The F Word

Last week, the Globe's Joan Vennochi wrote about the media's reluctance to run ads criticizing Fidelity Investments' ties with PetroChina, a Beijing oil company that's been linked to the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

What Vennochi's fine column didn't mention is the MBTA's skittishness on the subject. If you've walked into or out of Park Street Station recently, you may have been handed a postcard which urges Fidelity to divest from PetroChina and features this image:

The group behind the postcard, the Save Darfur Coalition, also blanketed the inside of Park Street Station with ads last week. But one thing was missing: the word "Fidelity."

When I mentioned this to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesatauro, he referred me to the standards ("court-approved," he noted) used by Titan Worldwide to manage the T's ad space. More specifically: Pesatauro pointed me to this particular section:

The MBTA shall not display or maintain any advertisement that falls within one or more of the following categories:

Demeaning or disparaging. The advertisement contains material that demeans or disparages an individual or group of individuals. For purposes of determining whether an advertisement contains such material, the MBTA will determine whether a reasonably prudent person, knowledgeable of the MBTA’s ridership and using prevailing community standards, would believe that the advertisement contains material that ridicules or mocks, is abusive or hostile to, or debases the dignity or stature of, an individual or group of individuals.

Pesatauro wouldn't specifically discuss the Save Darfur ads, so the exact application of these standards is a little unclear. Is the worry that people who invest with Fidelity might find the ads abusive or hostile? Or that the ads might debase the dignity or stature of Fidelity itself?

And if it's the latter, isn't that kind of the point?

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