(edit: added Freep section)
Most of you either watched the Super Bowl or have since YouTubed Eminem's awesome Super Bowl ad. I'll embed it just for fun (you're welcome, Chrysler). But what some of you probably didn't see or hear was the response from one Mark Steyn, a conservative talk-radio host that filled in for Rush Limbaugh Monday morning after the Super Bowl.
I take serious, serious issue with his response. I'm not going to get political at all, because this isn't the place for that.
First, here's Em's ad:
I love this ad. It's pure Detroit. Chrysler grew a major pair with this commercial, and put the rest of the Big Three and the country on notice. Detroit isn't going down without a fight, and there's still a lot of good in the city. Hell, I don't ever think Detroit's going down. We might be headed in the wrong direction, but damn sure there are better days ahead. The vaunted auto industry will rebound, and a new Detroit will rise, albeit one looking slightly different.
More after the jump.
Here's Steyn's response.
I'll just give you a minute to digest that sucker.
"I was impressed, actually, that he could find a theater that has not been reduced to rubble in downtown Detroit"
I can name several, not the least of which is the iconic Fox Theater across from Comerica Park. Yes, some French photojournalists chronicled some decaying buildings in a town that had lost part of itself. Despite that, Detroit, even its years of struggles, has produced some of the most pervasive and consistently excellent culture that the country has witnessed. Motown music. Countless other bands. Writers, poets, artists, and civil rights heroes. Sports legends. And, yes, Eminem, one of the city's foremost ambassadors. Yes, I view Eminem as an ambassador from Detroit, because outsiders have a tendency to treat it like a foreign country, and as I'll write later, Eminem has shown his (admittedly controversial) own strong devotion to the city, to his city.
Then Steyn compares the "rubble of Detroit" to "European cities, circa 1945":
"Unlike European cities, no bombs fell on this American city (...) this American city did it to themselves."
Mr. Steyn, no one in Detroit wants the city to be bombed-out or full of rubble. And the city didn't do this to itself. We can talk about misguided public management all day, or discuss the pros and cons of the UAW, or talk about race and gentrification and violence. We can talk about the auto industry's latent problems that have turned into an over-20% unemployment rate for the city. But, Mr. Steyn, I implore you, please don't overlook the hardworking Detroiters that struggle every day for their families, for their friends, and for their city. They don't need or want your respect, because you don't understand. They have their own brotherhood, and enough self-respect to weather anything you throw at them. And I'm honored to count myself as one of them.
The second half of the clip goes into some Democrat-bashing, which I'm not going to discuss, because this isn't about politics. But then he goes on to decry the $9 million price tag of the ad (which, by the way, had over three million hits for the 200 the next morning) and call Detroit "a ruined city," at this point a common refrain in this idiot's rant. He doesn't stop there, comparing Detroit to "African banana republics after a civil war."
I won't get too technical and point out that the revenue this ad will bring in (and has already brought in) for Chrysler will greatly guarantee a positive ROI, particularly when people like Mark Steyn blow the issue up and people like me argue with him. I'm not even feeling up to argue with his ludicrous statement about African banana republics. He just sounds like a scared, ignorant man who wants to pick out easy targets. And yes, Detroit is an easy target. But that doesn't mean we'll roll over and take such biased, hateful ignorance.
Somehow, after six minutes, Steyn's not even done, ridiculing the ad for "telling us that Detroit is the future of America", and stating that "If Detroit is the future of America, we're all doomed."
With regards to the "we": Steyn is a Canadian citizen living in New Hampshire. He isn't one of us. I will focus this directly at Mr. Steyn:
Mark Steyn, you are not one of us. By "us," I do not merely mean Americans, because there are plenty of Americans who probably agree with you. By "us," I mean the people that know Detroit. The people that were born here, or have ties to this place. The fifty-plus-year veterans of the American auto industry. I'm unabashedly proud to say that my father, his brother, both of my grandfathers, and countless other family members and friends have dedicated countless years and entire lives to the American auto industries. The laptop on which I write this piece was paid for by selling Explorers, F-150s, and Mustangs. So, Mr. Steyn, when you say "we," I respectfully ask you to say "We Canadians" (a country whose domestic manufacturing output is greatly boosted by numerous American auto plants) so that you don't get people confused. You do not speak for the everyman. I won't even touch the end of your rant, where you condescendingly reference the man who Time has ranked among the top ten most influential music icons in the modern age. Suffice to say that many, many Detroiters would be more than happy to introduce you to Eminem, who has a sense of loyalty to his city, to my city, to their city, that you just can't understand.
I don't profess to speak for the city of Detroit. Plenty of better men than I have stepped up to bat and always will, including other radio hosts and people around the world. But I have a pulpit, albeit a nice small one, and this site is about the free exchange of ideas, from sports to area news to beer. I'm going to call Mark Steyn out on an egregious breach of human integrity, on behalf of myself, as a son of Detroit, a son of a Detroiter, and a son of a man whose father taught him loyalty.
As I mentioned earlier, this goes beyond politics. Frank Beckmann, a man for whom this blogger has tremendous respect (and also a conservative talk-radio host), responded on his own radio show and eventually interviewed Steyn. Beckmann first said this: (via DetNews dot com)
"We know those problems, he's not the first to notice them," Beckmann said. "(The ad) shows a gritty side of Detroit. It shows us how we are."
And after Steyn's rant suggested that Detroit was done for, Beckmann responded: (again via the News)
"What would you have us do, just quit trying?"
Thank you, Frank Beckmann, for being a voice of reason. Thank you for pointing out that we Detroiters know the gritty side of the town. We know our human failings, and we know where we've gone wrong. We're fixing it. Ads like this are just one way to reach out to those who don't know. People like Mark Steyn, who probably didn't give Detroit the time of day except in a punchline before Sunday. We Detroiters have massive chips on our shoulders. Always have. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm fiercely proud of my city, of its humanity and its human failings. I'm proud of its storied sports teams and the teams in the state it anchors.
So, Mr. Steyn, I'd like to cordially invite you to the city of Detroit. Don't worry, I've moved beyond anything petty. I want to show you the Fox Theatre and Campus Martius and Comerica Park. Come to a Friday night Cass Tech football game. Let's tour the Flat Rock Ford plant or the Chrysler HQ. We could even see an Eminem show. I want to show you children laughing and playing and the safety of the Saturday markets. Because my city is very much alive, and despite its rampant unemployment, it's fighting like hell to grow again. And we always will. We're never going to quit trying.
Sports fans will passionately debate each other, throw mountains of trash talk at one another, and generally act like fools in support of their chosen squads. I sure do, and I'm fanatically devoted to my Wolverines to the point of arrogance in our fandom, a subject I have written on at length, and a subject I have been argued against at equal length. But this - this is something different. Mark Steyn is talking about an entire city, an entire area of people, without any regard for the people inside of it. I intend to defend my city with passion. But not arrogance. I'll leave that to radio personalities. Me, I'm good with this chip on my shoulder. And keep talking - there's plenty of room for more.
Just to put this thing in a bit more perspective, even the Free Press, a site for which I have very little regard, has some good stuff up on regarding this ad. This first one looks at the creation of the ad and the message Chrysler wanted to convey, which seems to be not so much "Buy the 200" as much as "Detroit's back." For the first time ever, I'm going to quote Rochelle Riley, who has a column on a real news website, who's echoing the sentiments of me and many Detroiters:
Every town is somebody's hometown. And every city has a message. (...)
Detroit is different. We are the only city besides New Orleans with our own soundtrack. (...)
Detroit: The first thing you hear isn't the single voice of a gospel choir demanding joy. No, you hear the hype and the hate and the shootings.
Don't get me wrong. Those of us who walk the streets of the Motor City, eat in its restaurants, watch baseball games at Comerica Park, get our hair braided along 8 Mile, we know what we face.
Those of us who hang out in Greektown, shop along Livernois, visit the barber on Gratiot, go to church on almost every corner, we know that Detroit has two truths.
When we hear Detroit -- in a choir's song or a rapper's beat -- we feel the sweat of a century of being the best at something. We laugh at the gray winter that reminds us how strong we are. We taste the bitterness of pushing for better.
Know what else we celebrate? When someone else gets it -- for a moment, for a night, for a weekend.
Damn right, Rochelle. Those two truths are at the heart of every Detroiter. We know what we face. We know we're strong, and the gray winter isn't going to stop us from pushing for better. Rochelle Riley, unlike Mark Steyn, gets it. She's trying to get others to get it too, because it sucks when people don't. Back to sports for just a second, I can't tell you how many times I got mad at my roommate from Arizona when State went to the Final Four and he just kept referring to them as "Michigan." i know that's a small example, but he didn't get it. He didn't get that essence of what made the distinction between the two schools so important to me. Not just from a rivalry perspective, but they're not the same. They've each got their own unique and proud fanbases, and I couldn't deal with them getting lumped together as an afterthought by someone who didn't really care. That's sports. This is so much more. This is a city trying so hard to reinvent itself, to bring itself up. This commercial is one group's way of reaching out to those people who don't care, to the people who can't be bothered to see Detroit as anything but a failure or a punchline.
She's not the only one who gets it. Other people are starting to get it. And for this ad to work, to really have a positive impact, it needed to be felt at home - and the people of Detroit itself are starting to come around:
The ad -- doing what other campaigns haven't been able to do -- sparked regional pride for Detroit.
I'll say it did. Seeing it, and knowing that hundreds of millions of people saw my city in a new, proud light, made me pause. The city's about more than cars or successes or failures. It's about feeling. And this ad provoked a strong positive feeling.