landcrusher : December 17th, 2008 at 2:28 am Interestingly, I would bet most of the world does hold us all responsible for our President. Correct. (The US does in reality the same from the Indians, WWII to Iran.) Not only for the US president as person but by his deeds and that nobody stopped him by democratic means, held his hand even when wrangling the US constitution your hold responible. The us folks nodded, remained mum, was obviously happy and reelected W. While enriching themselves, polluting water, air & soil lecturing, & finger-wagging to other societies, claiming higher moral ground, creating artificial and real enemies as fast as possible and not do anything constructive. Now the results are poring in. When your hit (yes there is a world outside the US - and its rather big) by the collateral outfall, may it be commercially poisoned by venom-sucked financial products bruising worldwide good & honest folks or having the family killed for no good reasons in their own beds & county, one is not asking every individual us citizen if it where exactly his $ 321.30 tax dollars hiring Blackwater mercenaries who extinguished his family and burned his tend. Its simply a hard way to make good friends that way. Chickens coming home to roost. Dont whine - be a men

  • Azfelix From certain angles the bonnet appears oversized with respect to the rest of the car - like a skinny teenager wearing a bulky sweater nicked from her older sister's wardrobe.
  • Tassos This is way too god damned OLD, 21 years old to have all the necessary options you need TODAY. You need a 10 year old or less car. AND if you give us THIS POS, a 21 year old model, that is not even a LUXURY car, whoever pays $10k for a Golf, And I Do NOT care what anniversary it is (they are all UTTERLY INSIGNIFICANT) deserves to get this MOST UNRELIABLE AND COSTLY TO REPAIR OF ALL LOUSY ECONOBOXES< EVEN THE DOMESTICS AND THE KOREANS.
  • Tassos As you say, Toyota confirmed this on TUESDAY. Today is WEDNESDAY. Why is everything on TTAC held back one or more days before you tell us the NEWS when it is NO MORE THE NEWS?
  • MRF 95 T-Bird You can find a decent and far more stylish Audi TT or an S4 of a similar vintage for under $10k.
  • RHD "In all situations, the grip of the tires (225/40R18 front, 225/35R18 rear) brings with it road noise."Are the rear tires actually smaller than the fronts??!! Adding just a bit of sidewall would take care of the bumps and rough ride. I'm not a fan of BMWs, personally, but this is a very enjoyable car. There are times when driving a convertible is pure bliss, and with a bit of power it's fun as well. (And certainly a better drive than a gussied-up, overpriced German taxicab!)