No Parking — Lithuanian Style

I’ve had a couple of complaints about a story in the 7 August 2011 issue. Let’s start with the story:

No Parking

Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, has found a solution to the city’s ongoing problem with illegally parked cars in his city. “Mayor Zuokas wanted his message to be loud and clear that the city will not tolerate brazen and disrespectful behavior by drivers who disobey parking rules,” said his spokeswoman, Irma Juskenaite. “The mayor hopes that he will not have to repeat his performance,” she said, “although he says that he is prepared to do so.” The “performance” came when Zuokas drove a tank over an illegally parked Mercedes Benz. He then posted the video on his YouTube page, along with his identification of other illegally parked high-end vehicles. (MS/New York Times) …It’s definitely more of a deterrent than a ticket.

Premium subscriber Caleb in Iowa wrote, “If I’m any good at fortune telling, you just caused a heap load of people to go google for the tank crushing video.” He then provided the URL. Here it is for you:

As I post this, it has more than 2.9 million views.

We Protest

The criticisms came in on the “Errata” page:

Error Report: The piece “No Parking” makes it sound as if the mayor is some wild-eyed crazy man. In fact, the car was deliberately placed there (in a bicycle lane) so that he could drive over it to publicize the problem of illegal parking. No one lost their car over this. —John, Missouri

Error Report: The “No Parking” story is not true which is pretty obvious from watching the viral video. It is also not a new story. I am a touch surprised that you let this slip through. Otherwise, keep up the good work. —Mike, Ontario, Canada

My Response, Short Version

A publicity stunt, you say? Duhhhhh, really?!

My Response, Long Version

I can’t quite take responsibility for how someone takes a story (“makes it sound”?!) I don’t see anything in the story that says some poor citizen of Lithuania “lost his car” in the stunt, or that we view the mayor as “some wild-eyed crazy man.”

Of course it’s a stunt: I chose to not insult the intelligence of my audience by pointing out the obvious when I edited the story by Mike Straw (“MS” in the attribution). Mike had the good sense not to either.

That there were multiple high-end professional video cameras set up to capture the crushing makes it pretty damned obvious that it was a planned event. Or does anyone really think the mayor has a “tank” (actually, an armored personnel carrier) in his parking space at all times, and video crews following him around?

Mayor Zuokas is obviously a savvy politician. Would destroying a luxury car be a politically savvy thing to do? Before you answer, consider: would a powerless peasant own such a car, or would it likely be owned by a rich and powerful person who could make big trouble for a local politician? So would the mayor destroy such a car without knowing who it belonged to? Of course not. It probably belonged to him — or (much more likely) a supporter who provided it for the purpose of this stunt. Or, as Mike emphasized in the story, this “performance”. What other clues did you need?!

To say it’s “not true” in the face of the video is pretty ridiculous. Which part, exactly, didn’t happen, Mike?

True is a Weekly, Yaknow

As for it not being a “new” story, the taping happened July 30; it was uploaded to YouTube on August 2 and broke in the media very quickly thereafter. The very next issue of True would be — yep — August 7, which is when it ran.

Yeah, it came out in the free edition on August 12 …clearly dated as the “7 August” issue in the subject line and atop the issue body. If you want your issues sooner, you have to upgrade.

Mayor Zuokas literally put Lithuania on the map for millions of people. (In case you don’t know, it’s on the Baltic Sea, with Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east, and Poland to the south. Its population is 3.2 million, and the capital and largest city is, indeed, Vilnius. It has been a member of the E.U. since 2004.)

Far from being a “wild-eyed crazy man,” I would not at all be surprised to see Zuokas elected president of his country someday — and this stunt will surely be a factor.

Meanwhile, I’ll bet that there are fewer illegally parked cars in the city. Win, win, and win!

Note: Be sure to read the comments on this entry. The second one is a response from John in Missouri, and the 11th is from Mike in Canada.

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53 Comments on “No Parking — Lithuanian Style

  1. It’s always bothered me how fines are commonly assessed in this country. A $50 fine against a poor person can force weeks of austerity. That Mercedes owner OTOH (and yes, I saw that it’s a stunt, but it’s a good opportunity to make a point) can probably let the ticket go to warrant before paying it and he will still likely experience no real hardship unless his mate finds out he spent a few hundred dollars for a latte because he was too lazy to find a legitimate parking space.

    Crushing is rather drastic for this offense, but it at least is a somewhat egalitarian application of official force. Fines should ideally assessed on a percentage of income, not some arbitrary number. That said, cool stunt.

    Some countries do assess fines based on a percentage of income. Including Sweden, if I recall correctly. It’s a fascinating idea; it’s neither deterrence nor punishment if the fine amounts to pocket change. -rc

  2. To those who had not seen the video, there was no way they would know there were “multiple high-end professional video cameras set up to capture the crushing…” And nowhere did I mention a “powerless peasant” in my criticism. I suppose it’s a case of telling the truth, the whole, truth and nothing but the truth. But that doesn’t make much of a story, does it? I’ve been a follow of “This Is True” for many years, but I think you’ve lost your touch and are becoming a cranky old man, belittling anyone who questions your perfection. (“A publicity stunt, you say? Duhhhhh, really?!”) I will defend your right to becomes this, but I am just sorry to see it happening.

    Let’s see what other readers have to say about it, John. Even without seeing the video, it’s still incredibly obvious, for all the other reasons stated. It’s all about thinking first, reacting second — which is what I’ve been pushing people to do for years. You didn’t, and you were caught out as “the fool” (as your email address puts it). Yet it’s my fault? Please. -rc

  3. I don’t think it’s that unreasonable that people took the story at face value.

    Yes, it would be a lame and stupid move for that mayor to randomly run over illegally parked cars. Yes, it would be an extreme and uncalled for overreaction. BUT “This is True” is constantly reporting on stories of people who do just that: people who do lame, stupid things, people who go to extreme measures and have uncalled for overreactions.

    It seems to me that a major theme of “This is True” is telling stories that seem unbelievable but are actually true. Therefore it isn’t fair to chastise people for believing an outrageous story.

    You miss the point entirely. The story is true: what was described did happen. It was even described as a “performance.” Is it really too much to ask for people to think before complaining that the story is “not true,” “makes it sound as if the mayor is some wild-eyed crazy man,” etc.? -rc

  4. I’ve been a True reader for years. I don’t think, however that insulting your readers because they disagree with you is very professional. Furthermore, many of us believed that you didn’t slant stories for more sensationalism. The whole point behind True was that you didn’t have to, the world was messed up enough already.

    I’ve enjoyed True. I can find these stories myself though, and I’d rather do that than be a member of a list where readers are called idiots and fools. Perhaps you’re having a bad day and are taking it out on the wrong people. I don’t know. If not, perhaps it’s time you hung it up. Either way I’ve read True for years, but am unsubscribing.

    Where, exactly, do I call anyone a “fool” or “idiot” on this page? Right: neither word appears here, except where I quoted one reader’s email address — he was calling himself a fool. If you have to lie to make your point, it’s not a very good point.

    Further, John in Missouri was a Premium subscriber when the question was asked whether readers should be “exempt” from being called out. Read the readers’ comments to learn what they responded.

    But yeah: I think you’re a total fool for unsubscribing over this. It’s called “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” — you may want to look that up. It derives from a German proverb, “das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten”. The earliest record of this phrase is in 1512, in Narrenbeschwörung. Translation: “Appeal to Fools”. -rc

  5. If someone disagrees you tell them they missed the point, and condescendingly remark that people need to think before complaining. Perhaps we simply disagree, and did not “miss the point.” We got the point and did not see it the same way. Perhaps you did not clearly communicate that this was staged, and that is why people did not perceive this as a story about a staged event. You keep citing the word “performance” as though that clears it all up and proves that the complainers are idiots who didn’t think hard enough. You have a very educated audience, and should give them more credit. The word “performance” is often used loosely to describe actions. Please consider that your story may have been a bit too vague. Like Sharon of SC, I am a long time reader, but I don’t know that I will continue to subscribe.

    You still miss the point. You say I should give my “very educated audience more credit” — yet that’s exactly what we did. My writer didn’t insult their intelligence by pointing out an absurdly obvious publicity stunt was …an absurdly obvious publicity stunt. It’s because my readers are intelligent that they demanded that I not spare them when they do something stupid themselves. Calling this story “not true” is, indeed, stupid, since the described events did happen — you can watch it happen on this very page, and before this page existed the story told you where to find the video. It is similarly stupid to think the politician had no political gain in mind when he did it — and had it recorded for posting to YouTube. Again, think, damn it, before posting again. It’s not too much to ask of “highly educated” readers! -rc

  6. I think the confusion came from a single line in the story: “The ‘performance’ came when Zuokas drove a tank over an illegally parked Mercedes Benz.”

    The words “illegally parked” certainly made me think that the car was parked there by a citizen, and not the mayor or a person in on the stunt. If it was a legal performance, then the car couldn’t really be said to be illegally parked.

    As soon as I saw the video I realized that it was staged. I never considered the story to be misleading or wrong. I just read it in a certain way that clearly wasn’t what was intended.

    The car was, in fact, illegally parked in the bike lane. -rc

  7. I’m with you on this one. I hadn’t seen the video until just now, but it sure didn’t sound like he was driving around in a Sherman flattening every car in the city.

    I will concede the point about “several” high-end cameras…I saw one. But, the editing, the quality of the shots, the quality of the sound…all point to a professionally shot video. This was not some random anger-tinged political stunt. It was just a political stunt, as you mentioned. Add in the fact that the seemingly major street is empty…how did THAT happen? It was planned, obviously.

    I’ve disagreed with you many times, and told you so. You always respond with your thoughts, but you’ve never insulted me. Possibly, that’s because my points are made with some sort of logic. I never threaten to unsub, either. Great story, great follow-up, too bad for those who don’t think things through.

    There are clearly at least two video cameras, as the video shows one of them. Thus, obviously, there has to be more than one. Plus, of course, there are different angles….

    I’m always fine with differing opinions, but I refuse to submit to blackmail. If I won’t sell out for a low-cost subscription, I sure as hell won’t sell out for a freebie subscription. It’s rather insulting for people to infer that I will. -rc

  8. It’s fascinating to me that even when you clearly point out people aren’t thinking, they come back for more, and again show that they are not, in fact, thinking. I agree that the threats to unsubscribe are blackmail, and I’d think very little of you if you bowed to such silly threats. To not point out the illogic of your own readers would cause me to lose faith in you too. I applaud your integrity.

    I hadn’t seen the video until just now, but it was, as you say, obviously a political stunt. But I didn’t need the video to know it. I actually snorted when I saw Mike repeated the word “performance” in quotes. If that doesn’t give readers a clue, then they ARE stupid!

    A few years ago, I wrote to you complaining about a story. Your reply was brief, but it pointed out where I was off in my thinking: I was too close to the story emotionally to see its humor and truth. Your response stung a little, but unlike “Jenny from Sonoma” and “Sharon, SC”, I took it to heart and thought about it, and saw you were right. I stepped back and saw that everyone else in the world could see what I couldn’t. I had a choice: whimper and cry and stomp away (unsubscribe), or rise to your challenge. THANK YOU for not backing down, and for taking the time to reply. I’m a better person for it, unlike Jenny and Sharon. How sad for them, and for those around them, for refusing to rise to your challenge to think before opening their mouths.

    I used to be a proud Premium subscriber. I’m now a proud Premium subscriber FOR LIFE. Don’t ever stop.

    I can’t say I won’t ever stop, but I have no plans to yet! I looked for your earlier complaint, but I didn’t find it, or my reply. Still, I’m hugely gratified if I helped you to grow a little. We need more thinking, less reacting. Thanks for proving this is worth the effort. -rc

  9. People are saying Randy’s “cranky” like it’s a bad thing! With the nature of Randy’s job, that is scouring the news wires to read about how humanity behaves on a day to day basis, I don’t blame him for being a bit jaded and bitter. People never “unsubscribed” from H.L. Mencken and Ambrose Bierce, yet their curmudgeonly nature was well-known, and that’s why people liked them and read them. Mark Twain remained famous for over 100 years from his death because of his lovable irascibleness. Characters like Frasier’s Martin Crane and Corner Gas’ Oscar Leroy endear millions because of their world-weary crankiness. That’s the kind of personal, human touch I like from Randy’s writing. If he was chipper and upbeat after reading all these stories, it’s only then I’d start to wonder at what he’s become.

    Far be it for me to object to anyone comparing me to Mencken, Bierce, or Twain! But I’m far from cranky. I’ve said before that I’m not a pessimist, but rather a frustrated optimist. Far from hating letters of objection, I consider them part of the entertainment. Still, debate is healthy for society: I don’t want sheep following me, I want the citizens of the world to think, talk with others, and act against what they find wrong. Viva the thinkers! -rc

  10. I don’t comment often here, but every once in a while I have a thought that I feel like sharing, so here goes:

    Upon my first reading, the original article certainly seemed to me to be worded as if the story was not about a staged event. Quotes like Irma Juskenaite’s go a long way toward achieving this general feeling, along with the previously mentioned idea that TRUE has covered stranger things in the past. However, when a story seems to be making a (sort of) democratically elected official out to be a “wild-eyed crazy man” I’m likely to look into it myself, as John did, though that’s probably where our paths diverge.

    As has been pointed out, anyone who looks at that video cannot possibly believe it was anything but staged (well, I suppose I probably shouldn’t say “anyone”).

    After looking at the video (currently 2nd hit on Google search of Arturas Zuokas, not difficult to find), I re-read the TRUE article, and totally got the joke. John, by all evidence, left out that last part.

    I think this is part of what Randy means when he asks his readers to think before simply reacting. Instead of letting himself in what I found to be a very clever bit of TRUE wit, it appears as if he chose to assume (against all evidence) that Randy and his staff were trying to trick the readers, or else were duped themselves.

    As long as the intent is not to deceive, sometimes it’s like John said, “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…doesn’t make much of a story.” Sometimes finding it out on your own makes the experience much richer.

  11. I never saw the video (still haven’t), as I’m not fond of “video” news. But I’d heard of the incident and didn’t think much of it either way. Certainly there HAD to have been a stunt in there somehow; otherwise, shooting jaywalkers would be a legitimate deterrent as well.

    Also, and though Randy hasn’t needn’t my defense in nearly 18 years of publication, I still have to point out that he didn’t dig this story out of obscurity. It was posted on AP and the NY Times, so blame THEM. All he did was re-tell it. Unsubscribe? Get real, Fool! I enjoy the entertainment at an extremely low price.

  12. I wrote to you about the story because it is not the type of story that normally appears in “This is True”. I didn’t expect that I would be then sneered at as a humorless moron incapable of recognizing an obvious PR stunt. Live and learn!

    I quote you here:

    “To say it’s “not true” in the face of the video is pretty ridiculous. Which part, exactly, didn’t happen, Mike?”

    That’s a bit of a silly question. May as well ask me about a Harry Potter movie. The whole U-Tube video is a fiction.

    My turn! When was the last time This Is True put up a story as a main item which was, obviously or not so obviously, a load of old boots? Very out of character, Randy!

    All the stories have something weird about them. Every single one. This is far from the first one about a publicity stunt. There’s nothing unusual about this story’s treatment. -rc

  13. I originally read the story quickly on my Blackberry and thought the guy drove over a real person’s car. However, it was obvious it was a publicity stunt meant to be a deterrent. The fact that it was a completely staged event makes it less of a deterrent but still interesting and true. My “serves you right” thought to the owner of the car doesn’t work anymore and that makes me sad. 🙂

  14. I read this page the moment you tweeted the address, but decided to wait to comment, because I wanted to see if your complainers responded. This morning, going through the comments, I’m deeply disappointed.

    Yes, they commented, but they refused your request (dare I say demand?) to think, first. John seems to say that it was impossible to know it was a publicity stunt without having seen the video, so the story let him down. Sorry, John, but Randy’s right: it was totally obvious from just the story. I mean, how could it NOT be a stunt? You showed your (lack of) intelligence with the “Error Report,” and you showed it again in your response.

    But Mike REALLY takes the cake, still denying that this happened, and comparing the video to the Harry Potter films. Really, Mike? You think the mayor’s video is computer-generated special effects? Randy’s word “obliviot” really fits you to a T. I thought your Error Report was silly, but now I understand you’re simply a moron too.

    Randy, you’re right: these letters are a fantastic part of your content. Thanks for not backing down: that’s what got society into this mess in the first place, with teachers and parents letting kids get away with anything if they yelled loud enough. We as a society MUST stand up and say something is wrong when it is, and “This is True” is the only publication I see which consistently does this. Keep it up, and I’ll keep reading.

  15. I’d like to add two comments here:

    1) I’d seen the video before reading about it in True, so I already knew it was a publicity stunt, but the way the story was written up, it struck me as odd — it seemed to be saying that it *wasn’t* a stunt. Comes down to how people use & interpret language, really — and there certainly seem to be plenty of readers who read it the same way I did. (And believe it or not, I saw some heated debates elsewhere on the ‘net about whether or not it was a stunt or ‘for real’!)

    2) Wow, some people are pretty thin-skinned! What’s the old saying? “Be slow to anger and quick to forgive”? The internet version seems to be more like “Be quick to anger and faster to post”! I’ve noticed myself falling for it a few times, at which point I sit back, take a deep breath, and make liberal use of the delete key… 🙂

  16. I’m not the brightest reader for This is True, and so I wasn’t really aware it was a spoof. However, I did think it was an excellent idea. Here in the US, Mayors could run over the cars illegally parked in the Handicap spaces. That would be a good idea.

  17. Just something for you and Keleigh; Finland once hit the president of Nokia with a $103,000 fine for doing 46.5 mph in a 30 mph zone. They definitely believe in using one’s income as a basis for the fine. You can find the story here. It happened about 10 years ago.

  18. Hmm, I guess I have a different take. I had heard about the story before my Premium “This is True” arrived; and then I read about it in “this is true”. While I’m usually pretty good at spotting stunts, I did take it on its “face value”… the some person not associated with the Mayor or the mayor’s staff or the video crew had parked a car illegally and that the mayor somehow wangled a tank from the military and drove over it to make the point that one shouldn’t park illegally. Of course, he’d have a film crew to drive home the point to other illegal parkers. I didn’t see the story as depicting a “madman” or anything, although I did wonder about the city’s liability to the owner of the car.

    Maybe that means I didn’t think it through enough… but I see no reason to trash Randy over the article; but I also think that given the way the event was reported on by multiple media sources, I don’t think those of us who thought it was “real” — i.e. the car was not placed there by the mayor or his staff or whatever — especially when we didn’t watch the video — are necessarily fools either. A little too quick to take it on face value, perhaps, but not totally thoughtless.

  19. Hey, at least you’ve got people unsubscribing for something other than you being “anti-Christian”. 🙂

    Though I do have to agree with some other commenters here that the wording “Zuokas drove a tank over an illegally parked Mercedes Benz” gave me the impression (w/o seeing the video) that some “real” illegally parked car was the “victim”.

    Yes, I understand that the car was “illegally parked”. But it appears to have been placed there as part of the stunt, as opposed to some car that had been chosen from the selection of “real” illegally parked cars, if you get my distinction.

  20. I admit that I read the story writeup and didn’t get that this was completely staged. I’ve read of so many outrageous things in True that it just didn’t register as an out-and-out PR stunt in my mind. Looking back now, it is obvious. The clues are there and no sane person would smash a car over a parking violation. Chalk one up for me not paying attention.

    Now that I know the full story, it doesn’t fit my narrow view of the type of weird news story I’ve come to expect and love from a publication that I enjoy and respect. That said, it’s not something that I feel is worth getting upset about and writing to the editor. I won’t be unsubscribing either, because at least 95% of the stories make me laugh at and/or think about the human condition. With that kind of track record, I’m willing to ignore the 5% or less that don’t rise to my expectations.

    I don’t begrudge anyone their right to voice their opinion about the way this story was handled, but to expect other people to agree and then stomp off when they don’t is ridiculous. Hopefully, by Randy posting these exchanges, someone may learn that there is more than one way to look at things and just because someone else has a different opinion doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

  21. I also failed to understand that this publicity stunt was intelligently planned. Note that it is not unusual to have not so intelligent mayors of cities.

    I guessed incorrectly that this was another report of a not so political savvy politician.

    Now that I know that this publicity stunt was intelligently planned, I have a different expectation of the consequences of it.

  22. I’ve learned recently that you can NEVER assume that common sense will prevail, even when watching such an obviously-staged video as the one you are talking about.

    I was recently in a forum discussion regarding the Army Sergeant who was killed when he was ejected from a roller coaster, even though he had no legs and the coaster used a lap bar as restraint. A large number of people said there is no way he could have known that riding in such a coaster without legs would be dangerous.

    If THAT isn’t obvious enough, apparently nothing is. I think it’s true that as soon as someone is called out on failing in common sense, they mostly tend to just run away from the argument (as some of your readers appear to have done), rather than just admit they were wrong.

  23. I skipped over this story in the True email, because I already knew that it was staged. With that knowledge, the story was just not interesting. Perhaps the video is funny — but I have not watched it yet, and likely will not.

    What you include in True is of course up to you, and the reason that I subscribe is that I am quite satisfied with your choices. In this case, I would tend to disagree, however. Covering a publicity stunt that went off exactly as intended just does not seem to fit in this list. Now, if the mayor had set up the stunt, and then had run over the wrong car, that would have been True-worthy. This story was fairly pointless, and displaced one that would have been somewhat more pointed.

    I think that there is a gradation of the concept of “true” that some readers are trying to get at. A publicity stunt is true, in that it happened, but inauthentic — it is designed to create an impression that is false or to promote some agenda in dramatic fashion (or both). Perhaps that is the problem that some readers have with it.

    In any case, I am not going to rant about it; True is always an enjoyable read, and I am not interested in impromptu nasal surgery. Keep up the good work!

    I wouldn’t describe the video as “funny.” Maybe amusing, maybe interesting. Maybe. I posted it mainly to satisfy curiosity. -rc

  24. I, too, did not realize from the story that it was a stunt. This was mainly due to overly-wishful thinking on my part, I think. I was pleased to hear about a politician not caring for once that he was alienating a rich person. I took the word “performance” in quotation marks to be a sarcastic reference to how the spokeswoman used such a mild word for something so out-of-the-ordinary. I assumed that, since it takes a little effort to get a tank out of storage and into position in a city, there would have been plenty of time to assemble cameras for a publicity stunt around the event. But then I got very disillusioned by watching the video and not getting to see any outraged citizen come running and start throwing a tantrum. Sigh. No rich person got his comeuppance after all. I re-read the story and saw that there was nothing in it that actually said it hadn’t been staged. Too bad, I thought.

    Then I read this blog post and had to laugh. I was very strongly reminded of the kids in the daycare where I used to work. “You called me stupid? You’re the stupid one! I’m never gonna play with you again!” John and Ontario Mike, don’t you think it’s time you grew up a little? So what if Randy assumed that something was obvious when it wasn’t obvious to everybody? Haven’t you ever done that before? Does him pointing out that it *should have* been obvious to us really merit an oh-so-threatening unsubscribe? Sheesh, get over yourselves.

  25. I must admit that upon first reading the story, it was not clear to me that the entire video was a stunt: much odder stuff has occurred than a politician being extreme over law violations.

    It did sink in for me, even before watching the video (I had meant to look up the story myself, but never got around to it), however it did take quite a while.

  26. Wow! Look what I helped to start. Let me be very clear. I have no intention of cancelling my “subscription” and may very well upgrade to Premium one of these fine days.

    All I originally wanted to point out was that I found this story atypical for TT(This is True). Now read this carefully (especially the lapdog who called me an obliviot): This whole thing is not so much a PR stunt as it is a rather ingenious Public Service Announcement to discourage illegal parking. Reporting on the making of PSAs, no matter how cute or humorous they may be, is not what I have come to expect from TT. Now, if the good mayor had, in the course of making this PSA, accidentally crushed a REAL illegally parked car…(everyone still with me? Sentence not too long?)…THAT would be the type of story that would normally make TT in my opinion.

  27. I, too, realize that the story was not typical of the usual True stories, as they are mostly about inadvertently weird incidents, and this one was deliberately weird. What would have made it typical True material is that something had gone horribly wrong (run over the wrong car, for instance?) But okay, big deal. Out of 10-11 stories a week (Premium), let’s say 10, that’s over 500 stories a year, and ONE doesn’t fit the usual mold? 0.2%? And toss a fit about it? Unsubscribe over it? It was still funny enough and I’m satisfied with the other 99.8%, PLUS the Honorary Unsubscribe, Ten Years Ago (with occasional EQUALLY funny contextual ads), Jumbo Joke, and all the other benefits.

    It’s the RIGHTEOUSNESS of the arguments that make this incident even more humorous than the event itself.

  28. I’m really not sure where you pointing out what idiots people, including your readers, can be comes across as “belittling”. I find your attitude and comments refreshing, mainly because they usually reflect mine. When they don’t, well, I’m mature enough to acknowledge that everyone is different.

  29. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that when I read the story, I believed it was not staged. Let’s also suppose that I saw the video and thought the mayor was actually running over someone’s property with a large vehicle.

    Um, does it occur to anyone that a poor, even illegal, parking job doesn’t equate to destruction of property? How simplistic a POV would that be, and how naive would I have to be to buy into such a notion?

    Look to yourself before looking at others would seem to be a useful strategy here. I wonder how many people can. I think there are too many people that are simply not honest enough to look to themselves to handle the criticism they deal out to others. Or, as I like to say, “They dish it out, but they can’t take it.”

  30. I don’t think it was too unreasonable to think it wasn’t a fully staged stunt (in contrast to thinking that while it was planned and staged the car was real, ie. not donated to the purpose and intentionally parked there for the sole purpose of being run over).

    First that, making the city liable, would be unusual (where as a fully staged stunt like this isn’t really that unusual) which is what many readers have come to expect from True. Second, It isn’t that hard to believe that a mayor would deliberately pick one car and have it pounded as an example (though of course there would be liability issues). Harder to believe would be the ‘wild-eyed’ mayor just running over illegally parked cars at random.

    And a final reason why people may have read the story as not being a fully staged stunt with donated car as opposed to recorded stunt of a real illegally car (not parked there purely for the purpose of the stunt). In the article the world performance is quoted/unquoted. A quick Quote from elsewhere:

    “Quotation marks used emphatically in these two sentences are not uncommon on public signs:

    Please ‘DO NOT’ remove trolleys from store.

    Please ring the bell for our “friendly” service.

    The single quotation marks in the first sentence are completely unnecessary, grammatically incorrect (if any quotation marks were used, they would be double, not single) and even raise questions as to the statement’s meaning. The double quotation marks in the second sentence create some skepticism as to what kind of service is actually being offered.”

    What I am getting at is the quote/unquote around the word performance create skepticism as to what kind of performance it actually was (in other words that was someone’s car the mayor just totaled). At least it is the word performance in quotes that threw me off the track. Well that and the fact that I can’t watch videos on my Pentium II.

    However as an ending note it does seem a bit… like people have overreacted to the issue to say the least.

  31. I admit, my first thought on the story was “oh, those wacky ex-soviet countries”, mainly because I didn’t give it much thought.

    On watching the video it became obvious that it was staged; even if just because the “owners” reaction to being told to park legally next time seemed to be “oh, fair enough”.

  32. This is one of those rare times I disagree with you, Randy. When I read the summary posted in This Is True, I didn’t consider it was a publicity stunt. Perhaps if I had watched the video, I may have seen the clues that demonstrated that, but I was going solely on the write-up. It made me chuckle, but I wasn’t so interested in the issue that I looked up a video to see it, since I figured it would have just been some hand-held bystander-cam with poor quality. I even completely forgot the whole thing 15 seconds after I was done reading it until the topic was re-introduced in the latest issue.

    I think omitting a disclaimer that it was only a publicity stunt wasn’t up to the normal journalistic standards I have come to expect in True. Even with a disclaimer, I think that a publicity stunt like this barely even qualifies as an article worth of True, but that’s not something I’ll hold against you. I think because it was in True, it made it easier to believe that it was a true event as described in the write-up.

    Honestly, the write-up itself doesn’t really bother me as much as your reaction to the feedback. I think getting a tad snippy at those pointing out that an arguably important point of the whole issue didn’t make it into the summary is a bit tasteless.

    Why is it so easy to believe? In the news here in the Montreal area is a story about a small-town mayor dumping a 2 ton boulder in his ex-wife’s driveway as part of their divorce dispute. When you have a world-wide source of news with countless towns & politicians, the odds of someone going and doing something incredibly stupid and reckless (or perhaps in this case, wreckful) is believable.

    PS: Not unsubscribing over such a trivial issue. True has far too much goodness for the rare issue to ruin 🙂

  33. Well, first of all I have no intention to unsubscribe.

    I QUICKLY read the story and thought at first that some mayor somewhere have gone a little rogue. “Meh!” I thought “Politicians!” I did not see the video until just now. Obviously it is a PR stunt. But it still is the waste of what appeared to be a perfectly good car. (Maybe the engine was burnt. I dunno.)

    When I first read it,I did not go into a deep analysis of it. It’s not local, it would only affect uncaring yuppies, so I did not care.

    Upon more thought, let me offer some advice, through True, to the Mayor of Vilnius. The mayor would be better off to impound the cars, impose an income or wealth based fine, and use the money to improve his city.

    Actually crushing an illegally parked car, one that is not part of a stunt video, would be a major liability to that city. You can get sued over a destroyed or damaged car. Rich people who flaunt laws, on the other hand, actually seem to welcome fines. “Hey! Look! I can afford a $100,000 fine!”

    Anyhow, I would have missed the story if not for Randy and his Comrades in Arms. So, while it may not fit True’s format perfectly, but it still is somewhere in the spectrum.

    My health is not the best, and very often True is what rolls back the grey clouds of pain and depression. You do good, and sometimes I think you do not know it. Now I hope I did not ruin your ego!

    Nope! My ego is robustly healthy. -rc

  34. The name of your publication is “This is True”.

    What part of “true” escapes you?

    Crazy people, even politicians, do crazy things, and not as stunts. I live in Texas, and the concept of our governor not only running for, but actually having a shot at, the Presidency . . . if someone told you that without your having actual knowledge of it being true, you’d probably dismiss it as a bad joke. (And you’d be right.)

    No more tests for your audience. Right now, I’m beginning to think that I’ll have to personally verify everything you claim is “true” before believing you.

    What part of “It did, in fact, happen — and you can watch the video” escapes you? Again, it is obvious what its nature is. You’re demanding that I insult your intelligence, and you’re upset that I refuse to! -rc

  35. GEEE…maybe they should try this in NYC or LA or maybe even down the shore during the summer season when parking is bloody near impossible. Think it might work??!!

  36. I think its clear by your comments that you wont accept you made any errors.

    Stating “illegally parked Mercedes Benz” when the car was parked in that spot by the mayor is a misstatement.

    I make errors approximately weekly, and link to an errata page in every issue. Your contention is, the Mercedes sitting in the bike lane is legally parked? Really? -rc

  37. Good Grief! I recall this story when it came out in This Is True, and my first thought was, “Wow, kind of extreme for a publicity stunt.” Note, this was before seeing a video. Still, for those who didn’t get that part right away, we all have our blind spots.

  38. I am stunned and absolutely amazed at the reaction to this story. The nit-picking here is unbelievable.

    I too heard the story before it was relayed to me in TRUE. My first reaction was the same as James in Mexico wherein I thought about the new found freedoms of the ex-soviet countries…they have different customs and laws and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this would happen “for real”. Heaven forbid it would happen in the states, but maybe it should…but I digress.

    The term “for real” means exactly that, it actually happened. The mayor drove an armored carrier over a vehicle…end of story. Does the fact that he did it as a publicity stunt or to drive home a point to illegal parkers make it any less real?

    How many of you are writing a letter to the editor of the many other mainstream publications that published the same story. Zero? Why? The articles I read weren’t any more or less clear on the subject than Randy and his staff…at least initially.

    I find it extremely disheartening to think that the human race’s “thinking” gene seems to be growing smaller. I applaud Randy and his crew for trying to counteract this phenomenon and encourage everyone to think, then act, but don’t over-react.

  39. Wow! Much ado about nothing. Meanwhile, I wore one black and one blue sock today. True! (I did it to protest the dress code where I live. Many people thought I’d actually done it by mistake. Really, if you’re in solitary, who cares?)

    I’d love to upgrade, but, of course, they don’t let me have any money here.

    Trying to decide: incarceration, or institutionalization? Eh, no matter. -rc

  40. Wow!!! All I can see is a load of nit-picking. I’ve subscribed to This Is True for many years now and when I saw the story in our local media I even thought “that will end up on This Is True without a doubt”, sure enough, there it is.

    Where I become a little gobsmacked is in the responses from some of your readers. WHAT is the problem? Ummm, publicity stunt or not, it did happen…definitely extreme behaviour from a public official and certainly in the realms of the “unbelievable” that many of us don’t really expect from politicians.

    Somebody’s Mercedes Benz DID get crushed, …that’s got to be a little crazy yes?

    I, for one, would be a little surprised if it hadn’t appeared.

    Several days later and admission came from the Mayor that it was indeed a dramatization and had been photoshopped in places i.e. leaving out the 2 producers that were also in the tank, along with the following:-

    “The scene was filmed for a Swedish television show “99 Things To Do Before You Die.” It is expected to air in November.”

    I’m not really sure why everyone’s jumping on your back Randy…you still haven’t published anything that requires retraction…Associated Press on the other hand….lol

    LOL! -rc

  41. When i saw this on the news program (in fact all of the stations cable and network carried it) my first thought was Mayor Bloomberg should do it in Manhattan. maybe it would help with the traffic in the City.

  42. I agree, a lot of nitpicking. I haven’t watched the video but I may just to see it.

    I have been reading the “Google” ads on the comment pages (Green recycling for cars, ads for paralegals, DUI lawyers, car protection, etc.) and I would recommend some of them to the mayor.

    Just a thought.

  43. I think I do see one touchy point in the debate, although even with my obsession with semantics, it seems a bit nit-picky.

    Technically, parking in a bike lane is legal if you have a permit to do so… for example, because you have gotten the correct permits and so on to film a publicity stunt like this one. It is likely that the mayor (and whoever parked the car there) broke no laws in the course of this stunt, simply because it would be easy to avoid doing so. Thus, technically the “illegally parked” car was described inaccurately in the write-up. I tend to think this is what people are referring to in complaining about that terminology. Describing it as a car “parked in a bike lane” would have avoided this detail, as that is all true, as is visible in the video.

    Personally, meh. Not the best story I have seen in True, but definitely not worthy of a kerfuffle like this.

    I’ve seen nothing in any follow-up that would lead me to believe that a “permit” was issued. It’s an interesting theory, but it smacks of projecting our laws on another country. -rc

  44. Rob, Germany: “Instead of letting himself [John from Missouri] in what I found to be a very clever bit of TRUE wit, it appears as if he chose to assume (against all evidence) that Randy and his staff were trying to trick the readers, or else were duped themselves.”

    I think you’re doing some assuming yourself–I think it’s more likely that he thought it was a bit of sloppy writing/editing. That’s what I thought after reading it–I’d already heard about the story myself, so I knew that it was a stunt.

    Some of the comments say that Mike from Ontario and John from Missouri are stupid to not guess that it was a publicity stunt, but obviously they did or they would not have posted their criticisms in the first place. Their criticisms were pretty mild, I thought, and they never threatened to unsubscribe (although at least one other commenter did)–yet people are reacting as though they were full of outrage and threatening to unsubscribe. These overreactors didn’t even really read their responses and just dumped them into the “overreacting obliviot” category. Lazy thinking. Perhaps the people here who don’t read the things they’re criticizing are the true “obliviots”.

    And I’m not too impressed when a writer/editor writes/publishes something unclear and then blames the readers for finding it unclear.

    All I can do is repeat yet again, I thought it was patently obvious. Blindingly so. I’m boggled that anyone ever thought that the mayor ran a “tank” over an expensive Mercedes — on camera! — for anything but to produce a media event. And I have a hard time believing anyone would continue on with this with any other reaction than a forehead-slapping comment of “Boy, was I dumb!” -rc

  45. I’m not really sure what the error is that everyone is complaining about. I had no problem in realising the stunt aspect of the story and the people arguing it’s not really illegally parked because the Mayor would have got a permit to park it that way do to the whole filming of the stunt, is to me a little bit nitty picky on the technicalities.

    But the one error I feel I must correct as a bit of a car buff (even though it’s not an error in the story itself but from the comments I’m reading), I feel I should let everyone know that is NOT an expensive Mercedes. In fact from what I can see in the video it seems to be a 15-20 year old Mercedes W140 S class. And considering how quickly luxury cars tend to devalue I’m guessing that car was at scrap value. So all in all it wasn’t that extravagant a stunt.

    On a side note, did they really have to make the Mercedes owner look like he jumped out out of the Albanian mafia? I know the Mercedes has a bit of a reputation as a criminal’s car but really the blatant stereotyping from a mayor nonetheless, that’s a little insulting to Mercedes drivers.

  46. This reminds me of the commercial for the Colorado Lottery that was filmed over 20 years ago. That one did use a tank I was lucky and got to see it filmed. How anyone could think this was nothing but a commercial is beyond me! No other traffic on the street, no one else around just the mayor. He spots the illegally park car. Takes a walk around the corner and there just happens to be an APC there! Gets on the APC runs over the car, owner comes out somewhat surprised, Mayor walks up tells him car was illegally parked, they shake hands then every thing is honky dory, Mayor rides off in the sunset!

    What really tears me up is the complaints against Randy and This is True. Anyone who has read Randy’s comments on the articles knows Randy can have a little warped sense of humor at times! What do you want, a warning message put on something like this? I do not think one is warranted or needed! But if you think one is needed then I will guess you will need to start your own web site! Then you can put up a warning for the people who need a warning that something may be a work of fiction!

    The problem is, I keep telling them to think, and they failed to in this instance. -rc

  47. WHAT??? It wasn’t real? Say it isn’t so!

    I had the typical Y-chromosome reaction of “Dude. Dude! DUDE!!!” when I watched the video. Anyone who has ever attempted to deal with street parking in Denver can appreciate the clear message His honor is trying to make. The whole story would be all the more awesome if His Honor had actually acquired a APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) and flattened the vehicle of some self absorbed monkey-boy.

    Fiscal woes continue to keep me from going Premium, but for the 4th year running, I’ll be suggesting to the family that a Premium Sub would be the perfect Christmas gift.

  48. Whether or not it was done for publicity purposes, it happened. Personally, having seen so many stories of politicians (and civilians alike) doing really STUPID things in TiT over the years, I took the story at face value until I saw the still shot of the video and read your update to the story.

    I do think, however, that you are just a wee bit harsh to your readers when they don’t ‘get it’ like you think they should. You may not call them “idiots and fools” like someone accused you of doing with those exact words but you certainly imply it with the tone of your responses. To be perfectly honest, many times I have written replies to some of your other blogs and have deleted them because I did not want to be painted with the broad brush by being told “you just don’t get it.”

    I do THINK! I am INTELLIGENT! Come down from the ivory tower and actually read your responses the way your readers who disagree with you do. Don’t be so quick to say something condescending to us just because we don’t see everything the exact same way RANDY THE GREAT does!

    “Ivory tower”? Please. My response is quite measured and calm, not shouting with all-caps or anything of the sort. Anyone who sees this and thinks about it can plainly see it was a publicity stunt. -rc

  49. Interesting to read through the comments 10 years later (other than the last one, in case anyone wants to pick a nit 🙂 — it is interesting, but less than 10 years old .) I ran across this while working through the “10 Years Ago in True” stories.

    I see that several people had different takes on the story when they encountered it in the newsletter. Most chose to just shrug off any concerns and go on to the next story. I recall the story from that time, for several of the aspects that people have commented about — from thinking it might be a real scofflaw’s car (“boy how we would all like to do that!”) to just the idea of a “tank” driving over a car. These are all points that made it unusual enough for my brain to retain threads of it 10 years later and find them tonight. The 10 year old stories before and after this one elicited a fresh chuckle or other response since I didn’t recall them, unlike this one.

    All that seems to make the story, to me at least, quite worthy of inclusion in True. And, reading the comments is a nice diversion and always gives me a bit more to think about in how I approach others.


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