"Savage" Ad Still Lurks

Our recent past-President Mike Felsen has written an op-ed for Haaretz about the possibility that anti-Muslim advertising could soon appear on MBTA buses and trains. We share an abridged version of his piece here.

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As we pointed out in an Action Alert a few weeks ago, right-wing blogger Pamela Geller and her American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) could, at any moment, post ads throughout the MBTA system that we can assume will at least resemble their original proposed ad, which said: “IN ANY WAR BETWEEN THE CIVILIZED MAN AND THE SAVAGE, SUPPORT THE CIVILIZED MAN. SUPPORT ISRAEL. DEFEAT JIHAD.”  

The T rejected that original ad on the grounds that it would demean and disparage a group of individuals – in this case Muslims and/or Palestinians – and so would violate a specific T ad guideline. Geller and her group challenged the T’s decision in federal district court in December, and lost. They are appealing the judge’s decision.

Then, in January, AFDI submitted a changed ad – “IN ANY WAR BETWEEN THE CIVILIZED MAN AND THOSE ENGAGED IN SAVAGE ACTS, SUPPORT THE CIVILIZED MAN. DEFEAT VIOLENT JIHAD. SUPPORT ISRAEL” – which the T approved. Not satisfied with the wording now accepted by the T, Geller proposed a “tweak”: “IN ANY WAR BETWEEN THE CIVILIZED MAN AND THE SAVAGE, SUPPORT THE CIVILIZED MAN. DEFEAT VIOLENT JIHAD. SUPPORT ISRAEL.” The T rejected it, and Geller returned to court with a new complaint asking the same judge to require the T to immediately allow this latest version to be posted. On March 17, the judge refused, finding that Geller’s group hadn’t made the necessary “strong showing” that the T acted unreasonably. He also found that AFDI had acted in bad faith – by offering a version the T agreed to accept, and then challenging its rejection of the “tweaked” version. He clearly wasn’t pleased with what he called “blatant gamesmanship.”

Which leaves Geller and her group with the options of (1) posting the second ad; (2) waiting for the result of their appeal on the first ad; or (3) coming up with yet another version that would pass muster for them and that the T would accept. Or they might do nothing at all.

Hence: the Action Alert is very much alive. If and when an ad is posted that demeans Muslims or Palestinians in our community – either explicitly or through innuendo – we plan to speak out openly against such bigotry, with as many allies as are willing to join that fight.