Two! Four! Six! Eight!

Who do we love to hate? Alternative weekly journalists share their true feelings on SUVs, cell phones, minks, celebrities and others.

Topics: Chrysler,

I come across many an article seething with hatred during my weekly perusal of the alternative press. And why not? There are few reading pleasures more delightful than a well-aimed, passionately argued diatribe.

As the poet Ogden Nash once said, “Any kiddies in school can love like a fool,/But hating, my boy, is an art.” Indeed, to hate and hate well is a difficult task. The object of rancor must be chosen with a sharp eye for deep and complex flaws, to fuel your burning abhorrence. And one must be absolutely certain that the object of ire is indeed deserving; much scorn is misdirected, and hence wasted.

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Salt Lake City Weekly, Jan. 6-12

“SUV Luv” by Andrew Haley

Andrew Haley rehashes all the usual arguments in this essay about why he hates SUVs. These monster trucks are environmentally destructive, pretentious and unnecessary. Worst of all, according to Haley, they’re inauthentic.” He writes: “While these vehicles are designed to look like off-roading vehicles … they are not the four-wheel-drive vehicles made to ply the outback. Instead, they are designed to create the image that you — the lawyer, the mom, the teacher, the banker — still have the youth, desire and time to go out into the rugged world and be a primitive man.” To which I say, so what? So middle-aged businessmen and soccer moms want to own something that fools them into thinking their lives are slightly less ordinary? That should make us sad, not angry.

The environmental argument is a good one to run with if you want to have any strength to your argument, but Haley barely touches on it. Indeed, the real object of his disaffection, I suspect, is not Joe SUV-owner per se, but his father. (That’s right, kids, I’m playing pop-psychologist.) Much of Haley’s rant addresses the fact that his father owned a Ford Explorer and once got angry with his son for taking it off-road. He concludes the piece with this Oedipal gem: “This craze is a lie. It is another token of status in this society of conspicuous consumption. These vehicles were marketed to make people like my father believe they would still look tough and young and outdoorsy if they drove one.” Hey Haley, there but by the grace of God go you.

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New York Press, Jan. 12-18

“My Life in Furs: Hate Me If It Makes You Feel Good” by Jessica Willis

With politically incorrect aplomb that you just have to sit back and admire, Jessica Willis visits a mink farm and discusses the feminist benefits of wearing fur. (“Fur makes a woman look fierce.”) “The sapphire male squirms in its small cage and shits some more,” Willis writes of one doomed creature. “Fuck you, you little creep, I think happily. You’re a little devil animal, useful to no one, save for your skin. Unfortunately, you’ve been born wearing the pubic thatch of the gods. He gets my drift and hurls himself against the wire peephole.” It only gets better from here. Willis can look forward to an abundance of hysterical hate mail in the weeks to come.

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Detroit Metro Times

“Feeling the heat” by Curt Guyette

Here’s an organization deserving of hatred: The Global Climate Coalition, according to reporter Curt Guyette, has organized a “decade-long attempt to induce public skepticism and confusion over global warming.” Just who belongs to this coalition? Don’t let the warm ‘n’ fuzzy name fool you. Auto industry and fossil fuel bigwigs are running this public relations road show.

In this well-researched, balanced piece, Guyette avoids jumping to obvious conclusions. Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler have both withdrawn from the organization, he reports early on. But he also notes that while these companies have abandoned their green-washing P.R. ways, they are still responsible for producing a large percentage of the gas-guzzlers currently clogging freeways.

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The New York Observer, week of Jan. 17

“It Feels Good to Hate Gwyneth And Matt!” by George Gurley

They’re beautiful. They’re famous. They’re rich, and they have Oscars. Let’s hate them! In this brain-dead piece on hating Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon, George Gurley just quotes a bunch of ne’er-do-wells bitching about the stars of “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” as well as Robin Williams, Winona Ryder (well, can’t blame them there) and Al Pacino. This isn’t hatred, it’s jealousy; and it’s petty and dull at that.

The Village Voice adds to this anti-celebrity mania with this revelatory (ha!) piece on how celebrity-bashing — get this — thrives on the Web. Another case of an old phenomenon getting the “gee whiz” treatment just because it happens to be occurring online.

New Times Palm Beach/Broward, Jan. 13-19

“Night of the Living Heads” by Bob Whitby

Bob Whitby’s deep dislike of Phish fans — an obvious, but amusing target if there ever was one — can be summed up as follows: “Phish offers its fans all the drugs and degeneracy of Woodstock without that tiresome stuff about civil rights, politics, and the war machine. In that sense what’s happening here is a fitting metaphor for a jaded age in which nothing is shocking and even the counterculture is a rerun.” Which I guess is more substantial than my excuse for hating them: bad outfits and patchouli.

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“Caught Unawares: Mobile Phones Linked to Violent Crime” by “South to the future”

In this unfunny satirical column, people using cell phones in public become the victims of robbery precisely because of their conspicuous consumption. In an e-mail alerting me to this piece, a Web master who will go unnamed asked: “Don’t you want something bad to happen to people who use mobile phones in public?” Um, no, actually I don’t. I use a cell phone in public. It’s convenient. It allows me to call taxis late at night, without risking my ass and losing quarters to some germ-infested, stanky-ass, graffiti-covered pay phone. I do my best to be considerate; I turn my phone off in movie theaters, and exit restaurants before placing or receiving calls. Call it self-defense, but wishing physical harm on someone for a behavior so benign seems far worse than the so-called infringement itself.

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Philadelphia City Paper, Jan. 13-19

“Last call?” by Jen Darr

Jen Darr makes an even weaker case for hating cell phones. She’s upset because these high-tech gadgets may spell the end of pay phones. “The pay phone was democratic: It enabled those who couldn’t afford a phone of their own to take part in the luxury — if briefly — of technology,” Darr writes, and then pauses to muse over pay phone memories: “The college girl can’t forget the spot where she called her boyfriend after a visit to the doctor to say the test was negative.” Aww, how romantic. They’re dirty and expensive; they invite crime to otherwise fine neighborhoods, and force us to wait behind loud, obnoxious people. If you want to hate something, hate the pay phones. The cell phones are our deliverance from such crude means of communication. Long live Nokia!

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Weekly Planet (Tampa Bay), Jan. 6-12

“Brought to you by Big Brother” by Lynn Waddell

The word “synergy” may have a nice ring to it, but its consequences are far from pretty. In this smart, serious piece, Lynn Waddell tackles the costs of corporate monopolies in the media. She writes: “Critics warn that allowing unrestricted media ownership is the biggest threat to democracy since the Berlin Wall went up; Big Brother is no longer communist, but corporate, critics say.” Much to my disappointment, this article ends on a naive and predictable note: There’s a Noam Chomsky quote, but of course, and an exhortation to write your senator! Yeah, that’ll fix things.

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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