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WMATA Finds A Way To Deal With Pamela Geller’s Racist Ads

By Alyssa Rosenberg on October 24, 2012 at 5:06 pm

"WMATA Finds A Way To Deal With Pamela Geller’s Racist Ads"

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Given that the DC Metro system can’t turn down advertising just because they contain ideas the organization or its leaders find distasteful—which, for the record, is a state of affairs I approve of—this is probably the best possible solution to the problem of what to do with prominent Islamophobe Pamela Geller’s nasty ads which suggest that Israel is civilized and the Muslim world is decidedly not:

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said it is adding a line of text distancing itself from all new “viewpoint” ads that reads: “This is a paid advertisement sponsored by [sponsor].The advertising space is a designated public forum and does not imply WMATA’s endorsement of any views express.”

The agency was urged to add a disclaimer to a set of ads that went up earlier this month that opponents said equated Muslims with savages. The agency started to add the disclaimers to all new noncommerical ads last week as the controversy grew, with counter ads and counter-counter ads.

“Metro advertising space is deemed a public forum by the courts, and the ads you see on buses, trains, and in stations comply with existing guidelines and are protected by the First Amendment,” General Manager Richard Sarles wrote in an internal memo. “However, we want to make sure customers know we don’t endorse any of these messages.”

It’s worth noting that WMATA ads, for those of you who don’t live in Washington, are a great expression of the bizarro world that is our city’s dominant industry. You’ll see entire stations covered in military hardware or lobbying campaigns—the Capitol South Metro, which is the dominant stop on the Hill, gets particularly saturated—in addition to universities targeting the kind of kids who intern in Washington with ads telling them that they can be fifteen different kinds of wonk. But Gellar’s ads set a new standard in ugliness and crassness. I’m glad they inspired WMATA to point out that while the system may be obligated to take almost everyone’s money, that Metro is on board with every sentiment that gets splashed on subway cars and station’s walls. And in an environment of unusually heightened political and lobbying competition, there’s something appealing about the idea that the new disclaimers will mark all the other opinion ads that come along in Gellar’s wake. Washington may be the site of heated political contests, but its leading industry isn’t the sum total of the region.

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