Giddyup America: Hummer Drivers Claim Moral High Ground

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Hummer drivers believe they’re defending America’s frontier lifestyle against anti-American critics.

You know, the suburban frontier.

We know that Hummers symbolize American greed and wastefulness to many. But to Hummer drivers they are the 4-wheeled Marlboro-Man galloping across the tarmac prairie, six-shooters drawn in defense of the distressed maiden, America.

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 20 (okay, small sample) American-born-and-raised Hummer owners and found they employ the ideology of American foundational myths like “rugged individual” and “boundless frontier.” Shored up with these heady mythologies, Hummer owners construct themselves as moral protagonists: a bastion against anti-American criticism.

The study published in the Journal of Consumer Research is all part of broader research into anti-consumption sentiments expressed by people who oppose chains like Starbucks and shun consumerism. Hummers occupy the epicenter of this moral viewpoint, where rugged individualism is ruggedly expressed with the middle finger.

But in the course of researching the anti-Hummerites the team came upon the moral beliefs of the pro-Hummerites and found similar justifications coming from diametrically opposed viewpoints.

“Our analysis of the underlying American identity discourses revealed that being under siege by (moral) critics is an historically established feature of being an American,” write the authors.

I too feel morally superior in my mass-produced moving vehicle with highish MPG driven by hundreds of thousands of likeminded rugged individualists.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend