Is Auto Journalist Bertel Schmitt Stupid, Homophobic, Or Both?

Bertel Schmitt (photo from The Truth About Cars, taken by Bertel Schmitt)On Thursday of last week, Bertel Schmitt at The Truth About Cars posted a story with this headline: “Small SUV Crashopalooza: Detroit Loses, Dykes Win”.

He was not referring to Dutch levee systems.

He was not referring to my third-grade classmate, Carol Dykes. (It would’ve been a pretty weird coincidence if he had.)

He was referring to lesbians — specifically, lesbians and their alleged love of the Subaru Forester.

I’m not going to link directly to Schmitt’s article because it was a stunt, a ploy for pageviews. Linking to it would give The Truth About Cars more traffic, better stats, and the opportunity to earn more ad revenue. As someone wiser than me once said: screw that noise.

The good news is that Schmitt’s idiocy failed to win the day. Shortly after he published the article, car fans flooded The Truth About Cars with comments and complaints. By Friday afternoon, the blowback was so severe that one of the site’s editors, Steven Lang, resigned.

The bad news is that Schmitt, the site’s editor-in-chief, still has his job and shows no sign of contrition.

Worse, Schmitt knew that he was using a seriously offensive, homophobic slur.

And worst of all, he tried to use Wikipedia to justify it:

PS: Before you start to tar and feather me for Detroit bashing LGBT discrimination, please be notified that according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the term “dyke” originated “as a derogatory label for a masculine woman, and this usage still exists.” Shame on them. “However, some persons attempt to use it in a manner that they see as positive, or as a neutral synonym for lesbian,” and those persons include the Schmitts.”

First of all, it takes a certain brand of stupidity and hubris (on par with that demonstrated by the wackjobs at Amy’s Baking Company or Edward Smith, captain of the RMS Titanic) to assume that you can throw around slurs as if you belong to the slurred minority. This usually doesn’t end well. Ask Michael Richards.

Second of all, no matter what you’re trying to prove, you should probably find better source material than Wikipedia.

And third, if you’re going to make a seriously dumb statement, don’t bring the rest of your family down with you.

OUR TAKE

Schmitt wasn’t wrong to suggest that certain demographic groups prefer certain vehicles. Here at Gaywheels, we’ve often written about that phenomenon.

In fact, the idea that similar people gravitate toward similar products is a core principle in marketing. For example, women tend to prefer certain books and movies and hobbies, while men have their own tastes. This applies to autos, too: paint a car pink, and you can pretty much write off any potential male shoppers. These are broad generalizations of course, but there’s a kernel of truth to them.

No, Schmitt’s idiocy lies solely in his decision to use the charged word “dyke”. It’s an ugly slur, and like the equivalent “fag”, its use is appropriate only in certain contexts. Schmitt knew full well that his article wasn’t one of them, which is why his postscript justification seems so glib and halfhearted.

The fact that Schmitt used the slur to sensationalize an otherwise bland article about IIHS crash test ratings — and that he used it at a time when members of the LGBT community are still being bullied, beaten, and even killed for being themselves —  makes his offense that much worse. Unfortunately, his ploy paid off.

We applaud Lang for stepping down and wish him all the best in the future.

[Hat tip to former Gaywheels editor Joe Tralongo, plus Jalopnik and Jim Romenesko.]

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