Pickup trucks customized to spew black smoke into the air are quickly becoming the newest weapon in the culture wars.
"Coal Rollers" are diesel trucks modified with chimneys and equipment that can force extra fuel into the engine causing dark black smoke to pour out of the chimney stacks. These modifications are not new, but as Slate's Dave Weigel pointed out on Thursday, "rolling coal" has begun to take on a political dimension with pickup drivers increasingly viewing their smokestacks as a form of protest against environmentalists and Obama administration emissions regulations.
Last month, Vocativ noted many coal rollers focus their fumes on "nature nuffies," or people who drive hybrids, and "rice burners," or Japanese-made cars.
"The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal," a roller named Ryan told Vocativ. "I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me."
Weigel spoke to a seller of coal rolling customization equipment who described why some drivers see spewing smoke as a political protest.
"I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all," the salesperson said. "If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you."
As coal rollers have become a form of conservative protest, their popularity seems to be exploding. Vocativ found Facebook pages dedicated to the phenomenon have about 16,000 followers and over 100,000 rolling coal posts have appeared on Instagram and Tumblr. According to Google Trends, there were virtually no internet searches for "rolling coal" prior to February 2011. Since then, search volume for the term has increased over 700%.
With this explosion in online attention, the battles between coal rollers and their environmentalist enemies are playing out in social media pages, Youtube videos and internet comment sections. Many of the rolling coal Facebook pages feature memes (like the one pictured on the right) that mock hybrid drivers and liberals. Coal rollers have also posted videos showing their trucks blasting more environmentally-efficient cars with smoke.
Opponents of the practice have also taken to the internet. Weigel noted "a mid-June surge of comments" from progressives attacking coal rolling social media pages in the wake of the Vocativ article. In 2012, one outraged Youtuber posted a video entitled "Victim Of Coal Rolling" that showed a pickup shooting fumes at his car.
"Blow your smoke at me you son of a bitch," the driver says in the video.
Though the clip seemed designed as a criticism of coal rollers, it attracted a slew of comments from people who were clearly on the side of the pickup driver.
"What a loser you are, ain't nothing wrong with rolling some confederate coal," one person replied.
"Stupid ricers. what were you gonna do you bitch?" another said.
Check out some videos of coal rollers hitting the road and blasting other motorists below.