In June, the MTA will pull the last of its political subway ads, having decided the risk of broadcasting hateful messages to the straphanging masses is no longer worth the meager funds it pulls in from said ads. This is very, very bad.

The decision to cease running political ads was spurred by an April decision by a federal judge that the MTA was obligated to run tasteless anti-Islam ads from the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which featured an image of man, face hidden under a scarf, and the words, “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah," attributed to "Hamas MTV." Beneath that, is says, “That’s #myJihad. What’s yours?”

The lawsuit was brought by the Initiative's Pamela Geller, who has a proud history of broadcasting her anti-Islam message across all of the city's public transit options. Grotesque though the ads were, Judge John Koetl wrote in his April decision that the ads qualified as protected speech, and noted that similar ads have in the past run in Chicago and San Francisco without the outbreaks of violence the MTA apparently fears.

"It strains credulity to believe that New Yorkers would be incited to violence by ads that did not incite residents of Chicago and San Francisco to similar acts," he wrote in his ruling. "This is not to minimize the terror threats to New York City, but those threats do not arise from these fleeting advertisements."

The MTA, though, seems to have much less faith in the sanity of its patrons, which is confusing. These are the same riders that are so resolutely dead to their surroundings that they routinely destroy the commutes of those around them with their egregious breaches of subway etiquette. Where are these prospective murderers? Is it the woman next to me, her nail clippings soaring four feet around her before landing in a heap on the floor? Is it the man blasting the Drake EDM remix while eating a pan pizza? Most straphangers are just trying to get to their shitty dentist appointment, not searching the subway walls in desperate hope their eyes will alight on a fresh, radical ideology to embrace once they can resurface above ground.

But OK. Let's assume we find the one whackadoo who truly does take to heart the insufferable subway ads, ordering so much GrubHub that the packaging takes over his apartment, forcing him to move all of this belongings into a Manhattan Mini Storage unit. What if we do find the one mind so impressionable that it is actually moved to violence at the urging of a piece of paper glued to the wall of a train?

You might recall the words of David Foster Wallace, penned initially for the Atlantic in 2007 and reprised around June of 2013, at the height of the debate surrounding the classified NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden, revealing that the U.S. government had been spying on its own citizens. It starts with this:

Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”? In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?

In explaining the MTA's decision to ban the ads, General Counsel Jerome Page rationalized that "we drew the line when we thought our customers, our employees and the public were in danger. The judge gave short shrift to those concerns.” But far more dangerous than the remote threat of a theoretical spree killer moved to violence by an advertisement is the much more real, much more immediate threat of suppression of free speech by a government entity. Is Pamela Geller an Islamaphobic troll? Of course she is! Should she have the right to broadcast her cringing, offensive message in a public forum, alongside a pair of giant, floating breasts? Yes, if she is willing to cough up the $100,000 it cost to wage the campaign.

As Nadine Strossen, a professor of Constitutional law at New York Law School (and the former head of the ACLU) told the Observer: “The MTA said that ads expressing provocative political ideas create a ‘danger.’ Under the First Amendment, though, the real danger is the government treating ‘We the People’ like children who need to be ‘protected’ from ideas it views as dangerous.”