By linking inefficient sport utility vehicles to terrorism in two new television commercials, Americans for Fuel Efficient Cars have generated more outrage aimed at themselves than at the targets of their campaign. Arianna Huffington, the creator of this media blitz called The Detroit Project, claims to have found the inspiration for the ads after the commercials run by the Office of National Drug Control Policy connecting drug use to funding terrorism outraged her enough to take action. “Why not turn the tables and adopt the same tactics the administration was using in the drug war to point out the much more credible link between driving SUVs and our national security?” Huffington said in a statement that can be found on the organization’s website.
One ad simply shows a series of headshots. Various people declare the supposed consequences resulting from driving SUVs. “I helped hijack an airplane.” “I helped blow up a nightclub.” “So what if it gets 11 miles to the gallon?” The other commercial features a child’s narration connecting footage of a man filling his gas tank to terrorists training. “This is George. This is 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.” The problem with these commercials is that while they do make an important point, that point can be too easily lost by the elaborate and off-hand fashion in which the argument is presented.
It is important to remember that AFEC created the commercials in part as parodies of the ads that the Bush administration produced. Because the administration connected terrorism to a practice that is illegal while The Detroit Project attacks a practice in which millions of Americans gleefully participate, the message will likely be more offensive than effective. Under their standards, many average, law-abiding citizens have a connection to terrorism.
While doing this does bring up the valid point that the United States seems unconcerned about the fact that it is far too dependent on foreign oil while its leaders spend a great deal of time worrying about the less significant issue of minor drug use, this sophisticated satire may confuse television viewers. Most of the audience will simply take the commercials at face value and react to them in the same way they reacted to the drug use ads – with indignation. The Bush administration’s faulty reasoning and the AFEC’s valid arguments, which the ads were supposed to illustrate, will be lost among the public’s cries of outrage, ultimately making the commercials completely ineffective. Instead of fostering angst the Detroit Project’s message could be better understood in a rational and even-keeled policy debate.