Poor TriMet. Being forced against their will to permit free speech.
Oh, the Portland, Oregon, public transit agency supports free speech. I know because they said so. They just desperately want for it to happen some place else. Because, you know, free speech can get messy. Just like democracy. And God forbid that life should get messy for the good folks at TriMet. (Well, any messier than it already is.)
According to Fox 12 News Monday:
For the next four weeks, a controversial pro-Israel advertisement will appear on some TriMet vehicles in response to a recent pro-Palestinian advertisement that has appeared in Portland, New York and Washington, DC.
TriMet said the new ad, paid for by a group called The American Freedom Defense Initiative, would begin appearing Monday.
The ad reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”
A similar [sic] advertisement appeared on TriMet vehicles in September, paid for by a group called Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights.
The pro-Palestinian ad read, “47 million Palestinians are classified by the U.N. as refugees,” and featured maps showing the decreasing size of Palestine since 1946.
In a statement released Monday, TriMet said that due to a 2008 court ruling, it is required to accept all advertising on its vehicles, regardless of content.
“We want to let our riders and the public know that we’re disappointed our vehicles have become a medium for divisive discussion, but at this time, we have no other option except to allow the ad on our vehicles,” said Drew Blevins, TriMet director of Marketing and Customer Information.
“We support free speech, but we hope the Oregon Supreme Court will once again allow us to limit ads to only commercial goods and services.”
The pro-Palestinian ads ran last month with nary a peep from TriMet or the media. Here is KOIN 6′s brief and neutral reportage on those ads. They, apparently, were just free speech. It seems only the pro-Israel ads are controversial and divisive.
Oh, and “inflammatory.” That’s The Oregonian’s description. They go on to note that:
the ad has already stirred protests and calls for boycotts on transit systems in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
“Divisive discussion” seems to be the new code for, well, discussion. After all, when we all agree, what is there to discuss? And when we don’t agree, well, then, you kind of expect . . . disagreement, right? That’s how these things work.
TriMet needs to grow a (if you think only males have courage you’re wrong; and if you don’t think it, don’t say it) spine.
And why are we so afraid of different points of view, anyway? Here’s Peter Miller, head of Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, the organization behind the pro-Palestinian ads:
I’m still surprised how Americans seem fearful of free speech. We do live in a democracy and we do need speech. Not just the concept of speech, but actual speech.
Not just the concept of speech, but actual speech. Fancy that.
Sadly, it turns out Miller himself only has the concept down. He went on to tell the Associated Press in the very next breath that:
the competing pro-Israel display goes over the line because the term “savage” is racist and could incite violence against Muslims.
Against Muslims? I’m thinking that’s not the biggest danger here.
But there’s an even bigger flaw in Miller’s thinking. He’s worried because the ad could incite violence. You know, pretty much anything could incite violence. Every parent of siblings in the world knows that. When we start drawing the line at things that might incite violence, we effectively repeal the First Amendment and end the Great Conversation. Because then I don’t have to even talk to you when I disagree with you. All I have to do is punch you when you try to speak, and the government will shut you down. Exit free speech; enter might makes right.
Is that what we want?
Because that’s where we’re heading.