Jim Farley is Allowed to Race, and The Detroit Free-Press is Allowed to Write About It – The Truth About Cars

Posted By on October 24, 2020

Car Twitter is a weird, wonderful online place, but sometimes bad takes bubble up. And theres a double-whammy of bad takery floating around this afternoon.

Take number one: Ford CEO Jim Farley is taking an unnecessary risk by racing cars that could hurt Ford should an accident leave him dead or too injured to work/lead the company, according to some experts interviewed by theDetroit Free Pressfor a story by Jamie LaReau.

Take number two: TheFreep and/or Jamie are dumb for publishing/writing this article.

I do agree with the logic behind the arguments in favor of Farley racing, but that doesnt make theFreepor LaReau dumb. Its a reporter writing about what experts think. More on that in a sec.

The logic is this: Farley should be allowed to race because hes a car guy and enthusiast and its arguably better to have a car enthusiast running a car company because a car enthusiast is more likely to understand a unique industry in which many purchase decisions are driven by emotion and/or if Ford is run by a car guy it means there will always be a place for performance cars in the companys model lineup. Besides, the risk is low.

As I said above, in general, I agree with that, even though its not a given that a car guy will do a better job running a car company and/or keep performance cars alive. Just that its more likely. And racing today, even in vintage cars, is generally safe, although the risk of death and injury still does exist.

But to castigate theFreepfor writing this story is a bit ridiculous.

Theres a kill the messenger critique of journalism that has existed for the past five years (and probably before that, but its been more noticeable since you-know-who and some of his partisan enablers took up arms against media that was fair and honest but critical). Its not just relegated to politics Elon Musk has rallied Tesla fanboys against media the same way, too.

In brief, this critique usually presents itself in one of two circumstances. Circumstance one: The subject of critical reporting deflects by accusing the outlet/journalist of bias and/or incompetence instead of addressing the criticism. Circumstance two: Journalist/outlet interviews a person/expert or multiple persons/experts, the reader doesnt like what the interviewee(s) say, and instead of critiquing those who were interviewed and their claims, the reader moans that the outlet shouldnt have published a story that dares to present an argument they dont agree with even if the outlet isnt the one making the argument.

This is an example of the latter. Whats frustrating to me is that some of the annoyed Twitterati arent just car enthusiasts theyre automotive journalists or people who work in the automotive media in some capacity.

In other words, people who should know better.

It would be one thing if LaReau was writing an opinion piece and got flayed for having a take that most people disagreed with. Its an occupational hazard of writing op-eds. Yall have flayed me a few times and thats fine. You write an opinion column, you risk blowback.

But this is a feature story, not arguing either side. At least, LaReau doesnt appear to be arguing either side she quotes those who defend Farleys racing, as well as those who think its not a good idea.

Theres also nothing in the piece that isnt really true. Racing is risky, though far less so than it used to be. And none of the arguments from either side are way off-base. Regardless if you think Farley should race or not, all the arguments are valid.

To be clear, I am not defending LaReau for any personal reason as small as this industry can be, I am not sure Ive ever met her. Id disclose if I knew her, or recuse myself from writing about this.

Has the discourse fallen this far? Its bad enough that we flame each other, and cherry-pick facts, and fall for mis/disinformation, and that were often too tribal. Too often, people care more about owning and destroying someone in a discussion/debate to worry about being intellectually honest and reasonable.

All that makes for terrible discourse. And now were attacking writers and outlets for merely presenting an argument we mildly disagree with? Instead of attacking the argument itself?

This isnt some free speech/First Amendment/cancel culture rant. The First Amendment doesnt apply here, and there are some takes that do deserve to be shamed and scorned, and some takes that dont deserve a platform (Holocaust denial comes to mind). I also think people are far too quick to scream cancel culture when someone gets deserved blowback for writing something truly terrible, especially if its bigoted in some way.

Obviously, tweeting out that theFreepshouldnt have published this piece doesnt rise to the level of screaming at some comic who said something transphobic or racist. But its still odd!

Why is so hard to argue that Farley should be allowed to race without suggesting theFreepshouldnt publish a relatively harmless examination of how big companies insure CEOs who indulge in risky hobbies during their free time?

Its actually an interesting dive into a part of the business Ive never given much thought to before.

If you think some insurance experts (who, may I remind you, work for companies with a vested interest in NOT seeing their clients hurt pursuing risky fun during their off hours) are ninnies because they think its a bad idea for Farley to race, thats fine.

Just dont argue that theFreepcant give those ninnies an interview because youre such a ninny yourself that the mere suggestion that Farley hang up the Pilotis gives you the willies.

Yeah, thats right. Dont be a ninny.

[Image: Ford]


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Jim Farley is Allowed to Race, and The Detroit Free-Press is Allowed to Write About It - The Truth About Cars

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