Man, is this ad from 350.org ever edgy! First, it has a big picture of Scott Brown — granted, just his face, not even his pecs or anything, but you know what's implied by a picture of a congressman. Rowr! And just look at those naked facts, parading themselves around so shamelessly. No wonder the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority refuses to post it on trains.
The company that handles advertising for MBTA told 350.org that the agency "did not approve of this creative due to its political stance," and therefore would not be running it. Which is a funny thing for a number of reasons. One, the ad actually just states two true things — Brown voted to block EPA action under the Clean Air Act, and he's gotten $1.9 million from groups the Center for American Progress defines as "Big Polluters." Okay, so some of the language in the ad ("gut"; "dirty energy") is not exactly nonpartisan, and folks might quibble about who counts as a Big Polluter (350.org and CAP include the Tea Party's PAC in that group, for instance). But this is about as close to straight-up fact as a political ad gets. It doesn't even say there's a correlation between Brown's campaign contributions and his votes — it just asks politely.
Two, the MBTA has already gone to court — and lost — over refusing to post ads because of political disagreements. In 2000, the agency declined to display ads from the (confusingly not climate-change-related) group Change the Climate, which supports legalizing marijuana. MBTA said the ads encouraged drug use and that they had a right to refuse ads with offensive messages. Change the Climate objected, and in 2004, a U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals found that MBTA was being a bunch of hypocritical, free-speech-denying jerks. (I'm paraphrasing, but not much.) The agency was ordered to run the ads, but apparently they were not ordered to learn anything from the experience.
This isn't the end for this ad and its borderline-obscene depiction of live nude facts:
Rather than waste time arguing with the MBTA, 350.org is planning to take the ads out of the subway and into the streets: in the coming weeks, bicycles will pull the banned billboards past iconic places in Boston, as well as Sen. Brown's district office. From one form of alternative transportation to another, local residents are determined to make their voices heard.
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