Starting this week, ten New York City subway stations will show new anti-Islamic ads from a new campaign by “American blogger, author, political activist, and commentator” Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). In red and blue letters against a stark black background, the ad reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Last September, Geller submitted the ad to the MTA and showcased on her personal blog. The MTA denied her request, citing the word “savage” as “demean[ing] an individual or group of individuals.” However, instead of changing the ad, Geller sued the MTA for violating her free speech. And, in July, the courts ruled in her favor. In his decision, Federal Judge Paul A. Engelmayer wrote that “whatever weight might be assigned to the governmental interest in banning demeaning speech on the exterior of New York City buses on an even-handed basis, there is no good reason for protecting some individuals and groups, but not others, from such abuse.” And now, by court order, the MTA must run the ads.
This not the first time Geller’s brought anti-Islamic propaganda to the advertising game. Last month, Gothamist reported on a different anti-Islam billboard put up at a Metro-North station in Westchester which read “19,250 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11/01* (*And Counting)” and “It’s Not Islamophobia, It’s Islamorealism.”
The MTA has responded to racist ads in the past, and released the following statement this summer: “MTA does not, however, decide whether to allow or not allow a proposed advertisement based on the viewpoint that it expresses or because that viewpoint might be controversial. MTA (along with its advertising contractor, CBS Outdoor) does review advertisements, including this one, to ensure that they comply with MTA’s uniform, viewpoint neutral advertising standards. MTA does not endorse the viewpoint expressed in this ad or any of the ads that MTA accepts for display on its facilities.”