The ads along parts of the Bay Area Rapid Transit route went up earlier this month, and to the casual observer offered a simple message: “History matters,” brought to you by the Institute for Historical Review.
Less obvious is the fact that the ads were paid for by a Holocaust-denying organization labeled as a hate group by the nonpartisan Southern Poverty Law Center and “the focal point of world neo-Nazi propaganda” by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.
Now, BART is facing criticism for allowing the ads to run, something a transit spokeswoman said was out of their control.
“We cannot deny the ads,” BART media rep Alicia Trost said, according to The Guardian. “You have to look at it for exactly what words are used and what images are used … 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.”
Trost said the Institute for Historical Review paid $6,000 for the ad, according to The Mercury News.
“Riders are smart, and they’ll probably be upset when they find out who’s behind the ads,” Trost said, according to The Mercury News. “Would they know that just looking at the ads and without this being blown up in the media?”
BART’s Twitter account mentions were full of people critical of the ads.
The Institute for Historical Review, founded in 1978, made efforts to appear as a historical research group, according to the SPLC.
“But in fact, it was made up of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and it would draw expertise from the like-minded around the world. Its mission was to erase the Holocaust by any means at its disposal,” according to the SPLC.
What separated the Institute for Historical Review from other white supremacist organizations, the SPLC reports, was “the pseudo-academic gloss it applied to its anti-Semitism,” with members avoiding the use of anti-Semitic slurs and instead relying on “distortions of history and science meant to sound reasonable.”