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A Tesla vehicle at Tesla's primary vehicle factory.Stephen Lam/Reuters

It’s a sunny September day in a California parking lot. A woman sitting in the driver’s seat of a white Mazda has her door open. She produces an empty fast-food box and sneaks it under her car. She checks to see if there are any potential witnesses around and then keys the Tesla parked next to her. Unsatisfied, she opens her door once more and keys it again before driving off. The whole incident (including her license plate, with the ‘O’ in ‘SOUL M8S’ substituted with a heart) is caught by the Tesla’s Sentry Mode cameras.

“Did absolutely nothing wrong,” wrote the Tesla owner on Reddit. “Didn’t cut her off, didn’t park poorly. Just sad to see how scummy people can be.”

Are Tesla owners being persecuted? Are they now more hated than those who drive Audis and Bimmers? Every day there seems to be a new incident of Tesla Torment (the Mazda mayhem was reported on Drive Tesla Canada). Inside Edition recently reported that “mean-spirited acts of vandalism are happening across the USA to Tesla owners.”

“What’s at the heart of this kind of vandalism?” The Inside Edition reporter asked, and then cited a social media comment saying the public thinks Tesla owners are “rich or snobby.”

There is an entire YouTube stream – Wham Baam Teslacam – dedicated to presenting the good the bad and the ugly of Sentry Mode movies. It has 268,000 subscribers.

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A close examination of Wham Baam Teslacam reveals a lot about the reputed targeting of Tesla owners. Here are the main takeaways:

  • It’s extremely fun to watch. If you are having trouble procrastinating, click onto Wham Baam Teslacam and watch the hours fly by. It will be four in the afternoon before you know it. The clips are a hypnotic fever-dream of pointless vandalism, manic road rage, precarious near-misses and drunk people dancing in front of Sentry Mode’s cameras after leaving pubs.
  • Each clip starts with a Tesla-themed song parody and is accompanied by a voiceover with a stilted, heroic, advertorial style. For instance, “Braden was eating at a Chili’s in Roanoke, Texas. He had just picked up his brand new Model Y earlier that day …” Then something bad/and or stupid happens.
  • The voice-over shamelessly praises Tesla technology with lines such as “Police who showed up at the scene were impressed that they could see the playback of the accident right in the Tesla.”
  • The average person is unaware that a Tesla is essentially Big Brother on wheels and Sentry Mode’s cameras record everything.
  • Tesla owners seem to believe the appropriate penalty for vandalizing a Tesla should be akin to being hanged, drawn and quartered followed by excommunication.
  • One commenter wrote, “These videos make me both lose faith in humanity and regain it all.” I can echo this sentiment, except for the “regain it all” part.

After spending time watching the carnage, it’s obvious that some drivers really do have an unreasonable hatred of Teslas. All the keying, crashing and bashing of Model 3, S, W, X, Y, Zs can’t be dismissed as coincidence. Why they hate Teslas? That’s perhaps asking the wrong question. It puts the blame on the Tesla and its owners. Are Tesla owners rich? Well, they ain’t poor. Those babies don’t come cheap. Are they spoiled? No more than any other human beings walking the planet.

No, the question we have to ask is “What is it about the Tesla and Elon Musk that triggers the self-hate that drives those who vandalize it?”

When you key a car, you’re not righting a wrong, you’re acting out your own self-loathing. You’re taking your own flaws and insecurities out on an inanimate object and some imaginary Tesla-owning villain that you’ve concocted in your mind.

I’m always shocked by how many people think it’s okay to key someone’s car, as if they’re enacting some sort of frontier justice. Billy the Kid didn’t ride around keying people’s horses. When you key a car or lose your mind to road rage you are lowering yourself into the gutter. You’ve scratched their car, but you’ve stained your honour. So enough Tesla Torment, Dodge Damage, Toyota Totaling and Honda Harming.

The fault, dear drivers, is not in our cars but in ourselves.

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