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I Created a Monster [Glassman on Arianna Huffington and the trivialization of terrorism]
Tech Central Station ^ | January 17, 2003 | James K. Glassman

Posted on 01/17/2003 9:37:44 AM PST by HAL9000

I created a monster.

About a year ago, I was a regular on a Santa Monica radio program called "Left, Right and Center." Arianna Huffington, the protean author and TV personality, was, if you can believe it, the center of our trio. I was the right. Bob Scheer, Los Angeles Times columnist, was the left.

Arianna had gone through many changes, as we used to say in the 1960s.

Biographer of Picasso and Callas, author of a New Age book on "meaning in a secular world," conservative Washington hostess and zealot on behalf of Newt Gingrich and of course, her ex-husband, oil heir and former Congressman Michael Huffington and now, having moved permanently to Brentwood, Hollywood hobnobber.

On the program that day, Arianna Version 5.0 began to rant and rave about Americans wasting energy. I reminded on the air that she (or her amanuensis) drove a Lincoln Navigator (12 mpg city, 17 mpg highway. Apparently embarrassed, she quickly sold her land yacht and bought a Toyota Prius, one of those hybrids that gets more than 50 mpg.

This gesture seemed a little silly for someone who owns a huge, energy-gobbling house and flies around on her friends' private jets. But she was doing her part.

Unfortunately, she could not leave well enough alone. A short while ago, she launched something called the Detroit Project, raised money from some of her L.A. friends and produced two 30-second ads - which aired this week.

The spots clumsily attempt to parody ads that link drug use to terrorism. Thus?

"This is George. This is the gas that George bought for his SUV. This is the oil company executive that sold the gas that George bought for his SUV. These are the countries where the executive bought the oil that made the gas that George bought for his SUV. And these are the terrorists who get money from those countries every time George fills up his SUV."

Here's the problem that any serious person faces when confronted with such nonsense: Do we take it seriously and respond to it as an adult? Or do we laugh it off as a childish prank by a bunch of Hollywood airheads?

I'll respond seriously?.

  1. The link between oil sales and terrorism is absurdly tenuous. The drug ads tell us that violent creeps sell drugs and kill people in the course of doing business. This is true! (Now you could argue that drugs should be legalized and thus clean up the profession, but that's another matter.) There's only one degree of separation between drug buyer and vicious drug purveyor. But Arianna's spots contend that if you own a car that uses a lot of gasoline per mile (never mind how many miles you drive), then you are funding terrorism since the source of that gasoline might be a country that supports terrorists. She evidently means Saudi Arabia.

  2. A few problems: First, why are SUVs the guilty parties? Why not anyone who drives any kind of car that uses gasoline, period? Or why not a person who drives a great deal? A mid-range SUV like the Nissan Pathfinder uses an average of about 18 miles per gallon. But a mid-range sedan like a Nissan Maxima uses 23 mpg. In other words, the Maxima consumes 10 gallons of gasoline in driving 230 miles a week while the Pathfinder consumes 12.8 gallons. That makes the Pathfinder driver a supporter of terrorists?

  3. Back to Saudi Arabia, which provides, according to the latest Energy Department data, 10.7 percent of the petroleum used by Americans. The single largest source of crude oil in this country is the United States itself, which provides 38.4 percent of our oil. Next in line after Saudi Arabia are Mexico and Canada. And crude oil is not our only energy source, nor is driving a car or truck our only energy use. According to the Energy Department, petroleum was the source in 2001 (latest figures) of just two-fifths of our energy while natural gas and coal - largely indigenous - were the source of about one-fifth each. In other words, Saudi oil (even if you accept the terrorist link) represents about 4 percent of the total energy used in the United States. Saudi oil in SUVs accounts for less than 1 percent of total U.S. energy use. And incremental Saudi oil in SUVs compared with average cars accounts for, at most, one-quarter of one percent of total U.S. energy use.

If Arianna is really concerned about U.S. use of Saudi oil or even foreign oil in general, she could support exploration in areas of the United States such as barren stretches of Alaska or off all three of our major coasts. Or she might try to encourage her friends to sell their 10,000-square-foot houses in Bel Air and live in apartment buildings. Or get them to stop flying in fuel-guzzling private jets. She might want to tell producer Norman Lear, one of her financial backers, to tear down what the Los Angeles Times reports is "a garage for 21 cars?which stands 45 feet tall." As a minor sacrifice, her Hollywood pals might actually drive those little hybrid cars they have bought instead of taking limousines. Or take the bus.

By now I am beginning to feel a little silly for taking these ads so seriously. Jean Abi Nader, managing director of the Arab American Institute, put it well: Huffington "is not only delusional, but it almost is embarrassing to try to make that connection" - that is, between SUV use and terrorism.

In fact, it is worse than embarrassing.

The real problem with the ads is not their logic but their premise. Energy use is not a sin. It is a force for good. Fuel is something that humans put to use to enrich their lives. Energy is the key to economic growth, and, frankly, we are lucky that is abundant as it is. The obstacles that are placed in the way of the free flow of energy raises its cost and hurts, not so much the rich of Beverly Hills, as the poor of India. Energy pulls people out of poverty.

But more?..

In this country, we drive for pleasure and privacy. There is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. We use the car to take the kids to ballet or to go to work at an AIDS clinic or to visit our parents or to go out for dinner with friends. We drive SUVs because we like them. They can go anywhere. They're safe. (I don't want to be in that Prius when a bus hits it.) They're luxurious. We've earned them. Last year, one-fourth of all cars sold in the United States were SUVs.

In a free society, people make their own choices about where they live, who their friends are, and what they drive. As Eron Shostek of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said of Ms. Huffington: "Her opinion is out-voted every year by Americans who buy SUVs for their safety, comfort and versatility."

Certainly, it is right - and even the responsibility - of those who think an activity is unreasonable or immoral to take their case to the public. But the Detroit Project ads don't fall into the category of sensible criticism. If you don't take them seriously, they are infantile and laughable. But if you do take them seriously (and, in the end, I do), then they are brutal and dishonest. They mock an earnest effort to fight abusive drugs, and they trivialize a terrorism, the most profound threat to America in at least the past two decades.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Editorial
KEYWORDS: arianna; huffington; suvs

1 posted on 01/17/2003 9:37:44 AM PST by HAL9000
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2 posted on 01/17/2003 9:39:23 AM PST by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: HAL9000
Now you could argue that drugs should be legalized and thus clean up the profession, but that's another matter.

Sure thing. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

3 posted on 01/17/2003 9:40:52 AM PST by Wolfie (The people don't want freedom, they just want a tyranny to their liking.)
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To: HAL9000
Just what is the definition of an SUV? Is it any vehicle that gets low gas mileage? No. Is it any vehicle that has 4 wheel drive? No. Is it based on how many passengers it will hold? No. So what, exactly, is an SUV?
4 posted on 01/17/2003 10:04:57 AM PST by TigersEye (I drive a UAV - Urban Assault Vehicle)
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To: HAL9000
(Now you could argue that drugs should be legalized and thus clean up the profession, but that's another matter.)

BRAVO SIERRA.

That is the HEART of the matter. The beauty of the "Detroit Project" ads is the fact they are a brutal spoof of the LIES promulgated by the ONDCP ("Drug Czar") ads. Whether one chooses to believe the stated premise of the ads - SUV owners supporting terrorism (a specious allegation at best and an outright lie at worst) - they still throw the light of truth on the CRAP emanating from the government about drugs.

The drug-terrorism connects exists, but it can be eliminated BY THE STROKE OF THE PEN that ends drug prohibition.

5 posted on 01/17/2003 10:10:53 AM PST by bassmaner (Let's take back the word "liberal" from the commies!!)
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To: HAL9000
Arianna Huffington is explained on ReasonOnline's Who am I?
6 posted on 01/17/2003 10:21:12 AM PST by Schnucki
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To: TigersEye
Well....I have a PT Cruiser and guess what....it is defined as an SUV.....yep...I have to pay an extra dollar at the local car wash because my PT Cruiser is an SUV.....
7 posted on 01/17/2003 10:23:07 AM PST by B.O. Plenty
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To: HAL9000
This is Arianna.

This is Arianna's poorly considered opinion.

This is the people the Arainnna Criticzes with her poorly considered opinion. (Americans)

This is the people who have declared holy war upon the people that Arianna criticizes with her poorly considered opinion.

They really like Arianna.

8 posted on 01/17/2003 10:30:10 AM PST by tcostell
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To: TigersEye
I drive the Mazda MPV - Multi-Payment Vehicle.
9 posted on 01/17/2003 11:34:06 AM PST by lds23
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To: B.O. Plenty
"Well....I have a PT Cruiser and guess what....it is defined as an SUV.....yep...I have to pay an extra dollar at the local car wash because my PT Cruiser is an SUV....."

How can a vehicle that is built on the Dodge/Chrysler Neon Platform be a truck, let alone an SUV? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!
10 posted on 01/17/2003 11:45:15 AM PST by RayBob (Put your ad here!)
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To: HAL9000
Can't we deport her back to Greece? And send Bob Scheer to Pyongyang while we're at it?
11 posted on 01/17/2003 9:05:44 PM PST by Pelham
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To: TigersEye
Just what is the definition of an SUV?

A pick-up truck.

An SUV is a station wagon on a pickup-truck chassis, and therefore covered by the federal regulations for a pickup-truck rather than a passenger car.

Ever wonder why the Detroit carmakers no longer offer station wagons? Or why "they" hate us?

12 posted on 01/19/2003 6:48:59 AM PST by Salman
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To: B.O. Plenty
I'm afraid I don't know what a PT Cruiser is. That is why I asked. I'm not aware of a precise definition of SUV (Sport Utility Vechicle). I had a feeling that it was a vague concept that might include a lot of vehicles that most of us (including the anti-SUVers) wouldn't ordinarily think of as SUV's.
13 posted on 01/19/2003 8:52:59 AM PST by TigersEye (90,000 registered FReepers x $1 each month = ?)
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To: Salman
Is that an industry definition? Does that mean that all pickups are SUV's? Even 2WD's? That is one thing that bothers me. I used to be a carpenter and hauled approx. 500+ lb's of tools. A truck is essential to that task as it is for countless workmen in numerous trades. A lot of those trucks get worse mileage than what is typically considered a SUV. Will they impose CAFE standards on all those vehicles forcing workmen to pay considerably more or forcing them to haul their tools in a fleet of Yugos? The typical plumber will have to hire three more people for each crew just to drive the three Honda Civics he needs to replace his old Ford F250.

Ever wonder why the Detroit carmakers no longer offer station wagons? Or why "they" hate us?

I am completely clueless as to the answers to both those questions. The old station wagons were on passenger car frames so.............?

14 posted on 01/19/2003 9:00:56 AM PST by TigersEye (90,000 registered FReepers x $1 each month = ?)
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To: TigersEye
So what, exactly, is an SUV?

From my observation, an SUV is any vehicle that the driver cannot fit between the lines on the road or in the parking lot.
15 posted on 01/19/2003 9:09:53 AM PST by Xenalyte (I love my Saturn)
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To: lds23
I drive the Mazda MPV - Multi-Payment Vehicle.

I always thought that meant "Mostly Plastic Vehicle."

Mark

16 posted on 01/19/2003 9:13:47 AM PST by MarkL
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To: HAL9000
Ariana Huffington is a coercive utopian who wants us to live in her utopia, driving washing-machine-sized hybrid cars while she lives in her 9000 sq ft manse in California, off the money her ex gives her. No wonder he 'turned' gay.

I once worked with guys from Huffco (Roy Huffinton's oil company) in Turkey. They were a sharp crew and had nothing but admiration for the old man 'Roy' (as they called him). What happened to the son and the daughter-in-law, who knows???
17 posted on 01/19/2003 9:19:20 AM PST by Rummyfan
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To: TigersEye
Is that an industry definition?

It is an EPA definition. SUVs are not held to passenger car standards when it comes to emissions. This is the "loophole" envros whine about.

Does that mean that all pickups are SUV's?

No, but it means that all SUVs are pickups, unless/until they change the regulation.

Even 2WD's?

Not a factor.

... Will they impose CAFE standards on all those vehicles forcing workmen to pay considerably more or forcing them to haul their tools in a fleet of Yugos?

I hope not. The thing that must be understood about enviros is that their gripe with capitalism is that the means of production exist at all.

... The old station wagons were on passenger car frames so.............?

... so the carmakers stopped building them, in order to enhance their fleet average fuel consumption.

18 posted on 01/19/2003 9:28:11 AM PST by Salman
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To: tcostell
Oustanding!!! ROTFLMAO!!!!!
19 posted on 01/19/2003 9:28:57 AM PST by Pharmer
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To: TigersEye
I drive a UAV - Urban Assault Vehicle

Perhaps?


20 posted on 01/19/2003 9:56:41 AM PST by reg45
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To: Salman
Does that mean that all pickups are SUV's?

No, but it means that all SUVs are pickups, unless/until they change the regulation.

Well that creates confusion. So a pickup might not be classified as a SUV? Then I will just have to buy a non-SUV pickup and outfit it for recreation ie. cap, winch etc, etc. Brush buster bumper to deal with urban nuisances like VW's and Volvos. Well worth the extra cost in gasoline. ; )

The thing that must be understood about enviros is that their gripe with capitalism is that the means of production exist at all.

No doubt about that. I'm sure they would have us all using organically grown cotton napkins to wipe our butts to be rewashed endlessly...ignoring the enviromental cost of all the soap and water used to clean them.

... so the carmakers stopped building them, in order to enhance their fleet average fuel consumption.

OK. That makes sense now. I guess if I had a few kids I would just buy a small used school bus and put the biggest motor I could find in it with a large I-beam bumper and a garish purple paint job. Nasty ultra-conservative bumper stickers are a given.

21 posted on 01/19/2003 10:07:31 AM PST by TigersEye (90,000 registered FReepers x $1 each month = ?)
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To: reg45
LOL That would be great! I drive a '59 Chevy 3/4 ton Apache with a full steel utility box on back. It's rated 3,900 GVW carrying capacity. Probably weighs that or more empty. With a burnt valve it gets 5.5 mpg. Slightly down from its usual 8-10 mpg. Worth every penny. Modern cars bounce off of it like nerf balls.
22 posted on 01/19/2003 10:13:13 AM PST by TigersEye (90,000 registered FReepers x $1 each month = ?)
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