Amazon is removing a subway ad for its new series, "The Man in the High Castle," amid uproar over their use of insignia inspired by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
The online retailer made the decision to pull the ads amid widespread coverage of the wrap, which cover half the 42nd Street shuttle's seats in decals of the American flag with the stars replaced by an emblem that closely resembles the Nazi Reichsadler, the heraldic eagle used by the Third Reich. The other side features a recreation of a World War II-era Japanese flag in red, white and blue.
Cars on the line that runs between Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal and Times Square were recently wrapped in decals for the show, which is based on the eponymous book by Philip K. Dick that imagines an alternate reality where the Axis powers won World War II and took over the world.
Ad posters for the show can be seen throughout the subway system and show of the Statue of Liberty performing the Nazi salute while draped in a sash featuring the Reichsadler.
Straphanger Ann Toback was disturbed to find the posters wallpapered on the Grand Central shuttle.
"Hate speech, hate insignia requires a response when you see it, you don't just say, 'oh, it's New York," said Toback. "You see, you have a choice to stare at the Japanese empire insignia or the Nazi insignia."
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A spokesman for the MTA said there were no grounds to reject the ads because they do not violate the authority's content-neutral ad standards, which only prohibits advertising that disparages an individual or group.
"The MTA is a government agency and can't accept or reject ads based on how we feel about them; we have to follow the standards approved by our board," the spokesman said. "Please note they’re commercial ads."
Some activists and officials, however, expressed outrage that the advertisements were allowed to run.
"As a Jew, I am offended, and as a New Yorker, I am embarrassed," said state Rep. Jeffrey Dinowitz. "The MTA should be ashamed of themselves and this ignorant advertising campaign, as it is offensive not just to the Jewish community, but to all Americans."
Mayor de Blasio also decried the ads, calling them "irresponsible."
“While these ads technically may be within MTA guidelines, they’re irresponsible and offensive to World War II and Holocaust survivors, their families, and countless other New Yorkers. Amazon should take them down,” de Blasio said.
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Not everyone was bothered by the marketing. One rider said, "It's not like the end of the world, it's not specifically targeting a group of people. It's just for a show."
Ultimately, the backlash prompted Amazon the make the decision to pull the ads late Tuesday. Still, Toback wondered about the process that led to the controversial ads going up in the first place.
"It scares me almost as much this went up the chain of command at the MTA, and nobody said this is a bad idea," she said.