It was just another typical New York City advertising dust up. A Texas-based anti-abortion group put up an ad in Manhattan that read, "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb." The headline was placed over the photo of a cute little girl. Even if the ad hadn't been erected during Black History Month, it would have raised hackles in New York.
But, as Clyde Haberman points out in The New York Times, the most tolerant city in the world isn't so tolerant. And an ad that combined race and a pro-life message simply wasn't going to cut it. Watching the street-corner interviews with concerned New Yorkers and listening to local politicians, they seemed to sense no irony in calling for the ad's removal because it offended people. Sure enough, folks came out in a rush to condemn the ad as offensive. The debate didn't center on stats -- Life Always was citing the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene study showing the abortion rate for black women in New York is almost 60% -- but rather on feelings.
"And so, a few days ago in this most tolerant of cities, a raft of elected officials wasted no time calling for the billboard's removal. Lickety-split, the sign came down," writes Haberman.
Of course, leave it to a politician to spin this into some victory for public debate. According to Haberman, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio said: "To have a serious debate, to have people express their outrage, and then to have a private owner of the advertising space decide that it was ultimately not appropriate, that to me is a functioning democracy."
Lamar Advertising cited safety concerns as the reason it took down the ad. That's some great public advocacy right there. Hear that offended people and activists on either side of the political aisle? Threats of violence will get you what you want!
But no surprise here. "This plain act of censorship was not isolated," writes Haberman. "Rather, it fit into an established New York pattern of squelching unpopular opinions. Examples over the past decade abound."