Boston Mayor: GTA Subway Ads “Hiding Behind First Amendment”

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is not pleased with the refusal of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to remove ads for GTA Vice City Stories from its subway cars.

As reported by the Boston Herald, Menino accused the agency and its head, Daniel Grabauskas, of “hiding behind the First Amendment.” The mayor said:

These ads are outrageous. The MBTA is a public entity and has a responsibility to protect the public from being bombarded by violent images.

To hide behind the First Amendment is despicable. We are talking about games that promote killing prostitutes, shooting police officers. So what if the ACLU is going to get mad? The MBTA is a public entity and the public is my first concern.

Menino was among those who signed a letter to the transit authority recently, demanding removal of the ads. Grabauskas told the Herald the MBTA has no legal authority to regulate ad content and pointed out that the agency spent over a million dollars in legal fees a few years ago in a failed attempt to block ads promoting a change in marijuana laws. The MBTA boss said:

As offensive as I, or any MBTA person, may find this particular game, we do not have the legal authority to remove it. The content on whatever is being advertised, whether it be a video game, a movie, a music album, a Web site, is not something we are allowed to be concerned about.

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  1. 0
    Terminator44 says:


    Actually, if there was no Constitution, then these politicians could do whatever the hell the want, because they would be above the law. That’s why politicians like Menino hate the Bill of Rights. It was designed to make sure that they work FOR the people, not the other way around.

  2. 0
    Gray17 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Personally, I got to give Mr. Grabauskas a lot of points on this one. Is he doing this to back videogames, and fight censorship? No. Is he doing this because it’s the sane thing to do? Yes.

    The MBTA has a contract to run the ads. Pulling them would be both illegal, and a breach of contract. Mr. Grabauskas and his staff considered the issue when it came up and went “Can we legally pull this? No. Will attempting to do so anyways, just because we or others might find them offensive, waste money? Yes. Answer don’t pull them.” And Mr. Grabauskas further realized that this was just a bunch of scapegoating and political maneuvering, and as such tossed some barbs of his own back point out some the hypocracy.

    It’s refreshing in any context to see someone doing what is legal and reasonable and standing up for that, instead of falling in with the knee jerk crowd rather than make waves.

  3. 0
    Chuma ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    HIDE BEHIND the constitution of your own friggin country??? This from a Mayor?!?!

    Can we ask this prat for his resignation because if he believes people in power should be above the law then frankly he needs to be removed.

  4. 0
    Josh says:

    See, these stupid politicians only want freedom of speech for themselves. So they can bitch all they want and demand votes out of the ass. Of course, we can’t have it but they sure as hell can. What a bunch of crap. This is why I can’t wait for the gaming generation to get into office. Maybe then they’ll have some respect for our Constituion instead of using it to get in power.

  5. 0
    Mnementh2230 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    To hide behind the First Amendment is despicable. We are talking about games that promote killing prostitutes, shooting police officers. So what if the ACLU is going to get mad? The MBTA is a public entity and the public is my first concern.

    There are so many things wrong with this statement… I’ll have to break it down.

    1st sentence: That’s what the first amendment is FOR – for people to use as a shield against censors. Hiding behind it is its intended purpose. There is nothing dispicable about it.

    2nd sentence: If mayor douch-bag ever bothered to play the game, he’d realize that the game does NOT promote these things. They’re simply possible, and it is the player’s choice that causes these things to occur. Furthermore, shooting police officers is discouraged because of the “star” system – in the end, it costs you a lot of money or kills your character if you do it.

    3rd sentence: Ok, I have to agree there – who cares if the ACLU gets mad? What he should be more worried about is the legality of the issue – the ACLU will get behind the right side on this issue, and they have some good lawyers. It’s not the ACLUs anger that he should care about – it’s their legal staff.

    final sentence: MBTA is a public entity, and as such, must be impartial. Again, if mayor douche-bag bothered to give the issue more than a cursory glance he’d realize how wrong he is.

  6. 0
    Brer says:


    I’ll bet you $50CAN it A) doesn’t end up -just- blocking child porn due to the nature of such filters and B) the program will be deliberately expanded to other categories within 2-3 years.

  7. 0
    sqlrob ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What MBTA needs to do is to remove these ads.

    And EVERY SINGLE OTHER AD. Then ask the mayor for the money, since there’s no other way they can appease the first amendment, the city, and taxpayers are responsible for the mayor’s big mouth.

    He’ll change his mind real quick.

  8. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    True, but then again, we’re censoring ILLEGAL activity (yes, electronic distribution of child pr0n is illegal here). Bit of a difference there.

    Well, not to people like Boston’s mayor and Jack Thompson, but… meh. 😉

  9. 0
    Brer says:


    On the other end, your government’s the one enacting the nationwide internet censorship program in cooperation with the major companies like Telus 😉

  10. 0
    konrad_arflane ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “I thought the ACLU was on Jack Thompson’s side of the issue.”

    What on earth gave you that idea? I haven’t heard of ACLU involvement in any game-related case yet. In any event, the ACLU exists to help protect people from attempts to infringe on their rights, including (or perhaps even especially) first amendment rights. I’d think they would come down heavily against government censorship in this one.

  11. 0
    Daniel says:

    @ illspirit

    Good one!!!!!!!!! That’s what it should say and probably what he was thinking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. 0
    Daniel says:

    The only bad guys here are the anti-game fanatics. I am also confused about something. The guy said, “So what if the ACLU is going to get mad?” I thought the ACLU was on Jack Thompson’s side of the issue. These violent video games also have a right to advertise themselves where ever they want. If they wanted to advertise on cereal boxes and milk cartons, I think they should have the right to do that. This is a free country and if these innocent game companies want to advertise their violent M rated games on a subway, they have every right to.

    Besides, who buys things based on billboard ads anyway? I have never looked at a billboard and then bought something because of it. These ads don’t even get anyone to buy anything. Violent video games have a right to advertise their goodness where ever they want. No one has the right to tell them that they can’t. Jack Thompson probably got this started and he is a lying jerk punk loser. There is nothing wrong at all with violent images in the media. They don’t influence people at all.

    The mayor of Boston is just trying to get some votes for himself and it would be nice if gamers could tell politicians, “Hey if you are against video games I won’t vote for you.” Then this whole controversy would go away. They only want to get elected. That’s all politicians care about is getting elected and re-elected and they think it will help them to be against violent video games. If they find out that it won’t, they will stop. Another thing I’d like to add is everywhere you look, you see beer commercials. Beer, unlike violent video games, is bad. It makes people fat and when people drive drunk, it causes accidents. Why don’t politicians attack beer commercials? Here’s a message for you politician morons. Leave innocent violent video games alone and go after beer commercials because beer makes people drive drunk and causes real people to get hurt not violent video games.

  13. 0
    illspirit ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “To attack the First Amendment is despicable. We are talking about a Mayor that promotes tyranny, trashing the Constitution. So what if the peasants are going to get mad? The MBTA is a public entity and power is my first concern.”

    There, fixed that for him.

  14. 0
    Matthew ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    To hide behind lead screens in xray departments is despicable. To hide behind bulletproof vests is despicable. To hide behind goggles (that do nothing) when facing acid is despicable.

    Get the point yet?

  15. 0
    Grahamr ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Grabuskas is a freaking badass. Even as the controversy heats up, he still stands firm and fights back.

    *Imagines an alternate universe where grabuskas is ESA president*

    Oh, wait. then 95.9% of the content on this site would be nonexistant.

  16. 0
    Scoops says:

    “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.”

    Nice idea. Of course, it comes from a French guy, and we all know how popular they’ve been in the US in recent history. 😉

  17. 0
    The Nearest Exit says:

    The really sad part about this controversy is that, this story aside, the role of intelligence in Boston is reversed.

    Mumbles Menino is one of the best things to ever happen to the city of Boston. And Grabauskas is a fool of a man, along with most of the MBTA staff – anyone who’s had to ride the T more than a day in their life knows how much work needs to be done.

    I do understand Mumbles’ reasoning, to be fair. It’s the nature of politics and the Constitution to interpret the Amendments differently, and the role of the government to determine exactly where the line needs to be drawn – when it comes to video games, Menino apparently feels the violence and suggestive themes inherit with the GTA series represent that line. And that’s a reasonable point of view, given how dangerous certain parts of the T can be.

    On the other side of the fence, let’s keep in mind that Grabauskas isn’t a great champion of free speech or gaming rights here. If the MBTA removes the ads before the agreed date, they’re in breech of contract, and would likely lose the money they seek to take in from this. He’s looking for cash, and Mumbles has likely bought into whatever crap his advisors have told him about the GTA series and its effect on the youth.

    In the end, that’s why most of these politicians choose to champion “family values” in gaming these days. Their advisors have either given them exaggerated information and convinced them that attacking violent video games is beneficial to their electorate. Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, and Mumbles Menino have likely never played a video game more than a minute in their lives.

  18. 0
    Kyouryuu says:

    I swear, that picture of Menino reminds me of Adrian Ripburger from Full Throttle. Before you know it, he’s going to tear down his dad’s motorcycle plant and replace it with a minivan factory. The horror!

    Oh, and I love “hiding behind the First Amendment” arguments. They show such a foundational disdain for the law.

  19. 0
    Finaleve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Hey Jim! Wanna go shoot up hookers?”
    “Sorry man, I gots plans right now.”
    “Oh? What are ya doin'”
    “Oh I’m going downtown shooting up some cops, ya know, same old same old”

    …I doubt any similar form of conversation will ever leave the lips of some kids mouth. What this man doesn’t realize is that no game whatsoever promotes such things as killing hookers or the police officers. If anything, it promotes “Do something bad, you get chased by authorities” Hence the Stars you gain from doing so. Sometimes you don’t get caught at all, and that’s the slim chance they might be pointing out. Hell, there are REAL murders and the like the people get away with that you don’t know.

    So evidentally, what’s the use of whining. If they were hiding behind the First Amendment, they’d just strictly say “!st Amendment says no” and thats it, but there is no legal way around covering such “foul” advertising about nothing more than some words and maybe the main character.

  20. 0
    Sam says:


    Of course not, horror movies are works of art that the current generation grew up with! Now, Metal Gear Solid, on the other hand, is nothing but a killing game! /sarcasm

    This guy’s in government, and basically makes a comment that screams “I hate the constitution! Rights? Inalienable freedoms? BAH!” I’m going to write an email to him about this… sure, it’ll probably get ignored, but gotta do something.

  21. 0
    Kharne ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The MBTA is a public entity and has a responsibility to protect the public from being bombarded by violent images.

    You mean like all those times they advertised for horror movies?

    Hey, wait a sec…

  22. 0
    neoelasticman ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Out of curiousity, does anybody have a picture of these supposedly society destroying ads?

    If their trains are showing the same ads I’ve seen in the DC metro, its nothing but the cover art of the video game. That’s it.

  23. 0
    Theory ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Alright, looks like I have a nice long letter to write to this moron when I get back home. It really makes me ashamed to live in Boston knowing that it’s run by such an imbecile.

    “Hiding behind the first amendment is dispicable…” is he fucking kidding me?

    @Eric Greif
    Stole the words right out of my mouth. Don’t worry, I’ll be contacting Mr. Menino very soon.

  24. 0
    Eric Greif says:

    I went and skyped the mayor’s office. I got to speak with an assistant, but I encourage everyone to do likewise and say that “Comments like “To hide behind the First Amendment is despicable.” is likewise despicable and is the sort of thing a tyrant would say.” In particular, any outraged citizens of Boston should call. He’s basicially saying he hates the constitution of our country.

  25. 0
    Dan says:

    Clearly they should replace the GTA ad with some sort of shampoo ad, so that adolescent women develop eating disorders and become insecure about their bodies. Or maybe they should put up a nice beer ad to promote underage drinking and date rape, as all beer ads, at least in New York City, involve a man, a woman, and some amount of alcohol. Both ads also glorify sex, so obviously putting up such an add will cause juveniles to run out and have unprotected sex.

    What? What’s that you say? I’m making a knee-jerk reaction to something? What do you mean that ads displaying content generally don’t cause people to drastically change their behavior? But what about video games then? OH. I get it. You’re all insane jackasses, to quote John Stewart.

  26. 0
    Father Time says:

    @ bigman-k

    Back in the day of slavery speech that was aimed towards abolition was considered offensive and wrong, same with speech that dealt with woman’s rights. If the government could ban such speech we might still have slavery and women might still be treated as secondary citizens.

    This is very good point and for this you win the internet congratulations.

  27. 0
    ChrowX ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m not so concerned about the first amendment part, since this guy is obviously a moron who got his position for allt he wrong reasons. That and everyone else has pointed out what I was going to say anyways..

    I think the funny thing here is that he thinks these advertisments have magic powers that make children kill cops and rob stores, among other violent acts, all without even playing the game. He’s waging a war against the glorification of a game that glorifies violence (or so I’m told). He’s not even ballsy enough to fight the game directly because he’ll get slapped with the first amendment even harder.

  28. 0
    Father Time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So the mayor represents every single liberal in Boston? I guess I can assume President Bush represents every conservative in the US and it would be clearly aprropiate for me to bash thousnads of pople based off the actions of a single moron right? I consider myself liberal and I am appaled at this man’s actions. Seriously its that kind of thinking that makes people think all gamers are psychopathic serial killers in training based on a few nut jobs that blame grand theft auto.

  29. 0
    Bissel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “To hide behind the First Amendment is despicable….”

    THOSE BASTARDS! Using the First Amendment as it was intended to be used! Oh, those freedom hating…er..wait.

    “So what if the ACLU is going to get mad?”

    Oh yeah, THAT’S why the Bill of Rights exists… to appease the ACLU.

  30. 0
    Randalor ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Seriously, does anyone else picture this guy going “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that pesky First Amendment!”?

  31. 0
    Siftr says:

    Dear Mayor of Boston:

    Prove that these games are hiding behind the first amendment. Prove that they promote killing prostitutes and police officers.

    Until then. Shut your dirty mouth you ignorant piece of dog shit.

  32. 0
    Nuiembre ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Don’t try to turn this in a “liberals are hypocrits!” political debate. Politicians and hypocrisy most often go hand in hand, wether they be liberal or conservative.

  33. 0
    evilrockstu says:

    What violent images is this guy talking about? I’ve seen these ads everywhere, the game might be violent but the ads hardly even give any indication that they are for a videogame.

  34. 0
    bigman-k ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    P.S. – Anyone who says the phrase “hiding behind the first amendment” doesn’t have a very positive outlook at First Amendment rights and is IMHO very undemocratic. It’s perfectly fine to not like certain Speech but trying to ban it or saying it a misuse of the First Amendment is plain wrong. That what the First Amendment is there for, too protect speech that others may find offensive or wrong from government interference. Back in the day of slavery speech that was aimed towards abolition was considered offensive and wrong, same with speech that dealt with woman’s rights. If the government could ban such speech we might still have slavery and women might still be treated as secondary citizens.

  35. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Damn that Constitution! First they protect “innocent” americans who are clearly terrorists, I mean, sheesh, if they were real americans, they’d have nothing to hide, so it’s ok to search without a warrant, right? Then we have these child molestors and murderers, who are clearly such because only perverts actually USE the first amendment to protect themselves right?

    Am I right people?

  36. 0
    Grimm22 says:

    Ok, so Boston is a pretty liberal town right?

    So i’m guessing a lot of people in Boston are against the president’s wiretapping program, because its against the constitution right?

    But, when it comes to videogames, then its not ok to follow the constitution?!?

    It seems Hypocracy and Liberal values go hand in hand

  37. 0
    Bigman-K ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yeah for the First Amendment and Free Speech! Boo for Censorcrats like Thomas Menino. Go to China or Iran if you hate Free Speech so much. God i wish the Libertarian Party was in power in the U.S.

  38. 0
    Benji says:

    @point09micron: I’ve seen a number of posters that are simply pictures of the game box cover, maybe with some extra text. Whether there are other adds I haven’t seen, I can’t say, but I’ve several ads that are all just that – box art. Which makes it seem like they’re not actually objecting to the ads but to the product the ads are for.

  39. 0
    FreedomGamer says:

    So what seperates a usage of the First Amendment from “hiding behind the first amendment.” Or could it be possible that the founding fathers have the foresight to protect us from the douchebags like this mayor who would pull some kind of King George freedom inhibiting crap like this.

  40. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    These games do NOT ‘promote’ the killing of prostitutes or Police Officers any more than Reservoir Dogs ‘promotes’ the torture and murder of Police Officers. It’s an option the player MAY choose to take but is not forced to, and there is no reward whatsoever for doing so.

    Maybe it’s time the Boston mayor went back to school and learnt basic English.

  41. 0
    Brer says:


    Not really, that -exact- phrasing (“hiding behind the first amendment”) is actually pretty common when people want to censor something, whether it’s an advertisement or a racist group, or simply politically incorrect speech.

  42. 0
    Thefremen says:

    Hey KN, I’ve got to go to work noaw but could you edit a photo of this douche so he’s holding a copy of “The Prince” and saying it’s the book he lives his life by? K THX BAI.

  43. 0
    Terminator44 says:

    It would appear that Boston has its own Mussolini.

    Really, he doesn’t care about our country’s most fundamental right if he thinks he’s “protecting the public?” I shudder to think what other lengths he would be willing to go. Good thing he’s only a mayor.

    And I also hope he leaves office soon. People who have so little regard for the Constitution should not be in public office. Ever.

  44. 0
    konrad_arflane ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sounds like mr. Grabauskas is one of those people who have their job because they are actually qualified to hold it.

    If the public were truly the mayor’s first concern, maybe he should show some respect for the rule of law and not shoot his mouth off about his personal, uninformed opinion. Indeed, were that his first concern, he would probably be more receptive the information that trying to remove the ads would result in a costly lawsuit he’s unlikely to win. Incidentally, that’s the “what” in “So what if the ACLU is going to get mad?”. When the ACLU gets mad, stuff ends up in court.

  45. 0
    Nuiembre ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Doesnt seem to be dying down is it? Still after these few days, they manage to talk about GTA “encouraging” and “promoting” violent behavior. Willing to bet not one of them tried the game yet.

  46. 0
    pokemaster2185 says:

    God, I hope this Menino guy gets out of office soon… It’s pundits like him who cry foul when people excercise their First Amendment rights that make me emberrassed to be American. I mean honestly, “hiding behind the First Amendment”?

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