Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do
GM realizes that, currently, the vast majority of people make the decision to drive a gas-only car or a gas-electric hybrid based upon philosophical principle. That may change in the future – when the economics of it changes (ie: when, aside from social engineering in the form of income tax breaks, it actually does make practical economic sense to drive a hybrid) – but for now it is ideology which is the reason a person chooses one or the other. These commercials, then, are targeted at a specific ideological demographic: environmentalists.
Environmentalists, typically, see anyone who disagrees with their claims (or who is even just skeptical about them) as intellectually dishonest and of flawed character. Thus, to them, any and all opposition to their position comes not from a conscious, honest rejection of it – or even just a sense of honest uncertainty about it – but from the threat it’s truth presents to their personal shortcomings. This commercial, of course, exploits that sentiment – by caricaturing the opposition.
It has everything an environmentalists could ever want: the low-brow humor environmentalist-types expect all of their opponents to enjoy (how else could they reject or be suspicious of environmentalist claims if not because of a mental deficiency that makes them unable to understand them, and at the same time able to enjoy “toilet humor”?), the “off-base” claims environmentalists frequently hear from their critics that they’re only environmentalists in order to be fashionable or feel superior in some way (the father’s straight-forward, over-the-top, unprovoked delivery of one of these – because it’s delivered in such a way – somehow automatically proves that all such claims about environmentalists are off-base, and wipes out mountains of evidence to support them). There’s even some glib anti-Americanism to boot (the clerk’s “typically-American” petty selfishness when he says – without conviction, no less – “customers only. No gas, no bathroom”). The commercials end with the father proving that opponents or skeptics of environmentalism could never be honest, when he reverts immediately back to his half-baked, dogmatic anti-environmentalism ways (ie: when he forgets everything the man just told him, and gives into his moronic urge to mindlessly criticize environmentalists as hypocrites).
Environmentalists – because their beliefs are first of all based upon flimsy sciences, and secondly – even if the science were rock solid – it wouldn’t justify the political and economic proscriptions they advocate for the sake of it – need commercials like this in order to feel good about themselves. They need to feel as if they are the level-headed ones, and the rest of American culture are just a bunch of brainwashed buffoons mindlessly parroting slogans related to subjects they don’t understand in order to feel like they belong.
Imagine if the situation were reversed. Imagine a man, in the parking lot of a home improvement store, loading energy-saving insulation into the back of his gas-guzzling SUV, when he is suddenly accosted by a snooty twenty-something in a Che Guevara t-shirt who claims, self-righteously, “whoa, what gives? By the looks of it, you couldn’t care less about energy.” When the man attempts to explain that in certain aspects of his life it’s in his self-interest be energy efficient and in other it’s not, he is interrupted by shrieking accusations of hypocrisy and insincerity, as well as threats to do more or face the consequences. What would this situation resemble? In a phrase: real life. This is the kind of thing average Americans are subjected to every day. Maybe not directly, face-to-face in many locales (although certainly in enough), but in virtually everything else. Their schools, the work places, their religious centers, the places they shop, the television they watch, the newspapers and magazines they read, etc, etc, etc. They fact that environmentalists – or leftists in general, for that matter – still believe that their ideas are not well into the main stream of cultural thought is one of the most perplexing phenomena of the post-modern era.
This commercial allows such people – those sanctimonious do-gooder environmentalists – an opportunity to absolve themselves of the secret guilt and embarrassment they feel for becoming the obnoxious moralizers they have become by allowing them to believe, momentarily at least, that they are the victims of such tactics, and not the other way around. Chevrolet, short-sightedly, is hoping that by providing environmentalists with that momentary release of psychological pressure they will endear themselves to such people, and end up selling some cars.