Two New York City subway cars were upgraded overnight on Wednesday, March 8 after an artist installed new posters alongside the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) original “If you see something, say something” posters, Gothamist reported.
The original MTA posters were part of a campaign last March to include real New Yorkers who reported “suspicious” activities or packages. The new posters share a different message. “I felt like a hero reporting what I saw. But what scares me more than an unattended package is an unattended politician. We have to keep an eye on how our representatives vote and hold them accountable,” one of the posters read.
All posters included a call to action at the bottom, where the usual posters call on New Yorkers to report suspicious activity. Where one of the original signs might say “If you see something, say something,” the subversive poster will say, “Stay awake, not afraid. Scared people are easy to manipulate. #Resist.” Another read, “Call your representatives. Tell them you’re watching.”
The artist spoke with Gothamist, but did not share the train lines so the MTA wouldn’t be able to locate them as quickly. He told the outlet that his intended goal was to encourage people to become more politically active and to speak out when they are uncomfortable with the actions of their political representatives.
“I think it’s great that they are doing the See Something Say Something campaign. I don’t think it’s Orwellian, and I think it’s responsible to be vigilant,” he told Gothamist. “But given the state of the world that we’re in, I wanted to do something that took that conversation and elevated it so that people could be vigilant beyond what’s directly in front of their eyes.”
One of the installed signs read, “I’m glad I was reminded to report that suspicious bag. But I wonder, when my own president uses a willing media to perpetuate a constant state of fear, who are the real terrorists and who profits off my panic?”
The artist explained, “Yes, terrorism is a real issue. But aren’t the behaviors of our government — and these ideas of how the media is straying into fake news — aren’t all of these things contributing to an atmosphere that makes us more unsafe, that gives rise to terrorism, that makes us panic?”
The artist and those who helped him with the installation dressed up as MTA maintenance workers.
MTA spokeswoman Beth DeFalco told Gothamist via email that the posters are illegal, citing the following possible issues: vandalism, theft, the MTA’s ban on political advertising, defamation of character (“our campaign subjects are now seen as potentially supporting political views they may not share”), impersonating transit workers, and trademark infringement (the MTA logo).
The fake ads will be removed and anyone found posting them could face fines and penalties.
The artist said the idea was inspired by President Donald Trump’s election victory. “I’m just more sensitive to every kind of message around me now that’s coming from a government agency.” He said, “I hope the MTA will say, ‘You know, this still helps people see something and say something, so we’ll keep it up.'”