Stupid Tuesday questions, Bichon Frisé edition

Last week. Rose asked about the larger behavioral patterns that emerged when people preferentially bought “green” household cleaning items.  (I will admit [against all reason] that I went shopping a few days ago, and found myself pondering the schmuckiness quotient of various dish soaps.  After vacillating for a preposterous amount of time, I once again succumbed to marketing and bought the “earth-friendly” variety.)  This led to a broader discussion about “signaling,” and how you choose to let the rest of the world know what kind of person you are.

Which brings me to bumper stickers.

If one were to look at the rear of my car, one could draw a few conclusions.  One could surmise that I prefer center-left politicians, but that I am not strictly partisan.  One would learn the farthest distance I have run in a race.  (Sorry, Kazzy.)  And one could both discover that I send my kid to the local Montessori school, and (by virtue of the presence of a sticker thus proclaiming on my car) surmise that I am susceptible to certain kinds of low-cost social pressures.  (See above re: dish liquid.)  All from four stickers.  When they finally print the stickers in favor of my state’s upcoming marriage equality referendum, I’ll probably slap one of them on, too.

As you can see, I am not averse to bumper stickers as a rule.  (The Better Half finds them vaguely ridiculous, and has not shied away from expressing that opinion with regard to my own choice to display them.)  I realize they are nothing but signalling, and have no illusion that they accomplish anything other than saying “Lookit me, world!”  But I put them on my car anyway.  That said, there is a particular category of bumper sticker that I just can’t stand.

I hate those “My [purebred dog] is smarter than your honor student” stickers.  (I now await angry comments comparing me to Harry Harlow from owners of purebred dogs.)  I realize they are quasi-humorous way of reacting to the ubiquity of those “honor student/student of the month” stickers while simultaneously affirming one’s fondness for man’s best friend… but I hate them.

First of all, I think they’re maybe just the little bit mean-spirited.  Yes, I understand that it’s kind of obnoxious to broadcast how superior your child (and, by implication, your child-rearing) is.  But I will tell you now that if my own son ever eagerly hands me a sticker for my car, in hopes that I will display it and demonstrate that I’m proud of him … that sticker is going on my car.  I realize that this means once again succumbing to subtly-exerted social pressures, but I’m not going to have a conversation about abstractions like that with my kid if the upshot means his feelings are hurt.  And if people think I’m obnoxious as a result, I’ll take that deal.  Sue me.

However, I also think those stickers are dumb, because they’re obviously not true.  Sorry, folks, but your dog really isn’t smarter than an honor student.  Aren’t there funnier comparisons to be made, which might also actually smack of plausibility?  My dog is more obedient than your honor student?  Better groomed?  Hell, even smells better?  “Smarter” makes no sense.

So that’s this week’s question — are there bumper stickers that drive you nuts?  That make you say “I can’t believe that’s what the driver of that car chooses to tell the rest of the world about himself”?  (Don’t even get me started on these, which may be the most pathetic product ever marketed in the history of mankind.)  The question can also apply to t-shirts and other ways that people proclaim themselves to unsuspecting passers-by.  (The story of the Worst T-shirt I Ever Saw will have to wait for a future Leaguefest.)

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I dislike slogan stickers in general.

    I really don’t like “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.”

    Other than a Jon Huntsman sticker, which I never got around to putting on there, the only bumper stickers I’ve ever considered (excluding the below) are ones that are responses to other bumper stickers (“I’m not outraged because I have a sense of perspective” or “I don’t confuse OUTRAGE with moral righteousness” or “If your worldview fits on a bumper sticker, think harder.”)

    My car has my alma mater’s insignia on it, plus the Episcopal shield.

    My favorite bumper sticker was on a clunker that said “I won this car at Whirlwind Minigolf” (“I won a hole-in-one at Whirlwind Minigolf” being a common fixture on cars around where I grew up, despite the odd sentence construction.)

    • My car has … the Episcopal shield.

      That strikes me as unusual. I rarely see Christians advertising their denomination (although Catholics’ care are frequently easy to spot, and all the DarwinFish getting eaten by JesusFish are pretty clearly some manner of evangelical), and Episcopalians aren’t know as the most evagelical or self-promiting denomination.

      Am I wrong about that?

      • Keep an eye out for the Episcopal shield, you might be surprised to see it more often than you might think (or, if you don’t know what it looks like, without realizing what it is). I’m not sure why, since Episcopalians are not as evangelical about their faith as many other denominations. I’m a mixed-bag Episcopalian, but I still identify with the church on a cultural level, even if my theological beliefs are… uncertain (the fact that the Church doesn’t universally condemn this makes me happy to associate with it all the more…)

    • I HATE “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

        • Hey Will, I was literally thinking the other day that you hadn’t stopped by in a while. Happy to see you!

          • Busy with the cares of the world.
            An assortment of various projects of cascading urgency.

            Sometimes I save pages for later reading, but the commenting just isn’t the same after 30-some-odd comments have appeared since the page was saved.

            Thanks for the good wishes.

    • “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.”

  2. Citizens Project came out with a bumpersticker that said “CELEBRATE DIVERSITY!” in white lettering on a blue background.

    Every other car had one, it seemed… to the point where the people who didn’t have one pointed out how all of the celebrate diversity bumperstickers were identical. It was a difficult point to argue against.

  3. Most of the slogany ones don’t make me nuts like Will, they just make me laugh. I do love the “If your worldview fits on a bumper sticker, think harder” idea, though.

    There is only one that actually makes me mad. There’s a certain type of person who buys these:

    This makes me angry, because it shits on brilliant art.

    If there’s a Purgatory, a Watterson proxy hits you over the head with a stupid stick for a finite (but unpleasant) amount of time for putting one of those on your car.

    • I don’t care for the ‘Whiz Kid’ thing myself.
      If I were a tasteless moron (and I might well be, but for now let’s pretend that I’m taking the position rhetorically), I don’t see any reason to broadcast the fact by pasting one of those things where people will see it all the time and associate it with me.

      I dislike that whole thing about safety passes and parking stickers.
      They all come off as soon as I no longer need them.

  4. …pick any of the Age of Autism bumper stickers, or any from the anti-vaccine cranks.

  5. Those that associate authentic Christian religiosity with a particular stance on some political issue or with voting in a particular way.

  6. The Darwin Fish makes me want to bash out my brains and those of everyone around me.

    I actually love those little family stickers people put on their back windows (with one little person for every member), especially if they include the pets. I have no damn idea why.

    Also, pursuant to Will’s post, if you went to a university and their sticker isn’t on your car, I assume it’s because you’re an ungrateful prick.

    • The other day, I saw a car with both a Jesus fish and a Darwin fish. (I tried to snap a picture with my phone, which was challenging [and ultimately fruitless], given that I was also trying to steer my car.) One on the left side of the bumper, one on the right.

      I decided it was kind of awesome, instead of incoherent.

      • Two theories on this besides a terrible, though amusing, mistake. 1) A Christian who is making the point that faith in God and belief in evolution are not incompatible (one of the things that annoys me about Darwin fish is it seems to assume that religious faith necessarily rules out belief in evolution). 2) A Christian atheist mixed marriage.

    • Note to self: better keep Mr. Noonan away from the Likkomobile so he never sees what actually is where my alumni sticker ought to be.

    • I am actually tempted by those family stickers. Good God, why?!?!

      • In my town they’re predominantly used by people I despise; the smug cliquish set. Stay away, stay far far away.

        • Take a sharpie and write “Inbreeding” at the bottom of it every time you see one.
          Try to do so discreetly.
          That’s my advice.

          Which might be why I don’t enjoy a career as an advice columnist.

  7. The Better Half finds them vaguely ridiculous, and has not shied away from expressing that opinion with regard to my own choice to display them.

    The Better Half seems like a wise man. I loathe bumper stickers and will never put on one my car.
    I need to remember to indoctrinate our child to the same mode of thought before she starts going to school.

    There is a gentleman in our little town that has, in addition to several pro-Confederacy window decals, a bumper sticker that says, next to an image of the Confederate Battle Flag “I’ll give up the Flag when you give up Martin Luther King Day”. I’ve been behind him at a traffic light on my morning commute several times.

    On a lighter note, I was behind a truck a few months ago with a bumper sticker that read “I do whatever the voice in my pants tells me to” and I laughed so hard I barely maintained control of my car.

    • “The South Will Rise Again,” with a Confederate Flag. I still remember seeing this at a rest stop several years ago. I usually ignore or laugh off bumper stickers, but on this occasion I had to resist the temptation to confront the culprit. In fact, just typing this is raising my blood pressure.

      • Back in the ’90s, I was on Spring Break in Panama City, Florida. A couple of my friends hitched a ride in the back of a pick up. As they were getting in the back, some of the rest of us noticed a bumper sticker with the slogan of, IIRC, “These Colors Don’t Run,” with an image of a swastika and a Confederate flag.

        More recently, though, the bumper sticker combo that most boiled my blood was what I described here:

        • Back closer to 9/11 when the jingoism was getting poisonous, someone hung a HUGE banner off a railway bridge that crosses a sunken highway in Chicago with an ENORMOUS US flag on it and “These Colors Don’t Run”.

          Unfortunately, whatever they painted it with wasn’t weatherproof, so after about a week, they WERE running, with the red and blue weeping down over the black lettering. And in a month, the red had faded almost entirely, leaving a sort of old-piss pale yellow where the smeared, drippy mess of it used to be, along with the blue drips and the letters.

          I really don’t think the sign-hanger intended the final irony their sign ended up embodying … but it made my commutes more cheerful with every passing week. :->

    • I loathe bumper stickers and will never put on one my car.

      I hate all the “I’m Pro-Life and I Vote,” I’m Pro-Gun and I Vote” “I’m Pro-Educ and I Vote” stickers. So I’m thinking of getting one that says, “I’m Pro-Fane and I Vote.”

      Best bumper sticker I ever saw: “If Jesus died for my measly little sins, I reckon he over-reacted.”

  8. I have a bumper sticker with the name of my daughter’s cross-country team, and we replaced the licence-plate holder that advertised the car dealership with one that advertises my son’s high school. I expect neither is controversial.

    And if I were going to design a bumper sticker, it would say

    My Shih Tzu is smarter than your honor student’s pencil. Barely.

    • I would buy that bumper sticker with any breed of animal I happened to own at the time.

  9. Aren’t there funnier comparisons to be made, which might also actually smack of plausibility? My dog is more obedient than your honor student? Better groomed? Hell, even smells better? “Smarter” makes no sense.

    My Lab is better socialized than your honor student?

  10. One of the odd (and perhaps unexpected) outcomes of your city being a known liberal bastion is there are a lot conservatives who, surely feeling embattled just living here, have a tendency to wear ginormous chips on their shoulders. I don’t see a lot of bumper stickers here, but when I do it’s either:

    1. the name and logo of a indie hipster band,

    2. a very, very angry conservative response to liberalism.

    There are the occasional COEXIST or CELEBRATE DIVERSITY here, but for the most part it’s one of those two listed above. The hipster indie band stickers I like, if only because if you’re a PDX hipster you only put a band’s name and logo on your car if you’re pretty sure no one’s heard of them. This makes for great reading if you’re like me and like to see what bands are calling themselves these days. (Some recent favorites: Darwin’s Beagle Journals, Cat Butt, An Attitude Named 33, Dick Cheney’s Love Child, the Porn Husks.)

    But I hate the conservative bumper stickers. I assume that if I lived in, say, Idaho I’d see the more positive Pro-Conservative messages, but in Portland all the conservative bumper stickers are just mean spirited and so remarkably un-witty that they make you cringe. Ones that I see around town a lot include:

    Somewhere In Kenya, A Village Is Missing And Idiot
    Confuse A Liberal: Use Logic!
    If You Can’t Feed ‘Em, Don’t Breed ‘Em
    Still Support Obama? How Stupid Are You?
    Speak English or Go Back To The Sorry Ass Country You Came From
    How Bout I Put My Carbon Footprint Up Your Liberal Ass?

    I wonder what goes on in people’s heads that they think any of these are remotely clever, interesting, or a thing that would be really awesome to say to one’s neighbors.

    • I am willing to buy a gross of Dave Matthews Band car decals if you are willing to surreptitiously stick them on hipsters’ cars and take pictures of their ensuing responses.

      • The only bumper sticker on either mine or my wife’s car is the one for my brother’s band from like 10 years ago.

        he’s still got the band, but since then he’s found a career (he started work as a full-time aide for a special needs kid and found something akin to a vocation), and while he still performs a few times a year, he’s moved to writing music more than singing it.

        Apparently he’s currently learning all the stuff you need to know if you want to, you know, sell songs and music and stuff. Maybe there’s a union? I dunno, I wasn’t paying attention. His kid and I were playing a game of “Who’s upside down?” (hint: It was his kid).

  11. I have a personal loathing of all question-begging abortion-related bumper stickers, pro and con. “It’s a child, not a choice!” or “Keep your laws off my body.”

    Do I have to hand in my atheist membership card if I admit I kind of like, “In case of rapture, car will be driverless?”

    A county that borders ours is called Howard County. For some reason (maybe due to a local electoral issue? I have no idea), these green bumper stickers that say “Choose Civility in Howard County” are absolutely ubiquitous. Like, barring Obama stickers, the most popular bumper sticker around here. Someone recently had a bumper sticker in the same font and colors that said, “Choose Hostility in Howard County.”

    • I’ve seen some other parodies, including “Choose Senility” and “Choose Insanity.”

      I still don’t know what the original was about.

  12. A few years back, I recall a post at Marginal Revolution (I think) calling attention to a study that found an extraordinarily strong correlation between the number of bumper stickers/window decals on one’s car and the crapiness of one’s driving. This surprised me not at all.

    • I respectfully submit that the effect of bumper stickers on one’s driving is negligible compared to the single greatest predictor of horrible, reckless and hostile driving, which is that you are on I-95 heading into Boston at the same time I am trying to make it to my office in peace.

      • If you’d start your drive earlier instead of using that time to affix yet more bumper stickers, I think both problems could be solved.

  13. My least favorite bumper sticker reads: “No farms, no food.”

    It’s spectacularly hard to put so much wrong into so few letters.

    First, it’s false. There would be less food, and disastrously so, but there would not no food.

    Second, it’s attacking a strawman. No one is proposing to outlaw farms.

    Third, it’s supporting farm subsidies, which are a terrible idea. Farm subsidies do very little to maintain the family farm, which has mostly already disappeared. They just do a whole lot to pad the corporate bottom line of a few very large agribusiness firms. Farm subsidies are awful for all kinds of other reasons, too. They hurt the developing world and tend to make it more dependent on food aid. They degrade the environment beyond what’s necessary. And ethanol subsidies actually raise the price of many kinds of food.

    Fourth, the sticker suggests that if we did eliminate all farms, maybe no one would notice until dinnertime rolled around and we all sat down to big plates o’ nothing. As if people wouldn’t notice at some point, and as if we wouldn’t say “hmm, maybe we need a farm or two after all.” As if price signals wouldn’t tell people to hurry up and grow something, because people are hungry.

    So. Much. Wrong!

    • First, it’s false. There would be less food, and disastrously so, but there would not no food.

      The mental image of you earnestly explaining this difference to someone bearing that sticker at a farmer’s market is giving me an uncontrollable case of the giggles.

    • I don’t know how much truth there is to it, and maybe none, but…

      It’s a really common complaint out here (in family farm/ranch country) that ag subsidizations and federal regulations in general disadvantage the “family farm.” I thought, when I moved out here, that everyone would just love ag subsidies to death, but instead I hear a lot about how “all of the money goes to those mega-corporations in Illinois and Iowa”, how hard it is for farms to get their hands on those resources (“We don’t have rooms full of lawyers to figure out the paperwork…”).

      Granted, people out here like complaining about Washington in general. In addition to the above, there are a lot of complaints about how all of the new regulations favor the professional agriculturalists over the family farms (specifically the proposed-but-canned regulation about underage farm equipment drivers and the new regs prohibiting the employment of nephews and such under the same regime as children).

      • There’s probably also a “grass is greener” vibe there. “This subsidy is crap. The big companies must be getting better, because people are always screaming about big subsidies and mine is crap”.

        Have ten thousand times the acreage, get 10,000 times the money or whatnot. Plus, the corn lobby owns Congress anyways.

        Only possible explanation for corn ethanol. I’m sure there’s a worse plant to turn into ethanol, but it’s not coming to mind.

        • I’m sure there’s a worse plant to turn into ethanol, but it’s not coming to mind.

          Whichever one they make Southern Comfort from.

          • I was gonna say that I thought it was just corn, but it turns out SoCo isn’t really a whiskey any longer and it’s just distilled grain alcohol with flavorings added.

          • Corn’s crap to turn into ethanol. Energy return is crap, the current processes to convert it are crap, it’s crap, crap, crap.

            It’s like trying to make batteries out of silicon and rubber. I’m sure if you tried hard enough you could manage to create some form of energy storage device from it, but you’d be better off using, you know, practically anything else.

            It’s just a bad plant for it.

    • Come to think of it, I did have a bumper sticker based on state pride before. It was for the state I was raised in, and then I had to add another one to appease Mom because I was born in the state that she was raised in and therefore was obligated to be a Blankian for life. When I left the state, I didn’t replace either of them.

  14. My favorite bumper sticker (though I’d never actually put it on my car) used to be sold in the stands at baseball games, before they became all “family-friendly”. It says, very simply,

    Fuck the Dodgers

  15. For a decade I had an old CJ jeep with no top all summer, a great mutt that loved to have his face peeled back by the wind, and a “Dog is my Copilot” bumper sticker on the spare tire cover. Whenever there was a siren he would throw his head straight up and howl right along with them. I don’t know how many times I would see everybody at the stop light cracking up at us. Copilot, indeed.

    I sure do miss that mutt.

  16. I worked in a boiler room type sales office for about 2 months (I was terrible at it) one summer in college. I am pretty sure that anyone who is good at that kind of thing is a rare douche nozzle, and it was definitely the case at this place. We had this one guy with a tattoo of an AK-47 on his bicep. You know, “its a gun… on my guns” he would explain to the less bright lights there, such as myself. He quoted Alec Baldwin’s lines from Glengarry Glen Ross at random and without humour. He really was an epic arse. No surprise, this is the same guy who used 2 parking spaces to park his black 911 Carrera. Every day.

    One weekend I saw a license plate holder that said “If it has a dick or a kickstand I’ll ride it.” It took about a minute to swap it out on that 911 on Monday morning. I heard he didn’t notice it for going on six months and had the mother of all red faced tantrums in the office when he finally did.

  17. As I’ve said in other posts, I do have a car magnet that says, “I love someone with [Ridiculously Rare] Syndrome.” It has little chromosomes on it, but I imagine that escapes the notice of most other drivers.

    And I forgot the worst bumper sticker of all time. It said, “I have a dream, too” and had a confederate flag. My husband did not heed my suggestion to run them off the road.

  18. I’ll offer more later…
    … but since moving to “the country”, I see several “Terrorist Hunting Permit” stickers. These are bothersome on a whole different level than most, as they seem pretty clearly aimed at intimidating folks. And despite thr ubiquitousness of hunting up here (I doubt most of the folks sporting them would object to killing a living being in the form of an animal and I have no problem with this), I bet most if not all would be too chickenshit to ever put their faux “terrorist hunting permit” to use even if given the oppourtunity.

    • I went and shot the maximum the game laws would allow,
      Two game wardens, seven hunters, and Akhnouche

  19. Just went for a run and saw a sticker that reads “US Army. Die for Israel,” which I respectfully suggest contains even more stupidity per word than Jason’s submission above, with a bonus helping of unsavory implications.

  20. I have a friend who started keeping a stash of rainbow bumper stickers in her car when Amendment 2 passed (she was a teenager at the time). For years, she religiously used them to cover up all the anti-gay bumper stickers she came across in parking lots. Normally, I wouldn’t condone doing things to someone else’s car that they probably wouldn’t want you to, but in this case, I think it was the best way she had to stay sane in the face of being told she was going to hell on a regular basis. One does what one must.

    Anyway, as I wrote this comment, I realized that I haven’t seen any bumper stickers like that in a long long time. They’ve stopped being a ubiquitous feature of the Colorado landscape. This cheers me up considerably.

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