So I understand that the United States is not well liked in certain segments of the global community. But anti-Americanism seems to come out in some rather odd places these days. Still, I expect better from our British allies, who should know that certain aspects of the American character are sacrosanct.
I speak of course of the foreign attacks on the superiority of American-made trucks, specifically the Ford F-150, the world’s bestselling car. I know some of you Chevy people might snicker, but consider your allegiance here carefully — we’re Americans first, and truck aficionados second.
For this most unwelcome attack, we have only to thank a popular British TV show called Top Gear. Now why a show about cars would be the source of vehement anti-American jeremiads is beyond me. Top Gear first popped up on my radar screen when, for an episode of their show last year, the show’s three hosts each purchased a used car and drove it across Alabama: one had the words “Hillary for President” painted across the side, another “Country and Western is Rubbish” and the last one had the words “Manlove Rules!” in big pink letters. After they stop to get gas in a small town, one of the locals asks, quite sensibly, “Are y’all gay, trying to see how long it takes to get beat up in a hick town?” Finally, infuriated by their inability to justify what they’re doing, the woman tells them she’s going to get “the boys,” who then show up in the back of a pick-up truck and throw a few rocks at them until they leave town.
The episode ended in New Orleans, where the three hosts tried to give their used cars away to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The first two cars were eagerly accepted as gifts, but they couldn’t even give the “Manlove Rules!” car away even in the libertine Big Easy. It seems you can put a price on charity, but not American dignity.
The hosts of the show concluded that America’s backwoods intolerance is alive and well, but it seems to me that that kind of needless provocation and patronizing more than justifies chasing them out of town. After all, just before they got pelted with rocks, the host of Top Gear was on camera summing up Alabama by saying, “There are three religions down here. George Bush, God, and Country and Western — in that order.” And let’s not forget the hosts’ de rigueur scoffing at displays of Confederate flags. Because you know, as subjects of Her Majesty they know full well the British Empire bears no responsibility whatsoever for the legacy of slavery on this continent. The fact that the Crown encouraged slavery on this continent hundreds of years before the United States even existed, abolishing it a mere 30 years before the U.S., and that the U.K. had a voracious appetite for cheap raw materials provided by America’s slave labor — none of this should in any way give a too-clever-by-half British TV presenter pause when he considers the current state of racial relations in Alabama. That his own ancestors were likely culpable in creating this situation is beneath his concern.
But why stop there? Now that Top Gear has figured out the American south, how about they go home and do something about the bad food, secularism, and collective aversion to orthodontia? And as long as we’re throwing stones, I would like to see the episode where the Top Gear crew drive that car that says “Manlove Rules!” right up to that glass house known as the Regent Park Mosque in London and preach to us some more about perceived intolerance in America.
As you might imagine, I was not predisposed to like Top Gear even before I saw this video making the rounds on the Internet, where Top Gear reviews the Ford F-150 and finds it wanting. You see, even though the citizens of the U.K. “buy into [America’s] wars,” they don’t buy America’s trucks. Why do they reject the bestselling car in the world? Well, among other things British citizens apparently have no use for gun racks; and English country life is simple, whereas rural America is “full of people doing whatever it is they do — incest mostly.” I take it that’s supposed to be a humorous insult, but following the American Revolution, most of us Yanks take great comfort in the fact that we live in a country where incest is historically the provenance of the lower classes rather than of, say, the royal family.
Their only legitimate criticisms of the truck were that the steering was loose, and the dash didn’t fit together well. That the dash didn’t fit together well probably has something to do with the fact that Ford doesn’t make too many right-hand-drive conversion models. And as for the loose steering, well, you know what happens when you overcorrect in a 380-horsepower, two-ton vehicle with an intentionally high ground clearance? I don’t want to find out. (Further, my father was once the not-so-proud owner of an MG and I’ll just note that any criticism of American cars coming from the British should begin and end with an apologia for the fact that for decades British cars were saddled with Lucas electrical systems.)
But laughably, Top Gear’s biggest and ultimate objection as to why the F-150 was unsuitable for the U.K. is that it is too easy to steal things out of the back of the truck. In America, where property rights are more respected, that’s not nearly as much of a concern. Perhaps that is because a lot of those F-150s also have gun racks in the back.
Obviously, Top Gear doesn’t speak for everyone in the U.K. and any anti-Brit barbs here are (mostly) in jest — I’d hate to erode international automotive relations further than Top Gear already has. But let me make one thing clear: You can poke fun of a lot of the aspects of the American character, but in this country you leave a man’s wife, dog, gun, and truck — in that order — the hell alone. As it should be.
– Mark Hemingway is an NRO staff writer.