Bully Boys with Bull Bars

W.J. Astore

Even as gas and diesel prices soar along with global temperatures, American vehicles continue to get bigger. In my first Air Force job in 1985, I had a friend who drove a classic Ford Bronco. It was a little bigger than a jeep and truly meant for off-road adventures in Colorado where four-wheel drive is a necessity. Nowadays, Ford trucks and SUVs are much more likely to resemble military vehicles like Humvees or even MRAPs. Bigger is better, especially for the truck makers and fossil fuel companies, who profit much more by selling and fueling steroidal trucks than Ford Escorts or hybrids.

But there’s a darker side to these steroidal, quasi-military vehicles on America’s roads, notes Stan Cox today at TomDispatch.com. They’re being used to intimidate, to bully, even to injure and kill people that the drivers of these vehicles don’t like. Typical targets are protesters for the BLM movement or women trying to protect abortion rights. When Dodge named their Ram pickup, I really don’t think they meant you should use it as a battering ram, but that seems to be crude animus motivating more than a few white male drivers today.

This phenomenon isn’t just limited to flyover states like Kansas, where Stan Cox lives. Here in Blue Massachusetts, I recently saw a pickup that was proudly flying a “Fuck Joe Biden” flag, modeled after Trump MAGA flags. Heck, I don’t much like Joe Biden, but I don’t feel the need to mount a giant flag on my vehicle to that effect. I guess I’m just too humble or shy — or sane.

Steroidal trucks are nothing new in America, and I’ve seen plenty with stickers that say “No Fear” or even “Fear This.” (You learn quickly to give these idiots on wheels a wide berth.) But using these trucks to hurt people is truly cowardly. What kind of young men are we producing?

The wars are coming home again, America. Just look around at all the mini-tanks in America’s parking lots and driveways.

A final caution: Beware of bully boys with bull bars, coming soon (though I hope not) to a protest near you. If you stand your ground, they might just run you over — and in some states you’ll be to blame for blocking their way.

So use common sense and get out of their way. You’re not the coward: they are.

Fear this!

16 thoughts on “Bully Boys with Bull Bars

  1. StatusUtilityVehicle, probably bought on credit, to indicate influence and ability. When gas is tool expensive for them, I hope they can still remember the best way to wad up a sock and protect the presentation they seem to want.

    I don’t know those formerly known as women can do…although after-action-rectification needs are sold in as many as a 48pack, as I understand it.

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  2. My guess is that if they make an EV version everyone in Hollywood will want one. And Pete Buttigieg will be singing its praises.

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  3. Bull bars actually have a legitimate purpose. They push things and they prevent damage to the front end. A lot of police cars have them to get people out of jams.

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    1. Yes, they have a purpose. But they obviously shouldn’t be used as anti-personnel weapons.

      And many people who buy them just want their truck to look “tough.” Well, it’s their money …

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      1. Stan Cox talks about vehicles ramming crowds but he doesn’t connect it to trucks with bull bars. Bull bars are more of a country thing than a city thing. Cox lives in Kansas and apparently sees trucks with bull bars. They’re useful for moving cattle, for instance. I’m guessing Stan doesn’t have any cattle.

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  4. A bullbar, push bumper, (kanga)roo bar, Smartbar, winch bar in Australia. Nudge bar in New Zealand. Moose bumper in Canada. Livestock stop (initially a term used to refer to locomotive pilots) or kangaroo device in Russia. Push bar, ram bar, brush guard, grille guard, cactus pusher, rammer, Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT)bar, bumper bar, PIT bumper, or cattle pusher in the United State. A device installed on the front of a vehicle to protect its front from collisions, whether an accidental collision with a large animal in rural roads, or an intentional collision by police with another vehicle.

    wiki – In recent times bullbars have become popular also as a cosmetic accessory, particularly on the larger four wheel drive and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs). Studies and media attention to them and their role in increasing pedestrian deaths led to an agreement with the European Union among carmakers not to install them on new vehicles from January 1, 2002. This was followed by a full EU ban on the sale of rigid bullbars by aftermarket fitters.

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    1. Exactly so. EU headquarters is in Brussels where they don’t have large animals other than humans. So the Brussels city people ban bull bars. Maybe they don’t have cattle in the EU (are cattle banned also?). Maybe everybody is forced to eat kale. Yuck.

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    2. Or in New Zealand – light bars – where you mount your gazillion candle power flood lights to blind oncoming motorists.

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  5. I haven’t seen these here in the city, but pickups were rare here until the last ten years or so and I see gigantic ones daily. I do notice cars, usually small ones, equipped with low restriction mufflers. The noise is incredible. They are similar to Harleys with straight pipes (no mufflers) that are not very loud at idle or low throttle but take off your ears when given the gas, done at every stop light.

    In years long gone, the only loud cars were beaters where the owner could not afford to get a new muffler or replace a rusted out exhaust pipe. It was something embarrassing and the smoke from a worn out engine usually accompanied the noise.. Now the noise is deliberate and though these cars can be heard blocks away, there is no attempt to ticket them.

    It’s all about “pay attention to me!” with no consideration of the other. It’s exactly the same thing as the kind of cruising seen in American Graffiti. Of course the wealthy are just as interested in attention with their expensive rides and the crazy about all of it is that no vehicle can get anywhere in the city faster than 22mph average, about twice the average speed you can get on a completely quiet bicycle.

    Quieter times are coming, though, with electric cars in demand and Harley riders dying of old age.

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    1. Its a myth CLIF – Harley riders are not dying of old age. Every year they sell just as many bikes to new young customers. As they have been for 70+ years. And BTW, for my 71st birthday, I road my Harley Davidson Road King from Seattle to Madison WI and back to see my grand kids. Cruising sedately along at 80mph on my American made bike, on cruise control, with my quiet DOT mandated stock 82dba mufflers. And at every gas station I was approached by envious people telling me they wished they could be living that dream.

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      1. No myth, Dennis. I stand by what I said. See here. You rode yours where those bikes belong – out on the highway cruising. Around town they are heavy and awkward. I got rid of a bike far lighter and with a shorter wheelbase than a Harley for that reason. It’s no surprise that around the world 125 to 175cc bikes are the overwhelming choice. Harleys are an American thing. I traveled many thousands of miles on 6 motorcycles but I wouldn’t get on one now because I know my reaction time has slowed and my balance is not what it was. Most of all, I can get everywhere I need to go on a bicycle in my urban environment, using no gas.

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        1. CLIF, respectfully that link is old. When all motorcycle sales across the board were suffering because of Covid. The old meme that Harley riders are dying off of old age has been around since 1978! And Harley has been going to go broke since I was a teenager! It never happens.

          And I agree with you that HD’s are not ideal around town motorcycles. Although I rode mine 3-months a year everyday for many years in the bustling city of Milan, Italy. With no problem, until I recently turned 73-years old. And like you, my reaction time has slowed and my balance is not what it was – so I ride my Yamaha TMax scooter there now.

          But its a long leap to conclude that because of older riders like you and me, and Harleys not being suited to around town riding, that Harleys riders are going to die off. Like I said, HD always has young riders who are getting older, and move up to a slower and more sedate ride from the crotch rockets of their youth. And HD capture’s a lot of these sales and remains the largest seller in the market segment they are designed for. The Japanese would kill to match Harley sales in the highway cruising sector. Agree?

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  6. CLIF….. no vehicle can get anywhere in the city faster than 22mph average… young motorcycle couriers in the City of London delivering legal documents etc are legendary. You will see them while you are there; running red lights, riding on the wrong side of the road, on the side walks (footpaths) and jumping curbs.

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  7. I didn’t know what a bully bar was until I saw your photo. That is truly scary!!! If I saw that coming at me at a protest I sure would get out of the way. I wonder who designed something like that and why? Does it have any use other than to scare people and tell them you are a cowardly bully?

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  8. In the rural western NY, you see those trucks with the giant bars on the front … the people driving them say it’s in case they hit a deer, it protects the truck. Doesn’t change the fact that most of them have MAGA stickers all over the truck as well.

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