We often say that many Toyota Prius hybrid owners and HUMMER drivers choose their cars for the same reason: They want to make a statement to other people about who they are.

Now our pals at Wired have uncovered a fascinating (if small) sociological study that parses how HUMMER owners view their vehicles. Even the soccer moms who get groceries in their HUMMER, it turns out, occupy a higher moral plain than the rest of us.

How can this be, you ask, given that the 2010 HUMMER H2 weighs more than three tons, looms large, ominous, and aggressive in any rear-view mirror, and isn't even rated for gas mileage by the EPA because it's designated a Class 3 truck?

Well, the 20 "U.S.-born and raised" HUMMER owners in the survey called their vehicles rolling representations of their beliefs. Turns out that criticism of HUMMERs as anti-social and eco-hostile (never mind just plain silly) reinforces their feelings of being under moral siege. That lets them become, in their own minds, the "moral protagonist who defends American national ideals."

And that HUMMER dealer who also sells handguns? Perfectly in line with the need to defend freedom of vehicular choice from the socialistic onslaught of tea-drinking, Prius-driving wimps.

It does  make us wonder, though. Instead of criticizing them, if green-car fans and eco-minded buyers all just started ignoring HUMMERs, would they go away?

Oh, wait. The market has already done that. HUMMER sales have been falling for years, and General Motors is selling the brand.

Which probably makes the few remaining buyers even more convinced they're the last surviving souls to uphold the American ideal of consuming whatever we want, whenever and wherever we choose, as long as we can pay for it. Or at least borrow for it.

It all seems...very three years ago. Doesn't it?