“Racist” signs expose racist signs

Signs saying “racist” are being posted on, but not covering, ads that are, well, racist. Anti-Islamic advertisements are now gracing New York City’s subway system after a federal judge ruled that the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) could not legally refuse to display the signs because they expressed “demeaning” language. The ads say “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad” and are the creation of American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center watch group. Pamela Geller, the executive director of AFDI is so Islamophobic, that the very “pro”-Israel Anti-Defamation League says she “fuels and fosters anti-Muslim bigotry in society.” She campaigned to shut down an award-winning museum exhibit in Washington D.C., which highlighted Muslim contributions to science because it has indoctrinated hundreds of thousands of children into a rosy and romanticized view of Islam that makes them less appreciative of their own culture’s achievements and more complacent about Islamization in the West.” Pamela Geller may oppose freedom when it comes to something that reflects real history and culture, but she’s all about her freedom to distort and demean, and said “I will not abridge my freedoms so as not to offend savages.”

Interestingly,  the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned the ads but supported the court’s decision. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper explained,

Our basic position is that the first amendment means that everyone is free to be a bigot or even an idiot like Pamela Geller…. We wish she wasn’t provoking and inciting hatred, but in America that’s her right….  We encourage Muslims to exercise the same right to publicly denounce such adverts. The real danger is the spread of hatred in our society, which can lead to attacks on innocent people.

People are using their own free speech– without violating anyone else’s– to fight back against these ads without removing or covering them up. They are applying signs that say “RACIST” or “hate speech.” Mondo Weiss reports that at least seven ads in seven subway stations have been “altered.” Check out the photos here. What a great way to condemn hatred and respect free speech!


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/ranja/ Jason

    No, I’m sorry, but that’s not respecting free speech. That’s cutting the microphone cord when you don’t like what the person is saying in their speech. That’s tearing out the pages of the book because you don’t like what is in it. That’s changing the words of a song on the radio because it says something ugly about a political policy or figure.

    If they were to just put the “Racist” sticker above or below the sign, then you could say it was respecting free speech while also demonstrating it. But that’s not what is happening here. What is happening here is that an organization has decided they don’t like the idea behind a message, so they have chosen not to argue against it (perhaps with a counter-message on a sign right next to it?) but to block it completely. That’s just not acceptable, and if you believe that it is then you have no right complain when someone chooses to block your message.

    • http://feministing.com/members/amelie/ Amelie C

      But they aren’t cutting the mike, really. The content of the poster is still visible and readable. Even before reading the article, I could make out what it says. If you think about it, it would be counterproductive to the stickers’ purpose, if people could read what was being described as racist.

      I view the stickers as bold statements responding to bold statements.

      • http://feministing.com/members/amelie/ Amelie C

        (Also, this is a note for the moderator, not a comment to be published: I accidentally hit “report comment” on Jason’s comment! I was trying to hit “reply”~~ sorry!)

      • http://feministing.com/members/ranja/ Jason

        Two things-

        First of all, in many of the pictures that were shown, the message is covered up much more thoroughly than in the one that we see.

        Second, you say that it would be counterproductive to the stickers’ purpose if we could read the message. So . . . . . aren’t you basically saying that the purpose here is to censor the message?

  • http://feministing.com/members/cromage/ A Viescas

    So I think the real question here is:

    Where can I get these signs, because they are awesome?