The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, May 21, 2002  

The Mini is “Cute” and “Cool”

We’re not sure who, if anyone, is falling for Norah Vincent’s latest incarnation as an expert on terrorism and a defender of democracies. We most assuredly are not.

Vincent's new-found conservative (and we suspect disingenuous) positions on abortion, feminism, and the “liberal media bias” have led to a cushy job at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a right-wing Washington think tank -- though evidence that significant cogitation occurs at the FDD is scant indeed -- and a nationally syndicated column, one we most frequently encounter while reading the Los Angeles Times.

(Note: The FDD was created in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. The organization, according to its Mission Statement, “conducts research and education on international terrorism -- the most serious security threat to the United States and other free, democratic nations.”)

Vincent’s subject today in defense of democracy and in opposition to global terrorism? Sport Utility Vehicles. Yes, SUVs, a minor matter to which Vincent has attached the weighty title, “A Small Idea Whose Time has Come Again.”

The focus of Vincent’s treatise on SUVs is a vehicle known as the “Mini Cooper,” produced by Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) and modeled after the Morris Mini Minor, a British vehicle that found a small following in the 1960s.

The connection between the Mini and terrorism, let alone defending democracies, according to Vincent, is that the original version was developed in response to a minor energy “crisis” in Great Britain following the 1956 Suez War. Thus, and we're on our own here, since the U.S. is facing or may face in the future face another energy crisis in this country -- a point about which Vincent is characteristically vague -- it would behoove Americans to trade down to the Mini, which requires less fuel than the typical SUV. Now, we may be getting this all wrong, since Vincent nowhere connects U.S. national security with the country's consumption of foreign oil, but we’re pretty sure this is where she meant to go with this argument.

Beyond the vague geo-political ramifications of the Mini, we learn from Vincent that the vehicle is “cute” and “cool.” Write the senior fellow at the FDD: “[T]his jazzed-up version of the classic is so, well, cute[.] Now, you may ask yourself how something that costs $16,850 can be considered cute. Remember, we are talking about the funny-looking car British comedian Rowan Atkinson drove as the dorky Mr. Bean. Yes, Minis are comic. But cool? Even Volkswagen’s retro-chic New Beetle, which is cute enough to hug, never quite made it to cool.”

But according to Vincent, the Mini is “cool.” By way of evidence, she reports that a prospective buyer of the S series of the vehicle will have to wait anywhere from six to eight months. And it looks nice. “When you [sic] look at the vaguely Barbarella interior -- all-leather with a few bulbous thingamajigs [Ed.: Huh?] -- you [sic] feel sure that an absurdly gadgeted version of this toaster will be featured in the next James Bond film,” Vincent asserts. “Or maybe Austin Powers,” she adds, presumably for yuks.

What’s behind the alleged popularity of the Mini? Vincent responds -- with some of the most tortured syntax we have encountered since, well, the seventh grade -- as such: “Well, first off, Minis did used to be hip among a certain crowd. John Lennon, Peter Sellers and Twiggy all drove them, and Mary Quant named her famous skirt after them[.]” A major selling point, this, particularly among the coveted 21-35-year-old set, of which we would guess something less than 10 percent could identify all four of the “cool” Brits Vincent cites.

Taking the matter a step further -- by which we mean, far, far off the deep end -- Vincent adds, “[W]e’ve always been slaves to Anglophilic fashion. Think of it as British invasion redux.”

Speak for yourself, Miss Vincent. “Anglophilic fashion” is a phrase that is not only ungrammatical but, were it corrected, also an oxymoron, and an obvious one at that. Moreover, we had hoped the last of the British cultural invasions -- that which brought to American shores the allegedly brilliant editorial talents of, among others, Tina Brown, Harold Evans, James Truman, Anna Wintour, John O’Sullivan, Mark Steyn, Andrew Sullivan, and the late Liz Tilberis -- was behind us. (We list Tilberis only for purposes of illustration. Among the lot, Tilberis by far was the most gifted, the most elegant, the classiest, and the most praiseworthy.)

Vincent is under the impression that aging baby boomers will take to the Mini, an opinion that betrays complete ignorance of the auto-buying habits of Americans. “The boomers are squarely in the midst of their midlife crises,” offers Vincent, arriving at this remarkable conclusion about six or seven years after the fact. “What could be more appropriate?”

Well, now that the baby-boomers are moving beyond the mid-life crises into which Vincent has ignorantly placed them, we think a large four-door sedan with a smooth ride would be more appropriate, this being the preferred mode of transportation of the 50-plus and, even more so, the 60-plus crowd of mature drivers.

“You [sic] can imagine enviro-friendly [sic] Bill Clinton driving one of these with Buddy II in the passenger seat, head thrust ecstatically out the window, canine cheeks flapping in the breeze,” adds Vincent. “Now just pipe in the Moody Blues and you’ve [sic] got yourself [sic] a multimillion-dollar ad campaign for the Democratic National Committee,” she concludes, in a stream of consciousness for which we would welcome clarification.

Like most of Vincent’s essays, this latest endeavor is an embarrassment. An embarrassment to Vincent herself, the Jewish World Review (the web site of which is carrying the article), the Los Angeles Times, which runs Vincent’s copy with astonishing frequency, and whatever other outlets have been duped into accepting her junk.

Judith Lewis, writing in the LA Weekly in early March of this year, beat us to this perfectly adept observation: “Vincent writes…with all the depth and originality of a high school newspaper’s gossip column. And yet she commands frequent space in one of the nation’s largest urban daily newspapers, the Los Angeles Times.”

We will not rest until this absurdity is corrected.

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