Hamberger: Nazi imagery on subway ads is tasteless promotional method

A subway shuttle car connecting Times Square and Grand Central Station in New York City was recently adorned in Nazi imagery to promote Amazon’s new show “The Man in the High Castle.” Based on the 1962 Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, the show focuses on what would have happened if the Axis powers had won World War II—a potentially Nazi-controlled America.

The show’s promotion included decorating the subway car floor to ceiling in flags with Nazi imperial eagle symbols. It is extremely inappropriate that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City’s government allowed this to occur just decades after people fought to overcome actual Nazi persecution.

For travelers in the city visiting family members for Thanksgiving, this is a terrifying reminder of how easily these hurtful symbols could litter the city overnight. The ads desensitized the painful meaning behind these symbols—symbols that belong only in textbooks, museums and other educational outlets.

The meaning of these symbols goes past just oppression; the ads weaken the visceral impact these symbols should have. It is baffling that this could have slipped through the cracks of Amazon’s board of directors—and even more so if they approved of the campaign.

The amount of press—although mostly negative—Amazon received from the advertisements through social media and other forms of media was extensive. It was enough to catch the attention of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ordered the MTA immediately take down the ads before their initial end date in mid-December.

It is crucial to scrutinize not only the Amazon team’s intentions for the campaign, but the MTA’s decision to allow this ad to run. Between the insensitive design team behind this idea, the MTA’s approval and down to the workers who wrapped the S train in the ads themselves, it is ridiculous that not one person stopped to think how Jewish-Americans riding the subway everyday may feel on their morning commute.

In addition, young riders seeing these sorts of symbols in their everyday lives used for commercial gain is not the type of world that shows 70 years of progress. Even more damning was that this egregious display of hatred occurred on government property.

Back in April, the MTA had banned all political advertisements on trains. The MTA—which is government owned—earns a substantial amount of money from advertising. In 2013, the MTA cleared more than $130 million in advertising revenue.

Although these ads were for the promotion of a television series, a Nazi symbol can be seen as an aggressive display no matter what its intention is and should never have been approved by Amazon or the MTA.