It’s Nuts to Censor Ads for Man in the High Castle, a Show About Freedom

Americans increasingly support free speech as a concept but make lots of exceptions. A new Pew Research poll found that 40 percent of Millennials (ages 18 to 34) believe the government should be able to prevent people from making offensive statements about minority groups.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, certainly agree. Often rivals, they teamed up to remove a set of controversial subway ads advertising a new Amazon series that depicts an alternate history in which the Nazis and the Japanese won World War II and divided control of America between them. The show’s creators include director Ridley Scott (Alien and Blade Runner) and writer Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files). It has won rave reviews, including a 96 percent positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.com.

The ads for Man in the High Castle, which appeared on a single subway line linking Times Square with Grand Central Station, featured a version of Japanese Rising Sun flags and Nazi-inspired imperial eagles (but no swastikas). The Metropolitan Transit Authority approved the ads because they did not violate MTA guidelines against political statements.

When controversy about the ads first arose last week, the MTA at first stood its ground. Adam Lisberg, a spokesperson for the MTA, explained that the public agency had no choice but to allow the ads. “We cannot pick and choose the way WCBS radio can — whether it likes an ad or doesn’t like an ad,” he told WCBS Radio. “This advertising, whether you find it distasteful or not, obviously they’re not advertising Nazism; they’re advertising a TV show.”

Then the politicians got involved, with Mayor de Blasio blasting Amazon. “While these ads technically may be within MTA guidelines, they’re irresponsible and offensive to World War II and Holocaust survivors, their families, and countless other New Yorkers,” he said. Governor Cuomo turned up the heat. Last Tuesday, the MTA acknowledged that “Cuomo called the head of the MTA and asked him to ensure the ads came down.” The MTA quickly took the subway cars out of service. (Read more from “It’s Nuts to Censor Ads for Man in the High Castle, a Show About Freedom” HERE)

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