Hey, remember those awful anti-Muslim ads that decorated subway stations for awhile a couple years back? The ones that likened Muslims to “savages” and were reviled universally, save for racist assholes? And then remember how they were almost immediately vandalized in the best possible way? By being covered with stickers that rightly called out the ads for being racist? And then remember how they disappeared for awhile and the worst type of public transportation ads we had to deal with were those terribly unfunny Manhattan Mini Storage ads and the ones advertising discount plastic surgery? Of course you do! Because that is the very recent past. Well, the future is now, and what it holds is… more of those terrible anti-Muslim ads, only this time, they’ll be on city buses.
Ordinarily, we wouldn’t care too much about any advertisements on city buses because everyone knows the only city bus worth taking is the M1 and since we don’t live or work in Manhattan, we’re very rarely on it. But because these particular ads are so offensive and make us long for the days when the veracity of Dr. Zizmor’s before-and-after pictures was the only questionable content lining the walls of our public transportation, we care. We care a lot.
The New York Times reported yesterday that even though the MTA attempted to ban these bigoted ads—which are paid for by virulent racist Pamela Geller’s group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative—a judge ruled this week that the MTA “had infringed on the group’s First Amendment rights by rejecting the ad” and must let the ads run. The MTA had argued that this type of hate speech isn’t protected under the First Amendment, not least because it could potentially incite acts of violence, but the judge wasn’t buying it, and said, “While the court is sensitive to the M.T.A.’s security concerns, the defendants have not presented any objective evidence that the ‘Killing Jews advertisement’ would be likely to incite imminent violence.”
The judge further noted that there were no violent acts surrounding the release of these ads in cities like Chicago and San Francisco, and called out New Yorkers’ resoluteness in the face bullshit, noting, “the defendants underestimate the tolerant quality of New Yorkers… and overestimate the potential impact of these fleeting advertisements.”
And, you know, maybe New Yorkers are a tolerant bunch; on the whole, I’d say we definitely are! But that’s not really the point is it? The point is more that a huge percentage of New York’s population is being called out in these ads as being war-mongering and uncivilized and Geller’s motives for displaying these ads are just as disgustingly transparent as were those of Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who burned the Koran, namely, to incite anger and discomfort and unease and pain. This is about as despicable a use of free speech as can be imagined, and it’s a shame that it’s coming soon to a bus near you.
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