The anti-Christ and the advertising front it flies in on

By By Andy Thompson

By Andy Thompson

During a night of televised tackle football, General Motors jumped out among the blur of flashing images. Its commercial, set in downtown gridlock, depicts GM trucks and cars rising above the sounds of the street.

You can almost see the cloud of carbon dioxide bubbling from under GM’s vehicles as perplexed-looking passengers are pushed above the city like the lid to a boiling pot. The irony here is piercing: GM shows its product rising above the gridlock it has created, both on the country’s roadways and in the nation’s search for energy independence.

Is GM really trying to punch through corporate bureaucracy to become a community-oriented, environmentally conscious leader in business? Or are executives flat-out lying to the public?

To put more cars on the road, GM-with the help of Firestone and Standard Oil-acquired numerous electric streetcar and trolley lines throughout the United States during the 1920s-including the trolley line seen in old pictures of downtown Salt Lake City-and bankrupted this type of public transportation in the nation’s cities.

GM was indicted for this, specifically for dismantling the Los Angeles city lines, and ordered to pay a whopping $5,000 fine by a U.S. District Court.

Since the destruction of the country’s public transportation infrastructure, federal, state and local governments have subsidized the automobile and oil industries by building and maintaining the roads and highways necessary for the industries’ products.

Thus, the consortium has built a system in which a vehicle-and the oil needed to run it-is a necessity for most Americans to commute between home and the office.

“We’ve been doing this experiment for 50 years and it’s failed,” said George Shaw, the newly appointed planning director for Salt Lake City and a U adjunct professor in urban planning.

GM is also guilty (along with the other usual suspects in the oil and automobile parts industries) of handcuffing the nation’s search for alternative energy.

As documented in the film “Who Killed the Electric Car?,” GM suspended its research and development on the EV1, an electric vehicle it produced in the 1990s, and confiscated the ones it had leased out to the public. The company was also integral to the repeal of California legislation mandating that 10 percent of vehicles sold in the state emit zero pollutants by the year 2003.

CEO Rick Wagoner recently said that ending the EV1 campaign has been his greatest mistake. Even so, GM continues to focus on producing large and gluttonous vehicles that consume gas at 10 to 15 miles per gallon.

At the International Auto Convention at the Sandy Expo Center last weekend, GM devoted more floor space to the likes of Hummer, Escalade and Suburban than any sedan or sports car.

The company’s product specialists were prepared for any questions regarding size with literature touting the “environmental features” of the 2008 Escalade. They also referred to their “Live Green, Go Yellow” campaign and another electric vehicle-a concept car called Bolt-tentatively slated for 2010.

I know that GM’s advertising and public relations campaigns are not legally bound testimony by any means. Yet advertising and PR are the tools that GM uses to communicate with the public, a discourse that recently tells the story of an environmental steward committed to the fight toward energy independence.

That’s about as believable as when Dubya pledged his commitment to alternative energy.

Meanwhile, any kind of business owner who buys any vehicle weighing more than three tons qualifies for a $40,000 tax break. Looks like the government is giving away SUVs. Quite a commitment to energy conservation.

The most genuine thing said from GM at the auto show came from PR operative Roshanda, positioned next to the ’08 Escalade:

“This is a business-supply and demand. If the people didn’t want big vehicles, we wouldn’t sell them.”

In the meantime, GM will do its best to push its products to the people, no matter the consequences.