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:
Weekly Weird News
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.
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?
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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