The MTA’s long-running “If You See Something, Say Something” ad campaign has already been through nine official iterations over its lifetime. Now, thanks to some anonymous New Yorkers, there’s a tenth, unofficial version, that attempts to repurpose a campaign born of the fear and suspicion of the 9-11 era into a statement of solidarity in the Age of Trump.
Remixing the MTA’s current bright-orange posters that depict the diversity of everyday New Yorkers, (including “Gregg T,” the popular meme who turns out to be a police lawyer who railroads Black Lives Matter protesters), the new posters subtly pivot the campaign’s message away from exhortations to scan your subway car for human threats and call the cops when you see a funny-looking dude, and toward an anti-racist, anti-sexist civic solidarity.
“New Yorkers Keep New Yorkers Safe,” the doctored ads read. “Say no to bigotry, racism and sexism. Stand up against hate. Stand together. If you see something, say something.”
The Voice spoke with a couple of the anonymous detourneurs who’ve put an unknown number of the posters into circulation on subway cars. “The original posters have a real effect,” one said. “I noticed myself starting to feel suspicious about everyone around me. Especially after the election, I just thought, This is not okay. This is not how New Yorkers keep each other safe. We wanted to subvert, or change, what that statement means.”
“We do need to be looking out for each other. The MTA is not wrong,” another person involved in the project said. “But the original ads were xenophobic, encouraged snitching, and encouraged New Yorkers to view each other with suspicion. Especially during the holiday season after the election of Donald Trump… New Yorkers should be standing up for each other. We should be unified, instead of turning to some kind of invisible authority or the state to punish behavior that seems suspicious.”
The two poster-improvers point out that high-resolution versions of the original See-Something-Say-Something ads are available online. “They’re easy to correct and change,” one says. “I encourage other people to make their own changes. Make your own city!”