New York City Assemblyman Urges Public to Boycott Amazon for Subway Ads Featuring Nazi Symbols
A Jewish lawmaker in New York is urging people to boycott Amazon after subway advertisements for its new TV series feature Nazi Germany insignias, the New York Observer reported on Tuesday.
The new Amazon series, “The Man in the High Castle,” based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel of the same name, is set in an alternative world that shows what life after WWII would be like in America if the Nazis had won the war.
A photo taken on Monday shows a row of seats inside the 42nd Street shuttle to Times Square covered with American flags, but the stars are substituted with the Nazi Reichsadler or imperial eagle. Trains running from Grand Central Station to Times Square were also covered with posters made to look like American flags influenced by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, according to BuzzFeed. The show’s ad campaign includes 260 New York City subway posters and will run until Dec. 14.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn native and the child of Holocaust survivors, called Amazon’s PR campaign “incredibly offensive and insensitive.” With the holiday season approaching, he urged “everyone to spend their money elsewhere — don’t buy from Amazon. Buy whatever you want, but at least once this season, say no to Amazon. Make them your last choice.”
“Amazon knows exactly what they are doing,” Hikind said. “The pain they are causing by plastering the subway with Nazi regalia is disgusting.”
The official poster for the original series also features Nazi symbols. It shows the Statue of Liberty making the “Heil Hitler” salute and wearing a sash embellished with the Nazi Reichsadler, while a building in the background sports the same drapery. The sashes are black, white and red — the colors of the Nazi Party.
Amazon has not responded to the controversy surrounding the advertisements, but Adam Lisberg, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the ads adhere to “content-neutral” standards the authority must abide by.
“We determined these ads do not violate any of those standards, and thus we had no grounds to reject them,” he said in a statement to the New York Observer. “Unlike the New York Observer, the MTA is a government authority and can’t pick and choose which ads to run based on whether we like them or not; we have to go by the content-neutral standards our board approved.”
Many locals taking the subway are offended by the ads and upset that they have to stare at them during their daily commute. New Yorker Ann Toback is the executive director of The Workmen’s Circle, a Jewish organization that promotes social and economic justice. She told the Gothamist she does not object to the TV show, but said, “I shouldn’t have to sit staring at a Nazi insignia on my way to work.”
“Half the seats in my car had Nazi insignias inside an American flag, while the other half had the Japanese flag in a style like the World War II design,” Toback said. “So I had a choice, and I chose to sit on the Nazi insignia because I really didn’t want to stare at it.”
The ads also upset New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who released a statement saying Amazon should “take them down.” The mayor said that although the advertisements may adhere to MTA guidelines, they are “irresponsible and offensive to World War II and Holocaust survivors, their families, and countless other New Yorkers.”
Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League’s New York regional director, called the ads insensitive and noted that they fail to provide riders with enough context to explain the Nazi imagery.
“On the television program, which explains this is the notion of an America controlled by Hitler, you get that context. 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,” he told the Gothamist. “The fact that the flag is spread across the seats only compounds the effect.”
He added, “This ad campaign has a feel of exploiting things that are so sensitive to so many people.”