If you're in a San Francisco BART Station (that's Bay Area Rapid Transit) this month, there's a chance you'll see an ad from an organization that some call a hate group. The ads by the Institute for Historical Review—called out by the Southern Poverty Law Center for reportedly defending Nazism and spreading Holocaust denial propaganda—will be displayed on electronic billboards at the Powell and Montgomery BART stations, the Guardian reports. They will say "History Matters!" and include the name of the organization. BART initially rejected the ads, which cost $6,400, because they included the URL (later removed) to the IHR's website, according to Mark Weber, the group's director. Plenty of people are upset that BART has given the IHR a platform.
"This is an attempt by an entity that for a long time has been rather moribund to see if, in this climate, it can reemerge," Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt tells the Guardian. Nonetheless, BART says it had to allow the ads to run on free speech grounds. "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," says BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost. It's a quandary transit systems across the country have faced in recent years. In 2017, the ACLU sued the Metro system in Washington D.C. for rejecting several ads. And in 2015, a judge ruled that New York's MTA must run ads that some deemed Islamophobic. As for the IHR ads, Weber (author of An Introduction to Holocaust Revisionism) tells the Guardian that they have already resulted in increased website visits and other inquiries. (Read more California stories.)