A century of free speech in New York’s most public square — the streets, the buses, the subways — came to a screeching halt today when the MTA voted to ban all issue and political advertising. The other topic of discussion, by the way, was the billions in debt the MTA was. The five public speakers, including me (I’ll have video shortly), all spoke in defense of free speech, opposing the ban. Every board member who spoke in the executive session, with the exception of Charles Moerdler, spoke in defense of free speech. But the vote for the ban passed — a craven sore loser move in light of our AFDI victory in court last week. Enemies of freedom are rejoicing across the world.
The meeting kicked off with discussion about the MTA’s billion-dollar debt. Still, this irresponsible and totalitarian vote against political ad revenue was voted in. What’s interesting, but not surprising, is Moerdler, who led the jihad against free speech. Here’s what’s not surprising: what’s not surprising is that the discussion was not about the jihad ads. Moerdler, in a vicious and disgusting tirade, attacked our BDS ads that expose wealthy Jewish donors who support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions initiatives against Israel. I strongly urge you to watch his villainous remarks when we have the video up sometime today. Moerdler railed against our ads exposing wealthy donors’ support of the New Israel Fund, which supports BDS organizations, shrieking about lashon hara. Actually, truth is not lashon hara, and calling me an egomaniac and a zealot is. Calling our ads “filth,” Moerdler fails to acknowledge the damage and destruction of BDS to the Jewish state. Even an Israeli court ruled that funding BDS was terrorism. But Mr. Moerdler and his country club buddies are OK with that.
This is a classic case of the powerful trumping the rights of the common man so as to protect their little club. The political and media elites only allow the public discourse to fall within a certain political spectrum. My ads drove them crazy because they fell outside of that spectrum; I was vaulting over their controls and bringing truths to the public that they didn’t want known. They had to move to shut me down.
Clearly, this was a fait accompli. When the vote came in, despite the overwhelming support for free speech, Moerdler’s grin was perfectly evil. One can only imagine the pats on the back over brandy and cigars.
And don’t think for one second that this is a defeat for me. I’ll continue to do the work with more gusto. This is a stunning assault upon our First Amendment rights. Even Board members expressed real concern that the ban would be challenged and overturned. We aren’t the only ones who see the problem with this: Christopher Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said: “It is unconscionable that you are thinking about barring all political ads from the transit system.”
New York City is the capital of the free world. The world looks to us. What message did we send today? Every city will follow suit. This is a dark day for freedom but have no fear. We will pursue this legally.
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