For many the Hummer has become a symbol of all that is wrong with America: wastefulness without regard to consequences, entitlement beyond the scope of reason, and individualism to the point of arrogance.
Based off the American military’s vehicle Hum-vee, which is meant to be driven in combat zones, many are perplexed as to why anyone would choose to drive what is essentially a military design through American suburbs, especially considering that the vehicle gets around 9-16 miles per gallon. However, a new study shows that Hummer owners believe that they in fact possess the ‘moral highground’.
In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, scientists conducted interviews with twenty Hummer owners.
“As we studied American Hummer owners and their ideological beliefs, we found that they consider Hummer driving a highly moral consumption choice,” write the authors. “For Hummer owners it is possible to claim the moral high ground.”
According to the study, Hummer owners see themselves as upholding American foundational myths, like the “rugged individual” and “boundless frontier”. To them they represent a heroic bastion against the ‘anti-American’ attitudes they view in their critics.
“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,” the authors explain in their paper. “The moralistic critique of their consumption choices readily inspired Hummer owners to adopt the role of the moral protagonist who defends American national ideals.”
Citation: Marius K. Luedicke, Craig J. Thompson, and Markus Giesler. “Consumer Identity Work as Moral Protagonism: How Myth and Ideology Animate a Brand- Mediated Moral Conflict.” Journal of Consumer Research: April 2010 (published online September 18, 2009).
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