Those video screens at the Montgomery and Powell Street BART stations currently have an ad in rotation that declares “History Matters!” against a clip-art backdrop of the planet Earth and the name of the ad’s buyer, the Institute for Historical Review (IHR). That sounds innocent enough! But the Guardian’s San Francisco bureau reports that those BART ads are paid for by a Holocaust denial organization that has a history of anti-Semitic views.
The Institute for Historical Review website insists in a press release announcing the BART ad campaign that “The IHR does not ‘deny’ the Holocaust.” (Yes, they put the word “deny” in quotes.) But that very same website also hosts an article with the headline “There is No Evidence for Nazi Gas Chambers.” The Southern Poverty Law Center designates the IHR as a hate group, as does the Anti-Defamation League.
Heck, when even Fox News is calling you out for running ads from a Holocaust denial group, there is a high likelihood you are running ads from a Holocaust denial group.
Picture taken by a friend at Powell St BART in San Francisco, an ad for a Holocaust denial organization. pic.twitter.com/oaBPPpCNgR
— Liz C (@semiALcommunism) September 11, 2018
But BART insists it has no choice but to run these advertisements. “We cannot deny the ads,” BART spokesperson Alicia Trost told the Guardian. “There is plenty of case law and court rulings that show if you deny the ad, you can be taken to court, and you’ll lose, and that’s obviously costly.”
We don’t endorse these ads. Free speech court rulings against transit agencies that have denied ads have made it clear that we must post these ads and allow advertisers to express a point of view without regard to the viewpoint.
— SFBART (@SFBART) September 12, 2018
In a statement to NBC Bay Area, BART added that “We even made the group remove their website url based on the content of the website.”
Awful, anti-immigrant ads in the BART station today. Where can I donate to support the exact opposite of this? 😞 pic.twitter.com/24x23OmV8S
— Don McCurdy (@donrmccurdy) March 16, 2018
It’s not the first time BART has found itself in hot water over political advertisements. Back in March, BART stations hosted a series of “Seek & Hire U.S. Workers!” ads that were pretty transparently anti-immigrant. With Nazis and racists running for office everywhere, these ads — and the free publicity they produce — may be an emerging tool of the alt-right.