This is an installment of Reading Reddit, a Slate pop-up blog about Reddit.
You can tell a lot about a person from the car that she drives. Do you tool around town in a pickup truck with a snowplow on the front? You are probably looking to make some extra money during the winter! Have you driven a Volvo since 1985? You may well be my mother. Is your car plastered front to back with incoherent and aggressive bumper stickers touting the impending end of days? The odds are good that you’re a fan of the right-wing multimedia charlatan Alex Jones.
Jones and his Infowars nutritional supplement sales empire are having a bit of a rough moment, since the bellicose conspiracist has recently been banned from several social media and podcast platforms due to his hostile and hateful behavior. But though his visibility may have dipped of late, his ideas will never wholly vanish as long as there are roads for his weirdest listeners to drive on. And all across America, Infowarriors are driving cars, trucks, and vans clad with bumper stickers touting allegiance to Jones that help spread his crackpot theories. And yet precious little media attention is devoted to documenting the sorts of vehicles that Jones’ listeners drive and the array of bumper stickers those vehicles carry.
And so I was very glad to encounter the subreddit r/InfowarriorRides: a Smithsonian for pictures of opinionated cars and a helpful field guide to the motor vehicles of Infowars. InfowarriorRides collects and displays photographs of vehicles that have been excessively decorated with conspiratorial right-wing flair. The cars are basically what you’d get if Pimp My Ride starred the clinically insane. Although I cannot irrefutably prove that these vehicles’ owners listen to Alex Jones, I think it’s safe to assume that they are at least familiar with the man’s work. Who else would so avidly deface their own vehicles with proof of their hatred for the deep state?
InfowarriorRides is engrossing, hilarious, and depressing all at once. It succinctly explains why so many Trump die-hards seem so resistant to logic, and why banning Alex Jones from the public sphere will not serve to squelch his particular brand of hysteria. Indeed it might have the opposite effect, at least in some circles: The people will not be silenced, and if social platforms try to shut them up, then they gladly will take their messages to the streets, highways, roundabouts, and drive-through lanes of our great country.
You should definitely check out the subreddit for yourself, but until you do I’ll give you a small taste of what you can expect to find there. Here is a relatively subdued example of the sorts of cars you’ll find on InfowarriorRides, featuring four distinct plugs for Infowars, plus the site’s web address in triplicate, just in case you are moved to do some web browsing while stuck behind this joker in traffic:
Here’s a Massachusetts Infowarrior who doubled down on his vehicular messaging efforts by procuring a vanity license plate that apprises fellow drivers of the existence of chemtrails:
As you may have noticed, there are a lot of vans, minivans, and station wagons featured on InfowarriorRides. What sort of people listen to Alex Jones? I don’t know for sure, but they seem to prefer cars that are roomy. The bigger the bumper, the more fluoridation-related stickers that can fit there, I suppose. The following station wagon has taken that philosophy to an extreme, sacrificing driver’s-side visibility on the altar of messaging:
You will note that while the above car does not explicitly mention Alex Jones or Infowars, there is enough going on there to infer that the driver is a listener. The same is true of the following car, which takes a less sticker-based but still high-impact approach to messaging:
Though most of the crackpottery featured on InfowarriorRides is of the right-wing variety, the subreddit does occasionally post shots of left-wing tricked-out cars, such as this one posted under the cheeky headline “The other side of the aisle. SlateWarriorRides?” (Yes, “Slate” as in this website.) Reader, if this is actually your car, then I feel bad for you—not because you can’t see out of your rear windshield, but because you are a Packers fan:
The stickers resemble solved puzzles from an alternate-universe Wheel of Fortune hosted by Robert Reich’s Facebook page. Anyway, there are a lot more where these came from, and if you are bored you could do worse than to spend a few minutes scrolling through the subreddit and weeping for the fate of our country—or if you prefer, marveling at your fellow Americans’ great skill at destroying their cars’ resale value. The dominant tone of InfowarriorRides is certainly one of amusement, not outrage: The contributors there show an affection for wacky car decorations of all sorts, not just cars that promote Jones’ dumb theories.
There is a long and proud history of Americans using their cars to broadcast their psychoses, one that long predates the Trump administration, and the vehicles spotlighted on InfowarriorRides fit right into that tradition. In less politically fraught times, perhaps it would be easier to view these vehicles dispassionately, as examples of four-wheeled folk art. Maybe, in time, I will come to see them that way. For now, they just make me glad that I take public transit.