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Amazon adorns New York subway with Nazi insignia

Technically Incorrect: To promote its new series "The Man in the High Castle," Amazon decides to confront strap hangers with Nazi and Japanese war symbolism. The ads are reportedly being pulled, but it's not clear by whom.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.



Katherine Lam/Twitter

How much in-your-face can New Yorkers stand? In their faces, that is.

Or even beneath their bottoms?

The city that boasts of its cosmopolitan, liberal mouthiness has been left a touch open-mouthed by the appearance of Nazi insignia all over its subway cars.

This isn't the work of some neo-Nazi anarchists desperate to foment fear and loathing. Instead, it's the work of Amazon -- whose work environment was said by The New York Times to foment fear and loathing.

Some subway cars enjoy not only Nazi insignia, but World War II era Japanese symbolism as well. It's all to sell the new Amazon series "The Man in the High Castle."

The show tries to imagine what America might have been like if it had lost that war.

Perhaps it's our fear-laden times, but some have shown upset at Amazon's propaganda, which was on the seats and walls of some subway cars. It doesn't include swastikas, preferring the Nazi Reichsadler eagle embedded in the American flag. There were also Japanese rising sun symbols.

A Twitter user with the handle @byKatherineLam for example tweeted: "42nd St shuttle to #TimesSquare covered in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan symbols for @amazon ad. Is this ok?"

The MTA didn't respond to my request for comment.

Initially, an MTA spokesman told Gothamist: "Unless you're saying that you believe Amazon is advocating for a Nazi takeover of the United States, then it meets the standards. They're advertising a show."

However, on Tuesday, Variety reported that Amazon was pulling the ads. Amazon would not confirm this when I contacted the company.

"Amazon Studios creates high-quality, provocative programming that spurs conversation," an Amazon spokeswoman told me. ''The Man in the High Castle,' based on an acclaimed novel, explores the impact to our freedoms if we had lost World War II. Like 'Transparent' and the movie 'Chi-Raq,' stories that society cares about often touch on important, thought-provoking topics. We will continue to bring this kind of storytelling to our customers."

Clearly, the MTA was under some political pressure to take down the ads. On Tuesday, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio had railed against them.

"While these ads technically may be within MTA guidelines, they're irresponsible and offensive to World War II and Holocaust survivors, their families and countless other New Yorkers," he said in a statement reported by Politico.

Moreover, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement reported by the New York Post. "It's despicable," he said of the campaign. "I'm asking the company to take it down. If the company doesn't take it down, I'll direct the MTA to remove it." Some might wonder that this is exactly what happened.

"The Man in the High Castle" is based on the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick. Editions of this book have featured the swastika on their covers.

Perhaps the sheer size and proliferation of these symbols on the subway made them feel a little too aggressive. It's surely possible, though, that those who created these ads suspected there might be exactly this sort of reaction.

Perhaps, indeed, they've already achieved their goal. I wonder if the show is any good.

Updated 7.43pm: Added comment from Amazon.