After a stunning decision by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority last Thursday to ban ads that “would imminently incite violence or other immediate breach of the peace,” Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz told The Algemeiner, the MTA’s new guidelines were “plain dumb” and “unconstitutional.
Dershowitz, despite his own disagreement with the ad also addressed a very real concern that the policy will simply encourage violence:
“A. It’s clearly unconstitutional” he said, and “B. it incentivizes people to engage in violence. What it says to people, is that if they don’t like ads, just engage in violence and then we’ll take the ads down.”
“It’s very bad policy,” he continued, “and it’s just plain dumb, because it is going to encourage violence.”
Islamic Activist Mona Eltahawy was arrested last week, after attempting to destroy a pro-Israel ad in the New York subway by covering the ad in spray paint. A New York Post cameraman was “coincidentally” on the scene to film the arrest and Eltahawy’s claims that she was “non-violently” protesting and “freely expressing” her disagreement with the ad.
After close examination of the tactics that Eltahawy used its looks very much like a violent act. Eltahawy's intent was to destroy property that did not belong to her and she continued to spray paint at the sign as another individual, citizen journalist Pamela Hall got in the way and attempted to protect the ad.
Dershowitz explains, “In the age of radical imams whipping up reactions, it just gives them more encouragement to do it. So if somebody wants to put up a picture of Mohammed in the subway, all people have to do is threaten violence and its censorship comes into effect.”
The MTA’s decision to take matters into their own hands, without a clear concise policy governing the content of ads displayed in the subways of New York, presents an alarming concern over the security of the First Amendment. It affects the right of all Americans to be treated equally under the law, thanks to a policy that stands to favor individuals and groups willing to act violently over an ad containing any message with which they disagree.