Some of you may have been following the controversy involving posters in the subways. Pamela Geller, who sees the threat of Sharia under every bed, wanted to place signs in the subway stations of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) of New York that said “In any war between civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” The odd wording derives from something that Ayn Rand once said.
Initially, the MTA refused to allow the ads but Geller went to court and they ruled that she had a First Amendment right to put it up and the MTA had to allow it. So she puts the posters up and has plans to expand the project to other cities.
But then a writer named Mona Eltahawy, who found the message to be hateful, tried to spray paint over a poster, was confronted by a defender, and following an altercation was arrested on charges including criminal mischief and making graffiti and later released. You can see video of the confrontation.
Jonathan Turley says that as a result of this fracas, the MTA has adopted a new regulation that says that certain categories of ads will not be allowed and one of them is the following:
The advertisement, or any information contained in it, is directly adverse to the commercial or administrative interests of the MTA or is harmful to the morale of MTA employees or contains material the display of which the MTA reasonably foresees would incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace, and so harm, disrupt, or interfere with safe, efficient, and orderly transit operations. [My italics-MS]
This seems to me to be to be the wrong way to go. This rule is like a blasphemy law that effectively gives a veto to whoever claims to be offended by something enough that they threaten to create a ruckus.
As far as I am concerned, Geller may be a provocateur but she had every right to put up the posters and Eltahawy had no right to deface it. What she should have done is put up other posters with an opposing message. That’s how free speech works best, not by suppression but with speech competing with speech.
[UPDATE: Two Christian and one Jewish groups are putting up ads in the NYC subway countering the Geller ads.]