Exclusive: Alan Dershowitz Calls Amended M.T.A. Advertising Rules “Plain Dumb” and “Unconstitutional”
In an interview with The Algemeiner, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz slammed new approved advertising guidelines announced by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, calling them “Plain Dumb” and “Unconstitutional.”
The new rules allow the M.T.A. to ban ads that it “reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.”
“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.”
Responding to the charge in an interview with The Algemeiner, M.T.A. spokesperson Aaron Donovan declined to comment.
The new M.T.A. rules, announced yesterday, came after pro-Israel ads, which were initially rejected by the M.T.A., ran in ten New York City subway stations, after the group running the ads sued the M.T.A on first amendment grounds.
Protesters objecting to the ads set about defacing them, including in one widely reported incident where Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy was charged with criminal mischief misdemeanor for spraying one with pink paint. Referencing the incident, Dershowitz said, “what the transit authority is doing, is giving people like Mona, the power to censor.”
Referring to the recent uptick in violence in the Middle East, Dershowitz added, “It is the worst possible approach to dealing with radical Islam.”
“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,” he said.
The Law Professor also made clear that he is certain the decision will face legal challenges. “It will be challenged, there is no question about that,” he confirmed, “if the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) doesn’t get into this case immediately, they are going to have to write to me several times for my contribution this year. This is a perfect case for the ACLU, the ACLU should be in there, opposed to the MTA.”
“I would hope the ACLU would get behind the organization that put up the ads even though I’m sure they disagree with the content of the ads, as do I,” he concluded.
When asked by The Algemeiner if they had considered the constitutionality of their decision, M.T.A. spokesperson Aaron Donovan said that he wasn’t concerned. “All of the changes that were made to the guidelines, were made within the framework of our understanding of First Amendment law, we feel the guidelines as they have been amended are firmly planted in the bedrock of the constitution, specifically the First Amendment,” he said.
Asked about the M.T.A’s concern over the threat of further lawsuits, he said, “it’s impossible to predict the future.”