The cost for the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign to purchase four weeks of advertising space on 12 King County Metro buses for an ad the group wants to run that's critical of U.S. support for Israel was $2,760. But the amount of local and national buzz created by the controversial ads is likely worth millions. And none of the ads have even run yet.
The controversy was more or less started by the SMAC group itself, which, according to King County Metro Spokesperson Linda Thielke, called KING 5 News after they bought the ad space, presumably to rev up the controversy.
The website featured in the ad contains the standard bevy of arguments for why the U.S. should quit sending billions of dollars to support Israel and do more to help the Palestinians. In the "Get Involved Locally" section, it calls for people to write letters to politicians, the media and their friends and make the same case to them.
Not exactly radical suggestions.
But being that four years ago, a gunman broke into the Seattle Jewish Federation building and shot six women, not to mention that U.S.-Israeli relations are about as thorny a political issue as can be found in this country, the ad is receiving obvious blow back.
The P-I reports Monday that King County Councilman Peter von Reichbauer wrote a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine saying:
"I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech and a strong believer of common sense. And I believe very strongly that dangerous language can create dangerous environments in a society. I believe that this proposed bus advertising needs to be reviewed and reevaluated."
Constantine, for his part, has responded to the controversy by calling for a review in how King County handles "for cause" (political or social issue-based) advertising in general and whether they should just stick to ads for products and services from now on.
Thielke tells Seattle Weekly that the time Metro staffers have spent dealing with the controversy will grossly outweigh the small amount of revenue the ads will bring in.
Whether this ad will mark the end of political advertising on public buses seems up for grabs. What's obvious though, is that for a small group with short funds and a passionate, but somewhat controversial message: advertising in public, then milking the controversy for all it's worth is about the cheapest and most efficient way possible to get your point heard.