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Who Killed the Electric Car? (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Just because a film is made by people I donít trust or respect doesnít mean that it doesnít tell the truth sometimes. This is narrated by Martin Sheen and is full of interviews with people who worked in the Clinton and Carter Administrations. Say what you will about any President, there has never been a more damaging Administration than Carterís, circa 1977-81. Then thereís Ralph Nader. I donít want to go into Ralph Nader.

But the people they are attacking include General Motors who will forever be near the head of the list of corporations that should go down in infamy (even though I drive their cars). GM is responsible for destroying the Los Angeles Red Car system, which, for the first half of the 20th Century, was the best electric mass rapid transit system in the world. GM bought it up and ripped out all the tracks, getting Los Angeles to build freeways instead and destroying the best city in the world, turning it into a smog factory, choking itself to death on traffic.

Just as I think that GM personifies corporate evil and malfeasance, I think that Martin Sheen and Ralph Nader personify political bad faith. So this film didnít offer me much to admire. I just donít trust the way the film was put together because I have no faith at all in the integrity of many of the people involved with the film.

This is a film about how GM developed and built the VM-1, allegedly the best electric car ever built. It had speed and range and it was a good looking car.  But, according to this film, GM conspired with crooked politicians and the oil companies, and refused to publicize the car. The people who drove it, many of whom are interviewed here, were in love with it. The film tells the story of how GM refused to renew their leases, collected all the cars, and secretly (well, not so secretly because the fans found out about it) crushed them in the Arizona desert.

Naturally, all the democrats are made to look good, like Clinton and Carter, and all the Republicans are made to look bad, like Ronald Reagan and Bush II. Even-handed this is not. But thatís what you get when you rely on ideologues to tell what could have been a good story. These people are so biased that they canít help but let their goofy political beliefs get in their way. It is pretty astonishing that they can make Carter, the worst of Presidents, look good and try to make Reagan, the best of Presidents, look bad. But, as a famous leftwing anchor man was fond of saying, thatís the way it is.

Given my belief in the corruptness of GM, I basically believe whatís in this movie. It is well made, even if it is a polemic. Forget the questionable credibility of the messengers, Itís a polemic that is probably mostly truthful.

 

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