HOBOKEN - A controversial blog written by a member of the Hoboken Zoning Board has ignited a debate over hate speech and free speech.
Monday evening’s City Council meeting featured an emotional moment for some City Council members when Lane Bajardi, a frequent critic of the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, displayed an image put forth on the personal blog of Zoning Board member Nancy Pincus, a Zimmer ally. Pincus, whose controversial blog often takes aim at Zimmer foes, posted an image of Councilwoman Beth Mason superimposed on an altered poster of the 1935 Nazi propaganda film Triumph des Willens, or Triumph of the Will. Mason is Jewish, and so is Pincus. The picture was altered to read: Triumph des Shillens, or "Triumph of the Shill." The post was related to a recent heated council election in the 4th Ward.
While the Hoboken blog scene during election season can be less than civil at times, some feel the image crossed a line.
“There are certain topics which should never be used for ammunition,” Bajardi said on Monday. “Nazi Germany and the Holocaust should be among them.”
Five members of the council, including the four Zimmer allies, vocally expressed their disapproval of the use of the image.
Councilman Michael Russo asked during the meeting for instructions on how the council can remove a member of the Zoning Board. Corporation Counsel Mark Tabakin said the image is “disturbing on many, many levels” but the council needs to be “cognizant of this person’s First Amendment rights.”
And there may be a political motive for the council comments, as some would like to see Zimmer lose her majority on the Zoning Board.
Pincus said on Tuesday that her blog has nothing to do with Zoning Board issues and it does not affect her work with the city. Pincus believes what is going on now is a political operation to have her removed from the board.
Russo, in a phone interview on Tuesday, said, “This isn’t just some political commentary,” Russo said. “This is hate we’re talking about. For anyone to try and mask it as anything other than hate is disgusting.”
Pincus, for her part, posted a followup on her "Grafix Avenger" blog, noting that she is a descendant of Holocaust victims.
“There’s nothing advocating fascism or Nazism,” Pincus said in an interview. “There’s no relationship other than the title of the piece which is a pun of a propaganda film.”
Pincus also said she is “outraged” that she is being targeted and called an anti-Semite when she is Jewish.
Also in the photo was newly elected Councilman Tim Occhipinti, who was featured on the necklace of Mason in the photo.
When asked if she would take the post down, Pincus said no.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Pincus said. “It’s satirical.”
Some blogs and commenters have reached out in support of Pincus, while others see this as something that crosses the line.
What do you think? Comment below. And read more in this weekend’s Hoboken Reporter, available in print on Sunday or here at www.hudsonreporter.com.