It Ain’t Me, Babe: Bob Dylan, Italian American Cars, and Big Misunderstandings

Still being new to the Twitter-verse, it was interesting to watch the comments of the 650-ish people I follow develop in real time during the Super Bowl. My follow-portfolio is undiversified: mostly beer-related folks, next most are sports types (the Danettes and Rich Eisen, e.g.). When the Chrysler Ad aired, the immediate fallout took me by surprise, and the continued “outrage” has continued to take me by surprise, culminating (in part) in this post from New Holland Brewing Co’s Fred Bueltmann’s rebuke of Chrysler.

Where I’m confused about the uproar is highlighted by Bueltmann’s characterization of this thought process: “At first, I thought it was a simple snub.” Then he realized he thought not only was it a snub, but it was much worse than that. I take issue, though, with the thought that this was a “snub.” Calling it a snub entails there having been some kind of contest, which could have legitimately been won by any number of entrants. Of course, among those of us who know what excellent beer is being made here in America, many would vote USA to the top of the list. But there was no list, no competition.

It was purposeful that a different country appear as a figurehead for each product in the commercial which was about making cars in the USA. Never mind, for the purpose of the story being told, that an Italian company now owns Chrysler. The point is, the commercial was a little story about how the USA made cars. Since America made cars, you should buy the cars they now make.

The USA, however you want to slice it, did not make watches, despite the fact there are fine watchmakers here. And we did not make beer, despite the fact that, indisputably, excellent beer is being made here. Superb, delicious beer. But Germany made beer–a long time ago. That one can reasonably disagree with an argument they continue to make the best beer is beyond the little story being told in the commercial.

For that reason, I don’t think the commercial should be viewed as offensive to American beer. It was just intended to give rhetorical effect to the statement, we’ll make your car. And it had better rhetorical effect, from a writing standpoint, than saying: let the USA make your beer; let the USA make your watches; let the USA make your electronic doodads; We’ll make your car. That would have no rhetorical effect, which is not what they were going for.

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