By on June 9, 2017

tesla model x, Image: Tesla Motors

A horrible situation transpired in Midtown Detroit yesterday evening, in which the driver of an old Chevrolet Silverado pickup crossed the center line on Canfield Avenue, near Second Street, and struck four people standing outside the Shinola store.

According to the latest reports, a 73-year-old man has died, while two others remain in hospital in serious condition. The 42-year-old driver, who has reportedly never held a license in his life and was driving with illegal plates, was arrested at the scene. He told police he had taken two Ecstacy pills, Xanax, and officers also suspect he was under the influence of alcohol.

An unidentified passenger riding in the truck told media he didn’t know why the driver crossed the line, adding that he tried to stop the vehicle by jamming the gearshift lever into “park.”

What makes this story different from the many instances of innocent bystanders being injured by passenger cars not being where they’re supposed to be (not to mention criminally irresponsible behavior on the part of vehicle operators) is the location of the crash, and the reason those pedestrians were standing along Canfield.

It was a Tesla pop-up event. And those bystanders were looking at Tesla vehicles near a mobile design studio. As early reports filtered out, some decided to take speculation to new heights.

The most visible, and some would say the most irresponsible, example of this rush-to-motive reaction is a piece published by Electrek last night. Carrying the headline, “A truck reportedly intentionally ran over people at a Tesla event in Detroit,” the story has since been updated, but only to reflect that the driver was undergoing drug and alcohol testing, as well as the addition of a comment from Tesla.

The headline, based on a comment from an eyewitness, remains. While police have not listed an official cause of the crash, a driver who readily admits to being on drugs gives a casual detective ample food for thought. Still, it’s not hard to imagine why witnesses would claim a vehicle travelling at 45 miles per hour towards pedestrians was doing so “intentionally.” Any vehicle making course for the sidewalk at that speed will look like an intentional act.

But the assumptions of eyewitnesses is just that: assumption, at least until we know more. The Electrek article continues, describing efforts by major automakers like General Motors — as well as state lawmakers — to keep Tesla from doing business in Michigan.

“The event was near the Shinola headquarters near GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant,” Electrek states, as if to imply the crash site’s location — three miles from one of GM’s many assembly plants — had something to do with causality. A map then appears, showing the distance between the Midtown crash site and GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant.

“The police were on site investigating after the accident, which is potentially not an accident, and the victims were transported to the hospital,” the piece reads, adding that the event is ongoing. “At this point, it’s not exactly clear what transpired and if it was indeed intentional, that they were targeting the victims because it was a Tesla event.”

The story ends with further descriptions of GM’s lobbying efforts to keep Tesla’s direct sales model out of the state.

At some point — one which the writer, Editor in Chief Fred Lambert, should have arrived at much sooner, if indeed at all — one needs to clamp down on speculation until all facts are known, especially in a case like this. This is a serious, life-and-death situation, not a benign will Hyundai build a pickup truck guessing game. It’s simply irresponsible to go this far.

If an American car strikes pedestrians remotely near a German or Japanese assembly plant on U.S. soil, are we to immediately assume (and write about) how the cause could maybe, perhaps, possibly be attributed to protectionism and proposed White House policies? Or do we wait to see whether the driver had a stroke, passed out, or was intoxicated?

Such actions only serve to rile up a certain demographic — in this case, the ardently pro-Tesla readers of Electrek. We make light of how some Tesla aficionados are too enraptured with the brand (and thus too protective), but reading the comments section below the story would give anyone, including rational Tesla owners (of which there are many), reason for pause. Some of the comments make Alex Jones’ ramblings seem like reasoned, cogent arguments in comparison.

Terrorism. Hate crime. Anti-Tesla violence. In the comments, these accusations mingle with conspiracy theories about stock prices and the GOP and other assumed motivations for the allegedly intoxicated, unlicensed driver of the GM pickup on Canfield Avenue. Identity politics can get ugly. When you identify with the lifestyle and ideology attached to a car brand, it can get ugly and just plain weird.

There’s already far too much polarization and division in today’s society. Fanning the flames in this manner does a disservice to everyone: readers, Tesla owners, GM employees, everyone.

[Image: Tesla]

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43 Comments on “When a Brand Becomes Your Identity, Bad Things Can Happen...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Disruption of a Tesla event = hate crime.

    Oh the wonder of the human brain to be able to make such connections!

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I’m surprised Electrek didn’t go full loony and accuse Mary Barra of devising the whole thing.

    Seriously, Tesla fans really need to get a grip. The world isn’t “out to get” your most favoritest company.

    edit: wow, some of the commenters (one in particular) have to be certifiably insane.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    As a life-long journalist, I am very close to throwing up my hands in despair. People are going to think what they want to think. That has always been true.

    But now, people will restrict their media consumption to what supports their existing biases. Very few people seem to be interested in facts anymore.

    It’s not just this story. It’s all around us everyday. How can any problems be solved when we can’t even talk to each other anymore?

    Steph, your points are valid. But you’re not reaching anyone who needs to read them.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      The media is now pure garbage with a total agenda. It has been that way for awhile but went into hyperdrive with the ’16 election and the Trump Administration.

      I’m amazed at the number of morons falling for it hook line and sinker. Reposting a New York Times article on your Facebook timeline bashing Trump does not make you look “with it.” It makes you look like an idiot.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      I agree about it being all around us everyday. But disagree that many people seek out want bias and not facts.

      I am becoming more critical and read publications where I can get true, fact-based reporting. Sadly, I see several things at work in our current climate:
      1) Too few reporters and too many journalists. Lazy reporters can quickly lead to journalists. (See Season Five of “The Wire.”) Stories with which I had personal experience were nearly always wrong. I got into the habit of discussing local news items with the preface, “According to the paper…”
      2) Societal change has led to sweeping economic change in the print media. Therefore, panic set in. The need to get the story out quickly became essential to compete with electronic media and be the first-est with the most-est…leading to more of point one. My cousin’s husband just left his reporter post at a local daily because he was concerned about my points 2 & 3.
      3) Lazy editors. The number of typos I see in my local paper is horrible. My high school newspaper was written better…I’m serious.

      I have cut ties with those in the media who are straying from fact and throwing in a generous helping of opinion. I’ll create my own biases with the facts…no need for somebody else to do if for me.

      To steer my comments towards an automotive angle, I no longer read a similar website to TTAC…whose name ends in *ik*. How can a supposed automotive publication continually find ways of grinding an ax to be used against the current POTUS? I seek out automotive topics as a way of release from the current political cesspool.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      @Steve Biro

      What if the fact is that your race’s average IQ is 20 points lower than another race?

      Of course, this is an extreme example. But it does apply to a big percentage of our population. Now do you see why some people don’t like facts?

    • 0 avatar
      Steph Willems

      Steve, your comments are bang-on, at least according to my own experiences. Others are free to disagree, but I worked in the news media for a decade before last year and remain a reluctant observer. I realize this piece isn’t going to change any minds – that train’s rolling downhill, brakes off – but what was said needed to be said. Since this morning I’ve seen further reaction, both against the Electrek commenter mindset (which is encouraging) and from those displaying it (which is terrifying). The latter frankly scared me.

      I have to wonder what superfans of Elon Musk would do if he spoke out against this type of fanaticism. Would he? Are we getting close to that point? It’s something to think about.

    • 0 avatar

      Well said, Steve. Another factor in this “stew” is social media. It allows what used to be only pondered in one’s mind or shared with those of like mind to be made publicly readable/view-able. As a result those who have no desire – or ability – to reason add to the conversation without really adding to civil discourse.

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    Imagine that, a journalist criticizing others for bias.

    Another thing, nobody ‘needs’ to read anything. We do so because we choose to and what one reads is entirely up to the reader. Many still believe that the purpose of the news media is to inform but some realize that the true purpose is to make money. Media outlets market themselves to demographics to attract eyeballs and therefore advertisers…oh forget it.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Publications pick and choose what they want to report.

      I like this quote:

      “It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.” -Jerry Seinfeld

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    True this article is not reaching those who need to read it and even if it did those readers who do these things are not doing them deliberately but because they are on drugs. The better story would have been that drug abuse is everywhere and that this horrible event was a result of a driver under the influence of drugs. This type of accident has unfortunately become the norm especially those under the influence going the wrong way or hitting pedestrians. GM, Ford, or FCA do not want any part of this type of tragedy and to support or endorse such an action would do lasting harm to their name and reputation. The blame for this tragedy should be put on drugs and the epidemic of drugs regardless of social, racial, religious, and geographic background. It is a real tragedy.

  • avatar

    “The event was near the Shinola headquarters near GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant,”

    That’s nonsense and it just shows how little Electrek writers and editors know about Detroit. Shinola is on Canfield, just west of Woodward. The GM plant is on the other side of I-75, about 2.7 miles away. Google says that it’s an 8 minute drive, using an expressway. Would those writers say that Times Square is “near” the upper east side of Manhattan (2.5 miles)? I’m surprised they didn’t say Canfield & Cass is near GM headquarters at the RenCen, since that’s just 3 miles away.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Overdoses is now the number one killer of Americans under 50 years old. Since we live in a world where facts don’t matter, sources do – I submit for your consideration:

    The New York Times:
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/05/upshot/opioid-epidemic-drug-overdose-deaths-are-rising-faster-than-ever.html?_r=0

    Breitbart:
    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/06/07/doj-drug-overdose-now-leading-cause-of-death-for-americans-under-50/

    Every other news source between carried the same headline (with a different spin). So you can debate the why, but in the vein of Hell freezing over, Breitbart and the NY Times — gasp — agree on something. (interesting to learn that the number one import source for these drugs is Mex…oh wait, it is China – we’re going to need a bigger wall)

    This is spun into a Tesla against pickup truck hate crime. Makes perfect sense.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Believe it or not, it was news commentary like the author describes that triggered the Spanish-American war over a century ago and led to the media influencing public opinion and national policies. While I fully believe in freedom of the press, I also believe in their public responsibility to tell the truth and NOT express opinion as fact. Corporate editors used to be better than that.

    I think the old cliché line from the Dragnet radio and TV shows should hold especially true for the media: “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “I also believe in their public responsibility to tell the truth and NOT express opinion as fact.”

      @Vulpine – 100% agree. News is no longer news. It is all opinion pieces masquerading as news. The Comey hearings are a prime example. I routinely look at news from both sides of the political spectrum and it is amazing how different it is.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        How true, Lou. How true. You’d think because I am an old white man who has been a registered Republican for life that I’d be a FOX (news network, not animal) fanatic but over the years I have watched the party shift so far away from what it used to represent that I’m almost embarrassed to admit to my registry. Both political parties in the US have gone so far towards their extremes that they’ve lost all touch with what the American governmental system was designed to be–a way to compromise and govern fairly rather than this constant one-upmanship/destroy the other party’s advances as soon as possible- bickering. The true purpose of our governmental system is a no-man’s land wider than the Koreas’ demilitarized zone.

  • avatar
    carguy

    If any corporate brand is part of your identity then you may want to re-examine your life priorities.

  • avatar
    John R

    Yeaaaahhh…GM is kind of a whipping boy for these sort of things.

    “There is no question that a GM-controlled entity called National City Lines did buy a number of municipal trolley car systems. And it’s beyond doubt that, before too many years went by, those street car operations were closed down. It’s also true that GM was convicted in a post-war trial of conspiring to monopolize the market for transportation equipment and supplies sold to local bus companies.”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-gm-trolley-conspiracy-what-really-happened/

    The problem is this – When you engage in smaller “conspiracies” before and are found out you leave yourself open to the more wild ones.

    For every Tuskeegee Experiment or MK Ultra you leave yourself open for a Grey alien this or an Illuminati that.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Correlation does not equal causation.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      That simple concept is lost on most people. It needs to be emphasized in grade school, so it becomes a part of how we think.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        And the aim of education should teach people TO THINK, not WHAT to think! I believe that’s the quote!

        Which isn’t happening, at least in the years I’ve been out of college, but the opposite!

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          unfortunately that’s made worse by requirements inflation and the expectation of employers that university should be job training.

          Which it should not be.

  • avatar
    jaks

    One reason why I tend to stick to TTAC instead of Jalopnik. Everything shared on Jalopnik from their partner sites is ‘Trump is a Nazi’ this or ‘Kelly Ann Conway is a vampire’ that. Crap gets old. Fake news is real, whether you call it that, or call it bad journalism. Give me stories about cars. If I want the other gargabe, I’ll turn on cable news.

    I appreciate TTAC sticking to being a car news site, and for doing so with integrity.

    • 0 avatar
      Steph Willems

      I appreciate the comment, jaks. We try our best to stick to this model. Political overload is all too real and nearly impossible to escape. (That must be why I’m watching a documentary on the Bristol Blenheim bomber at this hour)

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    This happened yesterday, and they still haven’t released the driver’s name? I looked on the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News sites, and no name there, either.

    But in other news, Chevy is dropping its sponsorship of the Woodward Dream Cruise.

    http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/general-motors/2017/06/08/chevy-dream-cruise/102655236/

  • avatar
    deanst

    It’s kind of sad that the writer thought it was more important to represent this as an attack on tesla, and not focus on the loss of life. To somehow link this to GM is journalistic negligence beyond the pale. But I guess this is just further evidence of the victimization culture whereby your sex, sexuality, race, weight, height or whatever makes you a target of all the Neanderthals (I.e. Everyone who is not part of your group) that don’t recognize your brilliance.

  • avatar
    TW5

    I hesitate to imagine how much the pro-Tesla faction must hate Obama. After all, he bailed out GM. He is the kingpin of the evil empire!

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      @TW5

      Same with Muslims and LBGT. They hate each other but would both vote for the Democrats.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @wsn – in the last election probably but not when George Dubja was running for president, Muslims were more likely to vote Conservative, well, until he bombed the shiite out of Iraq.

        https://mic. com/ articles/130019/ muslims-helped-elect-george-w-bush-now-the-gop-front-runner-wants-to-ban-them#.Ey4l5Kve6

        https: //www. theatlantic.com/ politics/archive/2015/12/republicans-muslim-vote-george-w- bush-donald-trump/419481/

  • avatar
    86er

    Yellow journalism has been with us since the advent of the printing press.

    The problem now is the speed at which it is dispersed. Much like the above citation of the Spanish-American war incited by the Hearst newspaper chain.

    Also the adage of “a lie will spread around the world while the truth is still putting on its pants” comes to mind.

  • avatar
    raph

    Everything is a conspiracy I guess…

    It’s a shame people buy into this crap so I guess we will have Tesla truthers out there before long.

    Anybody here will no doubt get a litany of death threats for even questioning the validity of Electrek’s article.

    Climate change suddenly doesn’t seem so much a disaster as it is a solution.

  • avatar

    “Deandre Merkie Simmons, 42, of Inkster, was charged Friday on six counts, including driving with a suspended license causing death; reckless driving causing death; operating under the influence causing death; and operating while intoxicated causing serious injury.

    Investigators allege Simmons “was intoxicated when he drove … on the wrong side of the street” and struck the victims as they were crossing West Canfield at about 5:15 p.m. Thursday, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.”

    http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2017/06/09/shinola-accident-victim-dies/102670206/

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Vulpine–True, I was a Republican at one time when it stood for less Government, more fiscal responsibility, and more moderation. I don’t believe either political party represents the average person–both parties are at the extreme end. There is no conspiracy in this unfortunate event and as Ronnie’s information above stated the driver was on a suspended license and driving under the influence. I hate biased reporting whether it be from Fox news, MSNBC, or any newspaper or blog. If this driver would have run into a group of Muslims it would have been covered by all the TV networks and cable and would have been reported as a hate crime against Muslims. This is not to say there are no hate crimes against Muslims but the above story would have been further distorted. I appreciate the fact that the true story was covered on TTAC. Drugs and driving under the influence are the real story.

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