How does the “the broader community feel about” objectionable metro ads?


“Dear PoPville,

On my morning commute today (via the S1) I noticed ads on the bus for Louis Farrakhan’s latest diatribe, called “The Time”.

Mr. Farrakhan has a long history of hateful sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic speech and recently even accused the government of spreading ebola to kill black people. While I respect his right under the First Amendment to spread such contemptible speech, I do not believe public transportation should broadcast this message via paid ads.

I wonder how the broader community feels about this?”

Ed. Note: Metro has previously faced criticism for pro and anti Israel campaigns. At that time The Post reported that metro was sued “on First Amendment grounds, a federal judge in Washington ordered the ads to be posted.”

48 Comment

  • I don’t think Metro has a choice here. There’s a history of questionably offensive ads, and really, the offense always comes down to the eye of the beholder.

    Personally, I don’t really care.

  • it doesn’t matter how “the broader community feels” about this, because the courts have spoken. Nice pearl-clutching, though.

  • those cheesy ads are never taken seriously and have a habit of being very sub par of what really catches the attention of the masses…Wonder if it’s time for an award for the most bizarre over the top ad seen, hmm..

  • Can’t we just talk about shoes?

  • Has anyone ever noticed bible quotes, obviously printed at one’s home and not a paid ad, posted in metrobuses? I noticed it as I was walking out so I didn’t get time to process what it said.

    • I’ve found them in the Express several times. I’ll turn the page, and there it is tucked away in there. It makes me wonder if they are going to the Express boxes and individually placing them in, or if they are put in there by the people who deliver the papers to the boxes.

    • Emmaleigh504

      Reminds me of the movie 20th Century. Some loon goes around posting “the end is nigh” stickers all over the train. Much hilarity ensues.

      • Ahh! The 20th Century is such a great movie! Love Jack Barrymore in it. Roscoe Karns and Walter Connolly really steal the scenes, tho. 🙂

  • But can’t we just talk about shoes?

  • Even if not for the court decision – who cares? Offensive speech is everywhere; there’s no avoiding it. Education is the most (perhaps only) effective weapon against this kind of thinking, not censorship.

  • If you respect his right to free speech, then public transportation is one of the places you have to respect that right, on account of it being public. A private company can refuse Farrakhan’s ad if they find it offensive or potentially damaging to their bottom line, but not a public entity.

  • Smilla

    Based on content alone, there is nothing offensive in this ad. If you didn’t know who Farrakhan was or what he’s said in the past, you would have no idea what “The Time” is about. That makes it a poorly thought-out ad (unless the NOI’s intent is to speak only to those who know them already), but not objectionable in and of itself.

    Your opinion of the ad is understandably colored by your knowledge of Farrakhan’s record. Your objection is to the “speaker” himself and not the content of this ad. That alone makes your argument against Metro running the ad unreasonable. If the ad said, “Read this book to find out how whites/Jews/Tibetans control the media!”, then you’d have a legitimate objection.

    • binpetworth

      +1. While I have some background knowledge of Farrakhan, nothing in this ad offends me, and the poor typography and graphics certainly aren’t compelling me to visit the website in any case.

    • Agreed. I take the OP’s point that whatever this is advertising is probably offensive and hateful, given the source. But the ad itself isn’t objectionable, IMO.

    • Well articulated, Smilla. Farrakhan may be offensive, but the ad itself is not.

      • you can’t really separate the ad from what is being advertised.

        • Yes, you can. Or, rather, I can. It’s possible to look at the ad itself and ask what, if anything, is offensive or morally objectionable about the ad based on broad standards. As in, I may view the Tea Party, oil companies, financial institutions,….. as being evil, but I can recognize that an ad for free checking is, on the surface, innocuous. At the same time, I might personally value sex and sexuality, but understand why an ad depicting a sexual act might be deemed inappropriate in a public space.

        • I thought that would be true only if Farrakhan’s message were universally known and opposed. If it were the KKK advertising something, it would be reasonable to say that the ad itself was objectionable. But if it were David Duke promoting his autobiography, it wouldn’t.

    • ““Read this book to find out how whites/Jews/Tibetans control the media!”, then you’d have a legitimate objection.”
      If by objection you mean that you object to the message, then absolutely. If by objection you mean, “I object to WMATA allowing this add on Metrorail,” then no, you don’t have a legitimate objection.
      And I always knew those Tibetans were the secret powers in the world!

  • Accountering

    You mention that you respect his right to spread objectionable speech, but then propose that Metro not allow him to do it? Frankly, I could care less, but for that fact that I know metro needs money, so I am happy they are putting up more and more ads.

  • “If there is a bedrock principle of the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989).

  • Eh, I’m much more offended by the level of service (or lack thereof) on Metro.

  • Totally fine with the ads. That’s what free speech is all about – we all have fairly broad rights to say stuff that other people think is dumb or offensive, and we get to do so in a public forum. Much rather have our system than a system where the government or some other body gets to decide what is offensive. The articles linked to are interesting. I thought that those ads were far more obnoxious/offensive on their face, but would support them being posted anyway.

  • tonyr

    A 38 (could be 58, can’t see for sure) week lecture series. That’s longer then a Kardashian marriage. How many diffeent ways are there of saying the same thing?

  • I care far more about the protection of our right to free speech than I care about the message of these, or any other ads on Metro.


    Is there a term that describes the strong desire in some people to be OFFENDED? Is that term self-righteousness?

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