Underground Manifesto (20 July 1999)

Why this change in the Web site?

This marks the beginning of a new, more aggressive attitude on my part towards promoting the IRL and attempting to counter some of the disinformation being spread in the mainstream sports media. It has become clear to me that the aforementioned media has no intention of covering the IRL objectively; events over the May-June period in 1999 proved this to my satisfaction. As many of you know, after the horrible Charlotte tragedy, Sports Illustrated chose to run an article accompanied by photographs which were almost pornographic in their glorification of the violence of the tragedy. It was a few weeks before I began to realize what this was: a media declaration of nuclear war against the IRL.

So what to do about it?

For starters, I refuse to be dragged down to the SI/Robin Miller level. I've been around that loop and I'm not letting myself do it again. Meeting shouts with more shouts doesn't do any good. However, there is still the problem that public slander must be addressed somehow; ignoring it is not an option if one wants to maintain credibility. But the mainstream media isn't going to allow the IRL to tell its side, or the IRL fan to make the case that they aren't brainless idiots. So how to get the message out?

We've been here before.

In the early 1980s, NASCAR was in much the same predicament. Media coverage was scant, and save some exposure from ABC and CBS, almost universally negative. The answer: alternative media. In the '80s, that meant cable television, talk radio, and magazines. They didn't rely on the mainstream media to get the story right, because they knew it wasn't going to happen. Today, NASCAR can almost name their price for network TV rights, and they get favorable (often to the point of fawning) treatment from most of the press. The moral is: if you want your story told, you have to tell it yourself, and make your own connections with your audience instead of trusting the mainstream media to do it for you.

So if the IRL's answer is alternative media, what media specifically? You're looking at it. The Internet. And other things up-and-coming, like direct-broadcast satellite TV/radio. To paraphrase an old saying, with the Internet one doesn't need equal rights because the Internet is equal rights. I can maintain this Web site at minimal cost, and you can read it at virtually no cost to you. And you can if you wish start your own Web site either agreeing or disagreeing with me. The miracle of modern technology means the First Amendment is real for everyone. And so, there is no reason why IRL fans have to tolerate biased coverage.

Which brings us back to the point: this Web site has changed because the problem demands a more assertive solution. Don't worry, the same informative content that you've been used to seeing will all still be here. I still have no intent of accepting advertising (couldn't do it if I wanted to; my ISP doesn't allow it), or putting in a bunch of graphics, or of using fancy HTML constructs that slow downloads and cause problems for some browsers. (It has always been a goal of this site to have all the content be compatible with all widely-used Web browsers, including things like Lynx and WebTV. That won't change either.) But instead of just collecting information, I'm going to be expressing a few opinions, in regular editorial columns and in the design and content of the site. I will be not just an information collector but an active IRL booster, offering the IRL fan (or prospective fan) a viewpoint that they won't get in the daily newspaper or on the box, as well as reasoned rebuttals to unfair criticisms. Just because you are an IRL fan doesn't mean you need to subject yourself to a lot of abuse just to read about your sport. To the IRL fan, today's racing nonconformists, this site offers a safe haven... the Underground.