You Want the “Nazi” Ads Off the Train? Here Are Some Other Things You Can Get Rid Of (Liberty, For One)

Responding to Salon’s piece on the subway ad campaign for Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” which involved Nazi imagery.

I can understand people being offended by the intrusive subway ads for Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” but they’ve got to understand that this works the other way, too. There are plenty of people offended by ads for breast augmentation surgery or any of the other many “sex sells” ads; there are likewise people angered by ads either for or against abortion, or by certain messages of faith. That’s just a part of your daily commute to work, and you either tune the advertisements out, or you don’t.

Just because the ad is Nazi imagery, then, shouldn’t make it easier to condemn. Especially for flaccid reasons like this: “On the train, seeing the American flag paired with a Nazi symbol is viscerally offensive, because there is no context as to what it means.” No context? Like the advertisements above all of the seats that explain that this is pitching an alternate-reality show in which the Nazis won World War II? I mean, the next step from there is to say that the show itself ought not to have been made. “Beyond insensitive,” claims the author of this op-ed, but that’s so deeply subjective that it means nothing, and its placement in the headline aims at priming the audience for the suggestion that this is wrong, period, denying us the chance to experience the piece as intended and to judge for ourselves.

As for this point: “It’s one thing to voluntarily watch a show and it’s another to apparently be fine with making travelers — some of whom are survivors of war atrocities and some of whom are descendants of victims of them — sit on a train full of enemy insignia and call it entertainment.” Well, part of that is true: it’s a lot easier to avoid watching a show that disturbs you than it is to avoid the train that takes you to work, but then again, we’re New Yorkers. From the homeless men sleeping on the platform or asking for money to the crazy person reciting bible verses or playing the violin in their underwear, we’re pretty good at ignoring the things that make us uncomfortable. Again, this comes down to the idea that *just* because this is Nazi-related, it should be banned. If it were endorsing Nazi values, that’d be true, but this is about providing a living context for a television show–this, in other words, is the world that might’ve been, and in that, it’s not just an effective ad, but a necessary one.

As for the part about “survivors of war” suffering undue trauma, my hat is indeed tipped to the brave octogenarians who still ride the train, but we can’t keep catering to the smallest percentile of people. Nor should we continue with this notion that the “descendants of victims” need to be handled with kid gloves. We have actual veterans in this country who suffer from PTSD, and we make absolutely no effort to curb the sort of advertisements and stunts that might set them off. I’m not saying, then, that people aren’t genuinely offended, or that they can’t be, but I’m saying that this alone is not (and should not) be enough to dictate our creative forms of expression and advertising. Especially when they’re obviously working.

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