This article actually provides a helpful overview of the many freedom of speech victories we have won in U.S. courts, rolling back unconstitutional restrictions on speech and attempts to restrict the freedom of speech only to the anti-Israel, pro-jihad Left. But Hannah Block-Wehba is crestfallen by these victories, not recognizing that a victory for the freedom of speech is a victory for everyone all across the political spectrum; instead, she laments that “a downright weird amount of First Amendment litigation is being brought by an organization that fights only for the right to say disparaging things about Muslims.”
Why exposing uncomfortable and unwelcome truths about the jihad threat is “to say disparaging things about Muslims” rather than “to expose the elements of Islamic theology that jihadis use to justify violence and supremacism” and “to challenge Muslims of good will to affect genuine reform,” she does not explain.
“How New York City Buses Are Becoming Vehicles for Hateful Speech,” by Hannah Bloch-Wehba, Gawker, April 27, 2015:
Last week, the federal courts chalked up another victory for the defense of American freedom—or, rather, for the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York ruled that the MTA must display an advertisement known as “the ‘Killing Jews’ advertisement.”
“Killing Jews” (the court’s abbreviation, not mine) is a response to an ad campaign run by the Council on American-Islamic Relations about the concept of “lesser jihad.” As part of its #MyJihad ad campaign to “take back Islam from Muslim and anti-Muslim Extremists Alike,” that group ran a series of ads attempting to promote tolerance and understanding of the concept of “jihad,” or “struggle.” In response, the American Freedom Defense Initiative developed a series of ads with quotes from Islamic extremists, including the one from “Hamas MTV” at issue in the most recent case: “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.” MTA refused to run the ad, and the group sued.
At least Bloch-Wehba acknowledges that the quote is genuine, while other mainstream media reports have assumed, or disingenuously claimed, that it was a “parody.” But she does so off-handedly and in passing, noting that the series of which this one is part feature “quotes from Islamic extremists.” She never stops to ponder the implications of that fact, or to consider the possibility that to shed light on such statements might not be intending to disparage Muslims or anyone, but to increase people’s general awareness of the nature and magnitude of the threat we face.
The “Killing Jews” case is the latest result of a flurry of litigation activity from the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and individual rights under the law.” Judging by its lively federal court docket, the organization takes its responsibility to exercise its free speech rights very seriously: this is its third suit against the MTA and its ninth against a transit authority.
In practice, the group—which is run by Pamela Geller, a right-wing activist—is largely devoted to creating incendiary ads for display on public transportation, then litigating when transit authorities shy away from accepting the ads. “Killing Jews” thus joins the pantheon of offensive advertising that the group has placed on public transit around the country, teaching everybody an important lesson about the First Amendment and causing innocent commuters’ eyes to bleed. Beyond their utility at getting travelers from point A to point B, Geller has noted that “[Buses] are a very effective form of advertising,” adding, “I like the bus purely as a marketing vehicle.”
“Incendiary”…”offensive”…”causing innocent commuters’ eyes to bleed.” According to whom? Hannah Bloch-Wehba, and those in power. But the charges, for all the bleating repetition with which they’re made, remain unproven. Only one perspective is allowed in Gawker and the mainstream media in general, but that doesn’t make it any more true.
…This is the organization’s third victory against the MTA. The first was a bit anticlimactic: in 2010, it bought space for its “Original Ground Zero Mosque Bus Advertisement” from the MTA. This ad “has at one side a picture of the Twin Towers aflame with a plane headed toward them. On the opposite side of the banner is a tower with a crescent moon and star. The text between the two buildings is: ‘Why There?’” MTA’s ad agent, CBS Outdoor, rejected the ad. After the Initiative sued, MTA backed down, ran the ad, and the group dismissed its lawsuit.
In 2011, it came back to MTA with its “Savages” ad. The ad read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. / Support Israel / Defeat Jihad.” The MTA again rejected the ad, this time on the basis that it was “demeaning,” and the group again sued. (It’s worth noting that until this episode, the MTA had a lackadaisical approach to advertisers: it had never before rejected an ad as demeaning, which explains why the letter from Isabel to Dr. Zizmor continues to run, year after year.) The court applied the most exacting level of First Amendment scrutiny—“strict in theory, fatal in fact”—to hold that MTA’s bar on “demeaning” speech violated the First Amendment. Another win for freedom!
To whom was this ad demeaning? Leftists and Islamic supremacists claimed it was demeaning to all Muslims, but that was only true if every Muslim supported the savage jihad against Israel — the murder of civilians, the passing-out of candy to celebrate those murders, etc. We made this point again and again at the time, but it was always brushed aside, as it didn’t fit the mainstream media narrative.
Though known for its libertine ways, the MTA is by no means the only transportation authority in the country that’s been saddled with these ads. The group also successfully sued the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in 2012 for the right to run the “Savages” ad. And in March of this year, it prevailed against the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in federal court in Philadelphia, winning the right to run another, separate, advertisement displaying a picture of Hitler meeting Haj Amin al-Husseini and advocating an end to U.S. aid to “Islamic countries.”
Why does Hannah Bloch-Wehba put “Islamic countries” in sneer quotes, as if there really aren’t any such things? Has she never heard of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan? Does she think the Kingdom of the Two Holy Places refers to the Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral?
…Also, a downright weird amount of First Amendment litigation is being brought by an organization that fights only for the right to say disparaging things about Muslims. So there you go.
No, what is downright weird is that Bloch-Wehba and her colleagues believe that telling unwelcome and unpopular truths disparages anyone.