Recently named by Gizmodo as the second most viral person on the Internet (ahead of Ashton Kutcher!), Matt Drudge is the go-to guy for headlines guaranteed to feed red meat to the right-hand side of the U.S. political spectrum.
And he hates electric cars. Boy, does that man hate anything with a plug.
And if it's the "failed" Chevy Volt, from the bailed-out "Government Motors," that goes double.
UPDATE: The article you're reading was originally published Monday, December 20. Neatly proving our point, a day later, Drudge posted not one but two new anti-Volt headlines.
Amusingly, one is a video clip of Neil Cavuto of the Fox "News" Channel "interviewing" an "expert" from the notorious National Legal and Policy Center, which produces "studies" and "reports" with a bias against GM in general and the Volt specifically.
With a graphic design that smacks of 1998 and a great deal of bold-faced and underlined type, CAPITAL LETTERS, exclamation points !!!, and bright red copy, his eponymous Drudge Report is hard on the eyes but undeniably successful in propounding a very specific world view.
Unfortunately, one of the several skeletons hiding deep in the Drudge closet is that his Volt headlines are monumentally flawed jeremiads that don't come close to qualifying as journalism.
2012 Chevrolet Volt
Often using a single fact, conspicuously free of context--whether it concerns the global auto industry, consumer car-buying behavior, technology rollouts, or just plain old accuracy--most of them are meant to do only one thing: tear down the Volt to an audience that believes it's a failure and an example of everything that's wrong with the world today.
Oh, and it's all Obama's fault, by the way.
A simple topic search shows that Drudge has published a total of 12 headlines about the Volt, comprising links to 10 stories (the last two stories were repeated a day or two later). So let's go through them.
The most recent pair feel the most desperate, and by far the most laughable. Under the banner headline, "AUDI Chief on Chevy Volt: 'A car for idiots'," Drudge links to a story covering Audi chief Johan de Nysschen's comment about people who buy Volts.
Johan de Nysschen
There's just one problem: That comment was made more than two years ago, well before journalists had driven the production car, any actual Volts had gone on sale, and any cars had been purchased by real live--and very eager--human beings.
That's called grasping at straws.
"Gov't Motors," so very 2009
Then there are a pair of links to an Associated Press story discussing the potential failure mechanism that allowed a battery pack to catch fire--three weeks after the fact--after it and the Volt that contained it were destroyed in an NHTSA crash test.
2011 Chevrolet Volt during IIHS crash testing
Drudge's headline there? "BAILOUT: Gov't Motors offers to buy back Chevy Volts".
That's technically accurate (the "Government Motors" slur aside), though you would have to read fully nine paragraphs down to find the news that CEO Dan Akerson said GM would buy back Volts from any nervous owner.
Since then, GM says, "a few dozen" owners have requested loaner cars or asked GM to repurchase their Volts. Hardly a rush for the exits.
Good heavens, an accurate headline
Following that are two comparatively accurate headlines (though again with the "Govt' Motors" thing--isn't that just a little 2009, Matt?).
They cover GM's loaner-car offer to Volt owners and the news of a second battery pack fire, though you'd never know that fire was in a battery pack that had deliberately been wrecked. In a lab. By government employees.
2012 Chevrolet Volt
Moving deeper into the archives, we get to a screaming, all-caps headline about the original news that a battery pack in a Volt wrecked in a crash test had caught fire.
We compliment Drudge for actually including in his headline the crucial fact that the fire came three weeks after the crash. Or as one commenter quipped, "So I should make sure to get out of my wrecked Volt within three weeks?"
40 miles is not miles per gallon
Three more Drudge headlines just reinforce the point.
There's an intriguing link under the headline "114-year-old electric car gets the same mileage as the Chevy Volt". That's wrong; Drudge means range, not gas mileage. But, gee, what's a little technical inaccuracy when you're trying to make a political point?
President Obama inspects the 2011 Chevrolet Volt
The missing context, of course, is that while the 1896 Roberts electric car got up to 40 miles on electricity--as the Volt does--it certainly never did 80-plus mph at the same time. Nor did it have the comfort, safety equipment, smoothness, and features of the Volt. Things change over a century, though you'd not have known that via Drudge.
Then there's a shriek linking to the July sales results, in which Chevrolet sold just 125 Volts. Yep. They did. We provided the context: The factory was down for retooling. That, of course, didn't appear in the Drudge headline. Kind of like saying no Buick Electras were sold last year (because they didn't build any), no?
Volt set garage on fire !! (No, actually, it didn't)
And, finally, the single most misleading Volt headline Drudge posted: "Chevy Volt sparks garage fire." Which refers to the fire that destroyed a garage in Barkhamsted, Connecticut, occupied by a Volt and a homebrew electric-car conversion of a Suzuki.
2011 Chevrolet Volt destroyed in Barkhamsted, CT, garage fire; image from WTNH News 8 report
All reputable press outlets carefully worded their headlines to indicate that the Volt was being considered as one potential source of the fire. Some asked whether the Volt could have been the source?
Not Drudge. He dived right in there and claimed the Volt was the source of the fire.
Which, in fact, it wasn't, as subsequently determined by the local fire marshal.
Neither was a second Volt that was destroyed in a North Carolina garage fire the source of that blaze either.
In the end, of course, Drudge's mission isn't to provide responsible commentary or even journalism. It's to draw traffic to his site amongst an audience eager to think ill of certain people, entities, products, and causes, and to support others. He does that with headlines that are often inflammatory and sometimes simply wrong.
President Obama inspects the 2011 Chevrolet Volt
Why? Because the Chevrolet Volt, to his way of thinking, must be bad because it's from a bad company (that same "Gov't Motors") supported by bad people (the auto bailout team, backed by President Obama, and probably Democrats in general).
No experience behind the wheel?
To the best of our knowledge, Matt Drudge has never actually driven a Chevy Volt. (Matt: If you have, please contact us--we'll change this story to reflect that.) We suspect GM would be more than happy to loan him one, so he could experience electric drive for himself.
But that might cause a bit of cognitive dissonance, once it didn't explode, proved to be a smooth, quiet, well-performing and safe ride. Not to mention, of course, the Volt owners eager to tell him just how great they think the car is.
And how little gasoline they've used. And the oil that didn't have to be imported to feed their car. And the very low cost of running on grid electricity.
All too much?
We think that might be all too much for the delicate Drudge.
Matt Drudge is, of course, far from the only anti-Volt commentator. Rush Limbaugh does it too. But we'll save his inaccuracies for another day.
For an example, by the way, of a calm but persistent Volt owner using actual facts to reduce a fact-free commentator to twitching irrelevance, see Eric Rotbard's epic takedown of Neil Cavuto on Fox News.