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Shopping for peace: Julie Belles. Photo by John Whipple

Deportation Station

Eric Daille, of the Rensselaer County Greens, spoke to the media at a Jan. 10 demonstration to oppose the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s special registration program that many say unfairly targets immigrants and citizens from the Middle East. Civil libertarians claim the registration process will demonize immigrants of Middle Eastern descent and will have little effect on preventing terrorism. Jan. 10 represented the second of three dates for Middle Eastern immigrants and nationals to report to the INS. Individuals in the United States from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia must report for registration by Feb. 21.

The protest was held in front of the Lee O’Brien federal office building in Albany

What Drives Censorship?

“Oil money supports some terrible things. What kind of gas mileage does your SUV get? What is your SUV doing to national security?”

Television commercials posing those very questions aired the weekend of Jan. 18-19 on a public-access television station in Detroit and two stations in Washington, D.C., after being censored for a week. Modeled after the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy’s drug-money-supports- terrorism ads, a media consortium called the Detroit Project designed an ad campaign exploring the notion that driving gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles supports terrorism.

“We’re just using the [Bush administration’s] logic,” said Laurie David, cofounder of The Detroit Project. “If you smoke pot, the money you spend supports terrorism? We think that is a little bit absurd. It seems a much more direct connection to substitute oil for drugs.”

Stations in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco refused to air the 30-second spots, pointing to policies against running controversial ads. But David said the stations made their decision so as not to anger one of their largest advertisers—according to The Detroit Project, the auto industry as a whole spends $1.5 billion dollars on advertising annually.

In one of the ads, which can be viewed at www.detroitproject.com, straight-faced SUV owners explain how their inefficient vehicles support terrorist activities: “I helped blow up a nightclub. I helped fund a terrorist training camp.”

“Follow the money,” David said. “We are sending trillions to the economies of these unstable nations in the Middle East. Why are we supporting the nations that hate us?”

According to Autodata Corp., an automobile industry research firm, one in four vehicles sold in 2002 was a sport utility vehicle. In light of the Bush administration’s current plan to increase SUV and light-truck fuel-economy standards by 1.5 miles per gallon over the next several years, the Detroit Project thinks more should be done to curb the U.S. oil consumption. The group is calling on automakers to increase fuel efficiency standards and invest more in the development of gas-electric hybrid automobiles.

“The point of the ads was to quick-start a national discussion on our insane dependence on oil,” Davis said. “And I think we’ve done that. We want to keep the discussion going and start to put some pressure on Detroit.”

—T.D.


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