Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Lenin Quote on the NYC Subway

Here are the facts.

This morning at around 9:30 AM I caught the Uptown A train (#5302) at 14th Street, on my way to Columbus Circle. This 10 minute trip took about 30 minutes, what with being stuck in the tunnel for quite some time and having to wait for the crack MTA team to fix some switch and all that.

Like the alert citizen that I am, I started looking around the subway car for the evacuation instructions. I figured a quick refresher wouldn't hurt, just in case. And that's when I saw this ad:



The text of the ad reads:

If I keep listening to Beethoven's Appassionata,
I won't be able to finish the revolution.

Vladimir I. Lenin


At the bottom of the ad, from left to right, we have:

www.rivernyc.org.....COULD CHURCH bring peace?.....river.....Christ (something I wrote down but can't read) to be me.....greenwhich village.....wall street

(you can see the ad here, at the top of the page)

The ad is for a NYC church, The River.

Here are my problems with this ad.

A) I don't think religious ads on public transport are appropriate.

First, there's that separation of Church and State thing that we must strive to safeguard. [The MTA is partly funded by the federal government.]

Second, and more importantly, it's cruel and unusual punishment (not to mention counterproductive) to taunt post-9/11 bus and subway riders in NYC with religious slogans, vivid reminders that religious zealots want to blow us all to bits.

B) I know quotes from murderous terrorists [are there any other kind?] don't belong on subways.

This one's self-explanatory: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

Here's what I did.

I called The River church and spoke with the senior pastor, a Mr. Charles Park. He took full responsibility for the ad (they did work with an ad agency, but he said the church ultimately had final approval).

According to Mr. Park the intent of the ad was to "raise awareness" (?!), to ask if spirituality (listening to Beethoven) could bring about peace by stopping people (Lenin) from, you know, murdering tens of millions.

It's a shame I don't approve of profanity because I so should like to use a certain expression (rhymes with What The Duck) just about now to describe my reaction to Mr. Park's explanation. Is Mr. Park dense or what?

I quickly provided Mr. Park with the answer to his most challenging and unknowable devoid of any sense of reality question: No, listening to classical music does not bring about peace and it does nothing to stop the massacre of tens of millions of people, not to mention the nonimpact it had on establishing communism, one of the most malignant, despicable and destructive political systems ever to be invented. [No way to tell what I really think of communism, no?]

Mr. Park assured me that his church's intention was not to be offensive and I suggested to him that using quotes from mass murderers is not the way to go about it at all.

I also called the MTA customer service line (718-330-3322) and asked to talk to the person in charge of approving ads on the subway. I was transfered to CBS Outdoor (212-297-6400), a division of the CBS Corporation, a "media agency responsible for placing ads on the subway" according to the woman who answered the phone.

I explained to her that I saw an offensive ad on the subway and wanted to talk to the person responsible for approving it. She told me the only way to go about it was to send a letter to the legal department. She also said, and I quote, "I cannot give my name at this time." What can I say, CBS Outdoor and, by extension, the CBS Corporation--International Outfits of Mystery(TM).

Here's the address, should you feel inclined to write to them:

CBS Outdoor, 405 Lexington Ave., NYC, NY 10174, Attention: Legal Department.

My bottom line:

Shame on The River church for choosing to disseminate its message by stepping on the memory of tens of millions of corpses.

And shame on the MTA for allowing this ad on its subways. I guess there's just nothing like drawing ad revenue from the wisdom of a terrorist and from making light of the deaths of tens of millions of people.

What's next for The River church and the MTA, ads featuring Osama bin Laden's musings on the impressionist masters and Kim Jong-il's bromides on the shape of fluffy clouds?

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21 Comments:

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I saw the River church ads on the subway today. I did not see the quotes you named, but I did see other quotes, which I found to be inspirational (life-wise).

 
At 1:54 AM, Blogger ema said...

Anon,

I was so incensed by the Lenin ad I wasn't able to read any of the other ones.

 
At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over reacting a bit?
Don't we have better things to worry about in this life besides ourselves?
Never mind the fact that millions are dying of AIDS and thousands are being killed in Africa, the war, worldwide. Heaven forbid an American be offended! The problem with free speech is that its just that. To many damn people complaining!

 
At 5:24 PM, Blogger Grace said...

I love this website because of the information it has but this is really a strech for me.

A really big strech. All I could think while reading this post is "get a life". I'm not particually religious but that kind of reaction is just a waste of people's time. Pick your fights wisely.

 
At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pick your fights with people who really mean some kind of harm. People like the people that put that add would do nothing but help pending some sort of violent event.
Thats just my opinion.

 
At 5:43 AM, Anonymous Vitis01 said...

I'm going back through my college history book and searching online and the biggest number I can find for deaths attributed to Lenin's reign is under half a million. I think your reaction to this was fueled by a totally irrational and emotional reaction to some myth about Lenin and Communism that you have been fed. George W has already exceeded that in his 1.5 terms. Is that a condemnation of capitalism? Maybe... but it sounds like you need to take a deep breath, step away from the keyboard and do some actual research and education before you continue.

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger ema said...

Anon @ 8:49 AM,

Don't we have better things to worry about in this life besides ourselves?

Heh, projecting much? Relax; no need to get so discombobulated.

Never mind the fact that millions are dying of AIDS and thousands are being killed in Africa, the war, worldwide.

These facts in no way make the deaths of tens of millions of people at the hands of communists any less offensive.

There's no such thing as a hierarchy of senseless deaths.

I must say though, good (although, I suspect, inadvertent) examples of the negative influence of religion.

Heaven forbid an American be offended!

But, but don't you know? We are teh special, teh chosen ones....Oops, got on the wrong track there for a moment.

The problem with free speech is that its just that. To many damn people complaining!

I know, what's with all this freedom and all these people expressing ideas. Off with their heads, the lot of them, I say!

Grace,

Thank you for reading my blog and for letting me know you find the information useful.

As to the "get a life" thing, would if I could, but, as mundane as it may seem to some of my readers, getting stuck in the subway is part of my life. As is being made acutely aware by 9-11 of the dangers of unchecked religion.

Anon @ 5:27 PM,

Pick your fights with people who really mean some kind of harm.

Based on the available evidence, communists and religious people fit the bill.

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger ema said...

Vitis01,

Your research is flawed. As is your understanding of Lenin and the role he played in bringing about the deaths of ~20 million people (and that's just in Russia).

I think your reaction to this was fueled by a totally irrational and emotional reaction to some myth about Lenin and Communism that you have been fed.

Most kind of you to stop by and make wild and dismissive assumptions about my reaction to communism. I shall now immediately enroll in a deprogramming course, and maybe even start work on a small statue of Lenin and the luminous glory that is Communism.

George W has already exceeded that in his 1.5 terms. Is that a condemnation of capitalism?

Although not everything is about President Bush, let me just point out that if your assertion is that George W is to capitalism what Lenin was to communism you need to do some more reading. A lot more.

Lenin was a leading communist theorist, tactician and party organizer; he created a regime that erased politics, erased historical memory, erased opposition and served as a model not merely for his successor, Stalin, but for Mao, for Hitler, for Pol Pot.

President Bush, no matter what your emotional response to him might be, can hardly be viewed as a competent man, let alone a central figure of capitalism. He's maybe a bleep in the history of capitalism.

...it sounds like you need to take a deep breath, step away from the keyboard and do some actual research and education before you continue.

Your concern over my respiratory rate duly noted, it sounds like you need to realize that, when you're ignorant of the topic under discussion, you need to resist the temptation to give advice.

Just because the only way for you to gain some insight into communism comes from books don't assume other people are similarly handicapped.

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

I found your reaction quite perplexing. It seems that you have a fairly low view of religion (which I understand), and of spirituality (which I don't understand.)

It is certainly true that religious zealots have done and want to do enormous violence, just as it's true that some non-religious zealots (such as Lenin) have done and want to do enormous violence.

But, why should that keep people from self reflection, appreciation of the arts, and a quest for a real spirituality?

If you look at figures in the Bible, it's noteworthy that many of them were just not good people. But in their lives (like in mine) there is a choice to be made, between will to power and genuine service to others. It is a difficult and ongoing choice.

Why would you try to do it without any access to any spiritual resources that may be available to you?

 
At 7:48 PM, Blogger ema said...

Kevin,

My reaction wasn't to the River Church suggesting that self reflection, appreciation of the arts, and a quest for a real spirituality are good things.

It was to their offering Lenin (and that particular quote mentioning the revolution) as an inspiration for...well, anything.

 
At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Eli said...

ema, I think you may be missing the point. I don't think River Church is trying to portray Lenin as some sort of inspirational figure for the generations. Rather, the ad is trying to juxtapose a (as you described it; I haven't done the research) mass murderer with the soul inside of him, moved by spiritually-inspired music.

That being said, for the ad to be effective, one can only use a heinous man such as Lenin. It wouldn't make such a deep impact, otherwise.

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger Charles B. said...

I happened upon your blog entry this morning because last night I watched the recent German language film Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others), a great film about the tension between art, freedom and individuality and the STATE set in behind-the-iron-curtain East Germany several years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This quote by Lenin was referenced in the film. The point of the quote wasn't to somehow glorify Lenin, but rather to suggest that Lenin recognized the power and potential threat of artistic expression to his vision of state control. And Beethoven, for many, represents the pinnacle of individual musical expression and innovation. Consider the following statement by Plato: "For the introduction of a new kind of music must be shunned as imperiling the whole state; since styles of music are never disturbed without affecting the most important political institutions."
Now, as a fellow New Yorker (though not living there now, I was there on 9/11), I sympathize with your concern about religious zealotry.
But I also think that your church/state argument is a little flimsy. There's nothing in that ad that suggests some sort of municipal affiliation with or approval of that church, and I suspect that any synagogue or mosque is entitled to purchase the same ad space if they wanted to.

 
At 12:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all religious zealots want to blow us to pieces. Your overreaction was dumb and uncalled for.

 
At 1:07 AM, Blogger ema said...

Eli,

...the ad is trying to juxtapose a...mass murderer with the soul inside of him, moved by spiritually-inspired music.

My take was that "mass murderer" and "spiritual inner soul" are mutually exclusive.

Charles b,

The point of the quote wasn't to somehow glorify Lenin, but rather to suggest that Lenin recognized the power and potential threat of artistic expression to his vision of state control.

Your interpretation makes sense. An experienced politician like Lenin would be able to accurately assess threats to his vision. It's just that I perceived the quote differently.

But I also think that your church/state argument is a little flimsy. There's nothing in that ad that suggests some sort of municipal affiliation with or approval of that church, and I suspect that any synagogue or mosque is entitled to purchase the same ad space if they wanted to.

Ugh, don't give the MTA any ideas. But seriously, point taken. In making the case that there shouldn't be any religious ads at all because of the federal funds I had forgotten the other side of the coin--religious ads from *all* the sects.

anon @12:04 am,

Not all religious zealots want to blow us to pieces.

Heh, how do you know? Are you in direct communication with their various Gods?

Your overreaction was dumb and uncalled for.

If only your assessment managed to rise to the level of dumb we might be on to something.

 
At 10:29 PM, Blogger blerman23 said...

In answer to your question about Mr. Park, I would say no, he isn't dense, but it's a good thing you didn't ask about yourself. Mr. Park's use of the Lenin quote was both interesting and appropriate. However, your self-righteousness and incredibly shallow understanding of the separation of church and state (would advertising Georgetown University be illegal since it's a Jesuit school? Religious groups can't pay for advertisements?) was neither. In the future save your anger for something that actually deserves your exaggerated outrage.

 
At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mon dieu! This blog post is needlessly annoying and pathetic.

 
At 10:29 PM, Blogger ema said...

Anon @ 9:23 PM,

Ach mein Gott, to someone who comments in the manner you do, it goes without saying.

blerman23,

In answer to your question about Mr. Park, I would say no, he isn't dense, but it's a good thing you didn't ask about yourself.

The second I post ads on public transport about my religious beliefs, I'll open the question up for discussion.

Mr. Park's use of the Lenin quote was both interesting and appropriate.

Clearly, I disagree.

[Y]our self-righteousness and incredibly shallow understanding of the separation of church and state (would advertising Georgetown University be illegal since it's a Jesuit school? Religious groups can't pay for advertisements?) was neither.

Don't confuse your reading comprehension with my understanding of the separation of church and state. Nowhere in my post did I say it should be illegal for religious groups to pay for ads.

In the future save your anger for something that actually deserves your exaggerated outrage.

It's quite the divine miracle I've been able to function all this time without your sage guidance as to what topic does, or does not, deserve my comment.

 
At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Liberal, I'm glad that you have a valid ingorant oppion and your allowed to share it with other ingorant liberals. The only reason Americans see Lenin as a bad person or a tyrant is because we were brainwashed to beleive so. Ask anyone who lives in Russia and learns about him. He's a hero, he's a man that through complete intelligance and some force changed a captilist faling country into a communist country. And then Stlain ruined it. Communism does not have flaws like we have been taught. True it has some flaws but thats because democracy has been around for 100's of years and used for those same 100's of year. Communism on the other hand has not. Learn some history before you get offended and jerk off to Obmma giving a speech on your Iphone.

 
At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to the church website just to check it out and oddly enough, the Lenin quote was the FIRST thing I saw displayed on their main page!

 
At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The slogan appears again on the subway, the exact same one.

 
At 3:43 AM, Blogger Kriti said...

I also saw this sign in the subway about a week ago and I can say that it thoroughly touched me and reminded me of the power of music. I then noticed that the ad was for the church. I wouldn't look into it as much as you did but rather think about the truth of Lenin's statement.

 

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