The Green Police

Monday, February 8th, 2010

So I’m wondering how many people saw the commercial below last night and not only didn’t find it farcical, satirical or horrifying, but were kind of okay with what they were seeing.

Maybe it’s my nutty libertarianism kicking in, but I actually initially thought it was some sort of PSA. Something like, “Do you part now, so it doesn’t have to get to this later.”

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74 Responses to “The Green Police”

  1. #1 |  Paul | 

    I wondered if Audi knew how close to reality they really are.

  2. #2 |  Andrew S. | 

    The first thought I had when I saw this commercial was pretty much exactly what Paul mentioned above. My second thought was “I can’t wait to see Balko’s reaction to this”. I think that means I spend too much time here. Or not enough.

    As for the overall reaction, I’d go with “horrifying”.

  3. #3 |  SB7 | 

    It also made me wildly less likely to ever buy an Audi. They’ve now managed to associate their product with horrifying nannyist dirigisme.

  4. #4 |  Bergholt Stuttley Johnson | 

    First they came for the dude who asked for a plastic bag, but I did not speak out – because I use paper.

    Then they came for the guy who used incandescent bulbs, but I did not speak out – because I have flourescents.

    Then they came for the fellow with the too-hot yub, but I did not speak out – because I have a solar heater.

    Then they came for diesel burners – and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  5. #5 |  Bondo | 

    My first thought was “do environmentalists really think this will get people on their side and encourage them to make the small (useless) individual steps for a better planet” but then I saw that it was just a car commercial saying it is environmentalist approved or something and thought it was actually a bit genius…for Audi.

    Even though it wasn’t the product of environmentalists I imagine it might still produce backlash as people realize how annoying they find environmental nagging to be (I’m thinking of the South Park Pious episode). That doesn’t mean we don’t need to take action on global warming/pollution/etc, just that this would be a really bad way to attempt it.

  6. #6 |  divadab | 

    It’s Audi’s satire of Amerika as it is. Only the police serve greed, not green.

  7. #7 |  Brian | 

    I turned to my wife and said “Hey, look! Seattle!”

  8. #8 |  tim | 

    Speaking as an owner of a 11 year old premium unleaded burning Audi A4 Quattro that just got me home in the middle of snowstorm and a recent purchaser of a VW Passat for the boyfriend – I’m more annoyed than horrified. But if they want to go after the nanny state ecco crowd (i.e. my immediate neighbors) more power to em.

    Lets talk about all the chemicals and power that went into building that ‘clean’ deasel car… oh wait? You don’t?

  9. #9 |  Uncle Kenny | 

    Don’t be silly. It’s a joke, son. The contraband-sniffing anteater is the giveaway. The eco-fascists will not get it as they have no humor. I get it and think Audi has some guts.

  10. #10 |  Timothy | 

    I was able to find the humour in it, but my first thoughts were “What kind of Eco group has paid for this PSA?”

    It is uncomfortably close to the truth.

  11. #11 |  RM | 

    I don’t think this should reflect badly on Audi.. after all, they’re almost poking fun at themselves for selling a “green” car.

  12. #12 |  Brian Despain | 

    Actually the last bit with the cops is a pretty funny turnaround.

  13. #13 |  scarpy | 

    At first I thought, “What pile of right-wing propaganda BS is this?” And then when in the end it didn’t say “Drill baby Drill” or some such, I thought it was a stupid ad.

    I mean, it pissed off an eco-lefty like me with its ridiculous paranoid vision of government run amok (this blog documents enough of the real thing that I don’t need dumb caricatures), but then it tries to sell me a car? Or are anti-eco-lefty types supposed to say, “Hey, I hate green products, but that was a funny ad — why don’t I slap down $30K?”

  14. #14 |  Scott Gamester | 

    My crazy libertarianism kicked in, which I hid from my wife (she’s crazy liberal), then the cheap trick kicked in and everything was good…

    I was more outraged out my tax dollars being spent to advertise the census.

  15. #15 |  Thrax | 

    It seemed overly surreal and somewhat frightening that it was played for humor to me

  16. #16 |  BamBam | 

    It’s disgusting that people would think of this idea and then pay big money to have it broadcast. Then again, this is material that is being used to condition people to accepting this as “being progressive”. I’m sure there are a small but vocal minority of people that would love this to be reality, and backed up by The State Thugs (cops) so they can go after more low hanging fruit — but cops still have a dangerous job.

  17. #17 |  Kristen | 

    I saw a commercial, not during the Superbowl, for some product (wish I could remember which so I could give y’all a YT link) that said something along the lines of “Denmark banned trans fat, and the Danes seem like happy people, so we should have the same law”.


  18. #18 |  Jason | 

    BamBam, why would they need to be conditioned to accept it? It’s pretty tame to historical Progressivism.

  19. #19 |  vishnu schist | 

    THE HORROR!!! actually rather funny, coming from the peoples republic of Portland. Styrofoam is banned here you know. Why anyone would get worked up about this is beyond me, it is obvious parody of the self-righteous eco warriors out there. But hey the TDI gets 50 mpg, woo hoo nothing self righteous about that. Sure have your freedom to drive your old gas guzzler if you like throwing money into a blast furnace, but frankly if I were in the market for a new car I’d be pretty stupid to not look into a fuel efficient one. A TDI would be on the list and frankly this commercial would make me think about more about. Be a libertarian and shut your f-in yaps about other peoples choices, that’s the whole point ain’t it?

  20. #20 |  Dave Krueger | 

    It’s easy to tell it’s a joke when they arrest the cop at the end, as if professional courtesy is suddenly going to evaporate when it comes to the green police.

  21. #21 |  MacGregory | 

    I’m bothered most by the exploitation of a perfectly good Cheap Trick song.

  22. #22 |  perlhaqr | 

    *sings* “The Green Police are buried under my shed…”

  23. #23 |  Marty | 

    I’m all mixed up- I wanna laugh, but I also wanna go knock the mall cops on the Segways down (even more than usual). I love it that Segways are the vehicles for the twits, because that’s what makes it feel more realistic to me.

  24. #24 |  Meister574 | 

    I was thinking about how this is something you might find on The Onion one year and the next year, it was no longer satire. I think Audi may know we are closer to this than we know.

  25. #25 |  BamBam | 

    #18, because generally speaking, most people are too stupid to know anything about history. It’s as if occurrences < 1 year old never happened, thus everything is always new to the idiot masses. I always say human nature is constant, thus shit now is the same shit 200, 500, 1000, etc. years ago, just different packaging. At the core shit is still shit.

  26. #26 |  David McElroy | 

    I love satire, so if it had turned out that the ad was satirizing how far the eco-warriors go, it wouldn’t have been bad at all. But the implicit message is that you should obey the extremists. That’s what made it so disturbing to me.

    On another point, it’s just very bad advertising, IMO. The people who are most likely to be in Audi’s target demographic aren’t likely to be making buying decisions based on an extremist environmentalist position. The ad would make more sense (even if it would still be sickening) if it were for a Prius or some other care that is appealing to the hard-core green crowd.

  27. #27 |  Highway | 

    Marty, I thought it was amusing that they weren’t *real* Segways, they were knockoff trike types, the T3:

  28. #28 |  Jupiter | 

    Audi should know about the Ordnungspolizei, the original “Green Police”. It’s kind of distasteful to see them use the term.

  29. #29 |  Bulucanagria | 

    This bothered the hell out of me when I saw it. What’s more it bothered my roommate who’s only casually liberty-minded. It was too close to a possible reality to be funny. What’s interesting is that the WSJ has an article on their site where you can watch all the commercials and vote for the best and the worst. This commercial has been voted the best all day…and the worst! Talk about polarizing.

  30. #30 |  Brian Despain | 

    Wow. Guys it’s a joke. It’s got an ardvark on a leash. Laugh a little.

  31. #31 |  David Chesler | 

    By that far into the game I didn’t notice the aardvark. I found the ad creepy. I get that it’s a joke. I realized that by the end of the ad. But it was creepy for the reasons others have said, too close to home. Even creepier than the E*Trade baby, and closer to home than the Mac ad.

  32. #32 |  Mattocracy | 

    This commercial was not a joke. There was a real agenda behind this commercial. Someone somewhere decided to test the waters with the idea of “green” police to see how accepting people would be of this form of a police state.

  33. #33 |  Rhayader | 

    If it had been intended as such, it would have been a great parody of our ever-intensifying “crackdown” fetish. Actually, I’m going to pretend that was the intent, because I like it more that way.

  34. #34 |  Elroy | 

    I was thinking it must be a new A&E show when I saw it. Somewhere Al Gores is singing to himself “Bad boys bad boys what you going to do?”

  35. #35 |  parse | 

    Before the reveal I had a strongly negative visceral reaction, which I recalled vividly this morning. I’d forgotten, however, the brand of car advertised.

  36. #36 |  The_Chef | 

    I looked at my roommate and said “They show up here like that and they are liable to get an acute case of lead poisoning.”

  37. #37 |  drewby | 

    The only thing that would have made it funnier was if at the end the real cops were sitting in a Prius and given a double citation (one for the foam cups and one for the trendy apologetic car) since both VW and Audi had diesels in the late 1970’s that equaled or bested todays Prius in mpg’s.

  38. #38 |  ceanf | 

    i think the majority of people watching were ok with that commercial… and thats the problem…

  39. #39 |  Daniel V. | 

    @ #17 | Kristen: It was Smart Balance Spread.

    @ Everyone: The message I got from the commercial was, “If you submit and buy this socialist car, we will let you past the checkpoint.”

  40. #40 |  Guido | 

    Just want to agree that I had the same feeling at first like it was a PSA ad then realized it was an ad. I mentioned to whomever was in earshot, “you laugh but in ten years this could be reality. In not the good way.” All I got was the eyes glazed over look.

  41. #41 |  Gerald A | 

    Everytime they try and pass one of those crazy green laws, just roll out this commercial. Cut and paste are required.

  42. #42 |  Let's Be Free | 

    A week ago, I sent an email to my local county energy manager about a whimsical green expenditure and some misleading promotional material. He called me, cussed me out, and told me I was bitter and ignorant a half a dozen times. I am afraid we are already there.

  43. #43 |  Nickp | 

    i>So I’m wondering how many people saw the commercial below last night and not only didn’t find it farcical, satirical or horrifying, but were kind of okay with what they were seeing.

    I’m gonna guess, umm, no one. My reaction is “farcical.”

    This commercial was not a joke.

    As others have pointed out: Anteater on a leash! Of course it was a joke.

    Yeah, I’m gonna buy an audi so I can get past the anteater checkpoints. I also worry about the UN blue helmets massing at the Canadian border and the Satanic symbolism in the Proctor and Gamble logo.

  44. #44 |  David | 

    I thought it was going to be an ad making fun of ridiculous environmentalism. Unfortunately, it was not.

  45. #45 |  Spleen | 

    Despite the obvious farcical elements, I couldn’t help but feel Audi was condoning the idea of this escalation of governmental power. Or at least expressing complicity, with its message of “Buy our car, and the gestapo will let you pass without an invasive search!”

    Next we’ll be seeing Old Navy advertising clear plastic polo shirts and khakis, to make getting past the TSA at the airport easier…

  46. #46 |  Robert | 

    “It also made me wildly less likely to ever buy an Audi. They’ve now managed to associate their product with horrifying nannyist dirigisme.”

    Thanks for adding a new word to my vocabulary!

  47. #47 |  Kristen | 

    Thanks Daniel V! No Smart Balance for me (but I’m a butter eater anyway).

  48. #48 |  Some Guy | 

    Also, the guy accelerated fairly hard as he pulled away. True greens would never tolerate using an automobile in a way that might be fun.

  49. #49 |  T.J. Brown | 

    Calling this force the Green Police is a curious decision, especially coming from a German company, especially a subsidiary of Volkswagen.

    Then consider Audi put together an integrated campaign involving more than that commercial:

    I suppose the site now explains that Israel has a force named the “Green Police.” But it also explains that Audi’s Green Police, as “humorous” as they are, have been created in “support” of real Green Police forces everywhere.

    My mother is neighbors with a man who retired from Volkswagen 15 years ago. He grew up in Nazi Germany, saw his part of the country passed from the Nazis to Stalin’s Communists, escaped to the West in 1950 (getting robbed and beaten by Soviet soldiers), and wound up working for VW North America for most of his adult life. I wonder how “humorous” he finds it.

  50. #50 |  David | 

    Despite the obvious farcical elements, I couldn’t help but feel Audi was condoning the idea of this escalation of governmental power. Or at least expressing complicity, with its message of “Buy our car, and the gestapo will let you pass without an invasive search!”

    There is a certain irony in a German car company using avoidance of “papers, please” situations as a selling point.

    Anyway, what I took from the ad is that the idea of a police raids to check your hot tub temperature is believable enough to be used as a joke. That it fits with how we expect laws to be enforced.

  51. #51 |  jppatter | 

    I think that in a few years we will look back on this ad and say “wow, if only the government was that restrained”. Sigh.

  52. #52 |  Geoff | 

    Hmmmmmmm. Everything points to a joke in this commercial: the green shorts wearing goofball mall cops, Disco Stu in a thong getting chased, the aardvark(?) on a leash, but then the punchline creates the confusion. It’s only funny if the product is the OPPOSITE of green- say a Hummer flattening a Segway for example. You can’t make fun of a police green state, and then say, “My product fits in with this world vision”. They either missed their own joke or they aren’t joking. Either way they suck.

  53. #53 |  poetry | 

    Geoff makes a good point. I saw the commercial with a group of my friends, after which some of them started talking about what a “good idea” the whole green-cop thing was. So, maybe Audi was joking, but my friends didn’t get it. They were ready to jump on the police-state bandwagon. And that’s scary.

  54. #54 |  Max | 

    Definitely felt the same way, even my dad was like, “that’s stupid.”

  55. #55 |  Leonson | 

    Driving an Audi will give you a pass in the coming eco-facist state.

    It was satire, but too close to reality. I’m sure there are some eco-facists that thought it looked great.

    My problem with the commercial was less the content and more the message. I thought it was a weird way to try and sell a car.

  56. #56 |  Matt | 

    THe ending was semi funny but the rest is a disturbing thought..

  57. #57 |  beakerj | 

    A fortelling of the future…except the part where the green cop arrests the regular cop. No way that happens…

  58. #58 |  Bee | 

    We had to back up and look more closely to identify the anteater. WTF? And yeah, there was much laughing at the commercial. My homies here in CA are incandescent rebels.

  59. #59 |  Athena | 

    “I turned to my wife and said “Hey, look! Seattle!””

    Nuh-uh! Everybody knows we don’t do it unless California does it first.

    Seriously, though, I was absolutely repulsed… and I’m the co-founder of a sustainability consulting firm. (In my defense, I would like to note that I am the quality/economic balance to my partner’s green fervor. She’s a socialist, too. I’m really not sure how we make it work most days.)

    Part of the reason I signed on for starting this company is because I truly believed, “If we do it voluntarily now, the government won’t force us to later.” I don’t think that’s true, though, and I’m kinda freaked out about it.

    …and, yeah, Seattle’s approaching that vision at what feels like a break-neck pace. :(

  60. #60 |  Kahomono | 

    Know what, your libertarianism is fine as long as it’s just your little corner of the world you’re screwing.

    But when you get your panties all up in a twist about being pushed to live greener, you’re peeing in MY pool too now. And my kids’. So go read your Ayn Rand but quit exhaling, K?

  61. #61 |  You! Slow Down! | 

    I’m kind of surprised to see comments reading the ad as an endorsement of nanny state environmental extremism. I saw it as clearly taking a jab at environmental nanny statism while at the same time promoting a capitalist answer – driving a big car that happens to be clean burning diesel. The ad looked to me like it was giving the big middle finger to runaway nanny statism. Individuals driving cars are inherently freedom-promoting even if said cars are “green”.

  62. #62 |  wheeler | 

    my first thought was “hmm, how is the drug war less ridiculous than the green police.” still not sure.

  63. #63 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Who are the Green Police?

    Thanks to FZ for that paraphrase.

  64. #64 |  markm | 

    So does Audi claim to have the particulate emission problem with diesels licked? (Diesels do well in Europe because they allow more particulates than we do.) Or are they implying they’ll bribe the Green Police on your behalf?

  65. #65 |  Kahomono | 

    –9 and proud, in this echo chamber.

  66. #66 |  Uncephalized | 

    @markm #64 I believe most new-generation diesels have far lower NOx emissions than older ones, and particulates are down partly just from the TDI tech, which uses direct injection (hence the “DI”) and I believe burns more completely. So in essence, yes, both VW/Audi and Mercedes have largely solved (or at least reduced) this problem in recent years.

    @Kahomono #60 I agree. This comment thread is full of a pretty disgusting level of “I don’t give a shit how my actions affect anyone else, I’ll pollute if I want to”. (Absolute) libertarianism is not a tenable position in world that has not eliminated externalities. And the externalities from driving a car are huge–CO2 and other exhaust-based emissions including several known carcinogens, rubber and VOC emissions from tire wear, noise, smell, the monopolization of public space otherwise usable for human living space, the fact that every mile you drive increases your lifetime likelihood of killing someone other than yourself with your car.

    All of this is not even mentioning the fact that industries like the auto industry and many others flourish on externalizing their costs onto populations who are not their customers, such as the inhabitants of third-world nations who have to deal with the environmental destruction wreaked by the incessant need for more raw materials and fuel. Exploitation of these environments and their inhabitants’ cheap labor is in large part what makes cars (and gas) affordable to you as a (I presume American) consumer. This is not libertarianism–the people being shafted by our consumption were not consulted or given a free choice in the matter, and the planet does not have a voice unless people stand up to give it one. It is parasitic exploitation of a finite set of resources that by rights belong to everyone, including future people, but is instead being disproportionately and unsustainably sucked dry by a small fraction of the world’s current population.

    Don’t get me wrong. I have no interest in raiding your home for improperly-recycled batteries or policing your composting habits. I just want to live in a society where everyone’s personal economic decisions reflect their true cost–which is to say, that gallon of gas you or I consume reflects the cost to the world of mitigating the damage it does, or where the price of your new car reflects the cost to the manufacturer of assuming responsibility for taking it back and recycling its materials into new vehicles at the end of its life. Make all the bad environmental decisions you want, as long as the people and ecosystems you are harming are properly compensated for your careless choices.

  67. #67 |  jsabotta | 

    There is a Customer Relations email for Audi at their website. Why not email them and give them some feedback?

    I wrote:

    “Dear Krauts:

    “RE: Your Green Police ad campaigns”

    “The Germans never learn, do they? Please take your Green Police, your overpriced Nazi cars (including all variations of the Strength-through-Joy Wagen) and your ecofascist ad campaigns back to the Fatherland from whence they came. There you can lurk in your gloomy forests, brooding on the ingratitude of der lesser races. If you ever feel inclined to do more than brood, please remember what happened to you 1944-45.”

  68. #68 |  jsabotta | 

    The Krauts reply:

    “Thank you for contacting Audi of America on the subject of our
    commercial in this year’s Super Bowl.

    Every Super Bowl brings with it advertising that takes a humorous slant,
    engages in hyperbole and presents viewers with wry storylines. And it
    is in that spirit that Audi presented its tongue-in-cheek Green Car
    commercial. Any attempt to read more into our ad strains the bounds of credulity.

    We believe it is possible to agree that we all try to do the right thing
    in our daily lives to measure our use of resources, no matter where we
    fall on the political spectrum. Our Super Bowl ad was simply making the
    point that driving an A3 TDI, the 2010 Green Car of Year, is one of
    those right things to do.”


  69. #69 |  Kahomono | 

    jsabotta: You got a kiloparsec more courtesy from them than you deserved in response to that amazingly offensive email.

  70. #70 |  wow | 

    Wow. I’ve got no problem with the nanny-state reigning in corporations but I have a serious problem with it reigning in people (you know, like people-people, Greasslob Antonin).

    Yah, so I found this so unbelievably horrifying that it had the precise opposite effect of the commercial’s intent. The wild thing though is that apparently there are enough guys watching the superbowl for whom this sort of commercial is likely to work! But who ar they?!?

    They aren’t NoCal Swipples and they aren’t women so…who? Guys who want to impress women? The legendary gay football fans? who?

  71. #71 |  jsabotta | 

    Kahomono is no doubt proud owner of a Strength-through-Joy Wagen.

  72. #72 |  jsabotta | 

    Mr. “kahomono” takes libertarians to task for “screwing” the world with their bad car and recycling. But he also refers to “my kids” – and having kids is a lot worse for the environment than any car choice or personal garbage disposal method could be, if you believe the kind of nonsense he believes.

    So, in order to be consistant, shouldn’t Kahomono duct-tape his kids into a big cardboard box and dump them into the bay? Typically, though, econazis like Kahomono want other people’s kids to die.

  73. #73 |  Mel | 

    I actually thought the commercial was funny. I don’t condone Audi for their creative efforts, atleast there taking steps towards going green.

  74. #74 |  jsabotta | 

    Feeling that this was more than I could stand– in fact,
    having reached a point where I was beginning to feel physically
    sick– 1 got up and hurriedly left the room. As I was
    approaching the closet where I had seen the maid store my
    things, Mrs. Hall overtook me, together with a billow of
    distant music.
    “Must you leave?” she said. “Must you really leave?”
    I found my overcoat, dropped the hanger, and stamped into
    my rubbers.
    “You are either murderers or fools,” I said, “or both, and
    that man is a filthy German agent.”

    – Vladimir Nabokov, CONVERSATION PIECE, 1945