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Anti-Islam Ads Draw Public Response

Last week we wrote about a particularly wrought issue currently captivating New York City: the placement of ten anti-Islam ads in city subway stations by a political advocacy group calling itself the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

We concluded that group leader and activist blogger Pamela Geller’s ultimate goal was to bring attention (both positive and negative) to herself and her militant pro-Israel cause.

Based on the public’s response, it would seem that she achieved her goal. But did she really get the result she wanted?

As soon as the announcement hit the news, a few city dwellers voiced their opposition to the group’s message. Then there was some drama involving a newly posted ad, a defender, and an antagonist armed with a can of spray paint:

The offender, an Egyptian-American journalist, was arrested and spent the night in jail for her “non-violent protest” while the group’s leader dismissed her as an “Islamic supremacist.” (This is a common refrain for Ms. Geller.)

Now, less than two days after the signs went up, all ten appear to have been branded with counter-statements—stickers labeling their message “racist” or “hate speech.” No word on who placed the stickers or how they organized their effort, but they certainly worked quickly.

Can we draw a PR lesson from this tale of clashing ideologies?

The bottom line is this: Ms. Geller has every right to her opinion, and she has attracted more attention to her blog and her advocacy group with this move, but we can’t imagine she has won too many new converts–and she has succeeded in irritating quite a few people. We may be wrong, but we feel like the only people swayed by her message are those who already happen to agree with her. Was all the attention worth the $6,000 it cost to put these ads up?

Well, we’re writing about it, aren’t we?

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