Amazon decided to pull promotional ads that covered New York City subway cars in Nazi and Japanese World War II-era insignias to promote Amazon Prime's new TV show "The Man in the High Castle," BuzzFeed news reported Tuesday.
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The 260 poster ads, which include the Nazi Reichsadler eagle but do not contain any swastikas, were due to run through December 6 on cars on the 42nd Street shuttle subway line. The plot of “The Man in the High Castle,” adapted from a Phillip K. Dick novel, is based on a scenario in which the Axis powers win World War II after exploding a nuclear device on Washington, D.C.
Reuters reported that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a call to Amazon to halt the campaign.
New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority instituted a policy in April that bans political ads from its subways and buses. MTA now permits only the display of commercial advertising, public service announcements and government messages on its buses and subways. The Amazon ads do not violate this policy, an MTA spokesman told The Gothamist, which first reported the ad campaign.
“The updated standards prohibit political advertisements. Unless you’re saying that you believe Amazon is advocating for a Nazi takeover of the United States, then it meets the standards. They’re advertising a show,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg told The Gothamist.
Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League’s New York regional director, told The Gothamist the ads are insensitive. "Our concern is that the Nazi imagery that is being used as part of this ad campaign comes without any context,” he said in a separate statement to BuzzFeed News. “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. The fact that the flag is spread across the seats only compounds the effect.”
Commuter Ann Toback, executive director of the Jewish organization The Workman’s Circle, told The Gothamist that “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.”
“So I had a choice, and I chose to sit on the Nazi insignia because I really didn’t want to stare at it. I shouldn’t have to sit staring at a Nazi insignia on my way to work.”