Advertisements are often quite fun in politics; how else can you get a person to say on public television that they are not a witch?
Sadly, some advertisements are more serious than others. New York City subways, for example, have begun placing advertisements created by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) calling for the defeat of Jihad “savages”. The ads began appearing in NYC subways at the end of last month, September 2012. Although the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA), the governing body of NYC’s subways, had initially refused to put up the ads due to a standing rule not to put up offensive messages, US District Judge Paul Engelmayer overruled the MTA, citing the AFDI’s right to free speech.
Muslim rights groups view the ads as an attack on their faith and their community. The AFDI, however, states that the anti-Jihad messages are only a response to “pro-Palestinian” advertisements calling for the end of American military aid to Israel, ads created by the Palestine Authority Group. The pro-Palestinian advertisements, unlike the anti-Jihad ads, faced no resistance from the MTA. Nevertheless, the MTA has moved forward in putting up the anti-Jihad ads in accordance with Judge Engelmayer’s ruling, but with disclaimers that the ads do not represent the MTA’s views on the issue.
The AFDI has a valid constitutional claim on the matter and Judge Engelmayer made the correct decision in this case. It is a long standing principle of American law that people have a right to speak their minds so long as the speech does not cause violence. If the KKK can hold an anti-Semitic parade down a Jewish neighborhood and the Westboro Baptist Church can hold an anti-gay protest across from funerals of homosexuals, then the AFDI should be able to place anti-Jihad ads in the NYC subway. The AFDI and the conservatives who support them are also right in emphasizing that we, Americans, cannot sacrifice our own values just because a group of people have anger management issues.
I realize that comparing the AFDI to the KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church isn’t a flattering comparison. However, many liberal watch groups would lump the AFDI with the KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church together as hate groups. Based on the AFDI’s anti-Jihad advertisement alone, the “hate group” label might be warranted. Indeed, I call their advertisements “anti-Jihad” rather than “pro-Israel” because there are significant differences between the AFDI’s advertisements and the Palestinian Authority Group’s advertising which calls for such a distinction.
If we compare the pro-Palestinian ad to the advertisement created by the AFDI, there are some notable differences and similarities. Calling Palestine the side of peace and justice is just as self-serving as calling Israel the side of civilization, but the Palestine message only calls for the end of American military aid to Israel. Given America’s debt crisis and Israel’s proven ability to defend itself, this policy suggestion is worthy of debate. I question the objectivity of any person who equates a simple foreign policy suggestion with anti-Semitism.
The AFDI claims their advertisement only targets “jihad”, radical Muslims who would kill an American Ambassador over an online video. The problem is that the advertisements run by the AFDI are not clear as to what course of action the AFDI wants other than to “defeat” Jihad. How the AFDI wants to defeat the Jihad threat is itself a mystery; Muslims can only hope that the AFDI’s plan doesn’t involve criminal persecution. Indeed, the FDI has already been caught trying to entrap Muslims by bribing said Muslims into making incriminating statements. The FBI isn’t gaining too much from its campaign, but the police harassment is certainly annoying to innocent citizens who have done nothing wrong. Although the AFDI itself doesn’t command the FBI, public fear does push the government to make certain decisions. Perhaps the AFDI should fine tone their messages before they spark more unnecessary calls for prosecution of Muslims.