We’ve never met. My name’s Dave. I don’t know much about you personally, but from what I have read about you, and from watching you talk on TV about the proposal two years ago to build a mosque five blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood, your public persona is one that makes me ashamed to be American and Jewish and a human being alive in the 21st century who has the letters “a” and “r” in his name. Because those two letters are also in your name.
You and the organization you lead, the American Freedom Defense Organization, recently won a law suit forcing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to accept and display advertising posters you made and submitted to hung on the walls inside New York City subway stations. The posters read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Congratulations on your legal victory. Ten of your posters are scheduled to go up next week.
It’s hardly worth going into why I find the posters disturbing. You know why I do. You know they are disgusting and offensive. That’s why you used the word “savage” in an argument about politics and religion, why you juxtaposed it with “civilized man.” I don’t think you’re stupid. (You were the associate publisher of the New York Observer from 1989 to 1994. Again, we’ve never met. But I wouldn’t think that’s a job for a stupid person.)
So you’ve chosen to espouse hatred and incite rage in the subway stations of the city. The city where we both live. The city where I ride the subways with my kid, who is seven. The MTA originally balked, for easily understandable reasons, but the MTA operates under a lease with the city, which has to allow everybody equal access to its public advertising space. And since the courts decided that your message in its wording was protected under First Amendment Rights, here we are. Auspicious timing, too, with all the craziness in Arab countries over the Innocence of Muslims movie and the new cartoons in the French magazine. Your contribution to the kind of paranoia and hysteria that so often leads to violence is appreciated.
What should someone like myself do? I don’t usually advocate vandalism or the destruction of other peoples’ property. (Not even Bon Jovi’s.) But in this instance, I think that it might be the right move. What’s the fine for getting caught ripping an advertisement off the wall of a subway station? Fifty bucks? A hundred? Is it different if you can’t get the whole poster down, so you just have to take your housekey and scrape until the words “savage” and “civilized” and “Israel” and “Jihad” are no longer legible? Maybe the two Stars of David that adorn the poster should go, too. Because they wouldn’t look nice there next to all the scraped-up, torn-up paper. They don’t look so nice there next to all the hatred as it is.
Mind you, I’m not saying that I will enact this sort of vigilante justice myself. I try to break as few laws as I can. Sometimes I have pot in my pockets. All I’m saying is that it would be a shame if something like that were to happen to any or every single one of the ten posters you plan to put up. The city’s a dangerous place for bigoted posters.
You know what? On second thought, it would not be a shame. It would be better for everyone. The heading of this letter is misleading. If someone rips down or otherwise defaces your posters, Pam Geller, I may well know how it happened. Because if I see any of these posters, I’m going to do it. I promise.