Does Jalopnik Hate Cars?

As a rule, I don’t spend a lot of time reading about Jalopnik. But I do encounter things from time to time and one of the things I encounter reasonably often is the idea that Jalopnik’s writers “Hate Cars.” Most of the time, it’s that someone is being disingenuous and they probably understand exactly what we’re doing with this site. Other times, it’s people that on some level feel bad or guilty about their place in car-hedonism and don’t have the emotional tools to engage with those feelings without getting defensive.

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When I started working here, I said:

I also want Jalopnik to be the place where car enthusiasts talk about the future of car culture, specifically with regard to commuting, climate change, urban sprawl, alienation and other fun topics. The tension between my love of internal combustion engines and my desire to limit the role I play in destroying the planet is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. I don’t think I’m alone in that. I don’t see that stuff being discussed regularly in automotive media and it’s a discussion that we as a community should be contributing to—in addition to posting about craigslist garbage, naturally.

I do love cars, and I love driving. I love driving fast and slow, over long distances and short distances. On road and off road. I’m glad humans devised a machine that is almost singularly enjoyable to operate. Driving has given me some of my very best experiences, and I hope that as long as I’m alive, I’ll be able to drive for the pure enjoyment of it. I hope future humans will have the same option. I also hope that there are future humans, which is where it gets complicated.

Most people don’t love cars or driving. They’d rather be doing anything else; driving is a chore for them. But, because of the particular timing of mass adoption of the car, our world is set up so that driving is a necessary part of a lot of people’s lives — whether they enjoy it or not. And that has some profoundly bad effects. It makes us sick. It physically separates and alienates us. It causes us to die in grisly, horrifying ways. Most notably, it’s contributing to a process that is endangering lives, human and otherwise.

I have heard a lot of people say that they read about cars to escape from how bad the world is, and that is a nice thing for them to be able to do. But the thing about a set of looming global catastrophes is that they’re looming over all of us. Eventually you can’t just check out and feed your brain car candy. I’m not asking for self-flagellation, and I don’t even really believe any of this is our fault as individuals. I’m not interested in you or anyone feeling bad.

So, where does that leave us as car enthusiasts? In my mind, these are problems with solutions, even if those solutions are impossible under current circumstances. We, as the car knowers, have an understanding that helps us grapple with the bad parts of living in a car-centric world, to be familiar with the problems in a way that others aren’t. It’s important to explore and understand the ways that cars impact our lives because if you’re among the majority of people who aren’t particularly in love with cars, the ways that cars impact us are almost all bad.

One way or another, that will cease to be the case. Do car people want to be responsible stewards of their beloved hobby, or do they want to wait for bans? Do they want to hole up in a bunker to flip through car magazines? There probably isn’t an option where everything just stays the same.

The purpose of all this knowing and witnessing is to help us think about what a better world would look like. This is optimistic enough to qualify as naive, but I’d like for us to get to a place where the bad effects of driving are mitigated so that people like you and me can continue to enjoy it. That will probably mean that the world has to change drastically so that people who don’t like driving (and probably aren’t any good at it) don’t have to rely primarily on driving for their transportation. People should be free to drive when they want, but free to forgo driving, too.

It’ll mean fewer cars on the road, and that ideally, as I’ve said before, driving becomes a hobby, like sailing, skiing or riding a horse. Driving should be for people who love it. We almost certainly won’t get that lucky, but it’s fun to have goals.

Jalopnik doesn’t hate cars. We don’t want you to hate them either. But if you’re going to cover cars and the car business, you have to do your best to be honest about what is actually going on. That means that in addition to saying “controls fall easily to hand” we should also sometimes say “man, it’s kind of weird how there are hurricanes in Southern California now.” Cars are cool, they’re fun, but sometimes bad things happen because of our relationship to them. Admitting that doesn’t mean you hate cars.