Philip K. Dick was a science fiction writer who understood the overwhelming and annoying power of advertising, even if his own book sales didn’t benefit from big-budget marketing during his lifetime. Fifty years ago, he predicted that if flying robot birds were invented, they would fly around tweeting advertising jingles.
When you read his work, you can see that an overwhelming, often heartbreaking sense of kindness and empathy is at its heart. So we truly doubt that were he the one implementing advertising policies for New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, he would have approved Amazon’s scheme for promoting the television series based on his book, “The Man in the High Castle.” What part of decking out a train in American-Nazi flags made sense? It is one thing, after all, to enter the horrific possible world where Nazis and Imperial Japanese have divided up rule over America imaginatively, through a book or a video. It is another to live it in real life on the 42nd Street shuttle train.
As Ann Toback told Gothamist, “I shouldn’t have to sit staring at a Nazi insignia on my way to work.” Toback is the executive director of the Workmen’s Circle, a Jewish organization. “It boggles the mind that someone could take the time to decorate an entire subway train with Nazi insignia and not think, ‘This is a poor choice,’” she said.
An MTA spokesman defended the train redesign, saying that since it wasn’t a political ad, the transit agency had no choice in the matter. “The updated standards prohibit political advertisements. Unless you’re saying that you believe Amazon is advocating for a Nazi takeover of the United States, then it meets the standards. They’re advertising a show,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg told Gothamist.
When “The Man in the High Castle” was first published in 1962, it was marketed to readers of Cold War thrillers like “Fail Safe,” and it featured a swastika on the cover. Later paperback reissues, however, appeared under publisher’s science fiction lines and featured generic science fiction designs that didn’t reflect the book’s contents nor include swastikas. (It was only for his final novels that Dick, who died in 1982 at 53, merited custom cover art for his science fiction novels.)
Don’t worry: Our review of “The Man in the High Castle” series includes no swastikas.