August 7, 2001

It's okay to call this black man 'nutso'

U.K. papers mock the Farrakhan idiocies that U.S. media won't touch

Mark Steyn

National Post

You can't blame Louis Farrakhan, the man behind the 1995 Million Man March
in Washington, for seeking to have lifted the ban on his entry to the United
Kingdom. And you can't blame Britain's High Court for last week's decision
approving his petition. Indeed, the only wonder is that he was ever banned
in the first place. After all, the Nation of Islam's leader can produce any
number of glowing testimonials. "I have respect for him," said Al Gore's
running mate, Joe Lieberman. Minister Farrakhan's message, said Jack Kemp,
the 1996 Republican Vice-Presidential nominee, is "wonderful."

This would be the message that Judaism is the "Synagogue of Satan"? Ah,
well, let's not get hung up on details. Senator Lieberman is an Orthodox
Jew, but that doesn't mean he can't "respect" a guy who thinks Hitler is "a
great man" and advises Joe's crowd to try figuring out what they did to bug
him. "Everybody talks about what Hitler did to you," Farrakhan pointed out
in 1994. "What did you do to Hitler? What made that man so mad at you?"
Senator Lieberman passed on that one, but did say recently that he feels
sure the Minister "doesn't want to be a divisive figure." Thank goodness for

Thus, the complicated dynamic of American racial politics, of which Britain,
for all its other woes, is blessedly free. It has black government
ministers, black members of the House of Lords, black network news anchors,
black pop stars and black sporting heroes, but no permanent elite of black
grievance-mongers. On the sliding scale of African-American community
leaders, Minister Farrakhan does not have the mainstream respectability of
Jesse Jackson, the race industry's highest-earning shakedown artist, nor
even of the Reverend Al Sharpton, the corpulent bouffant charlatan to whom
Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and all other Democratic candidates in New York
must pay court. Yet arguably Farrakhan speaks for more of the
African-American community than either of them.

According to one poll, 59% of blacks think Farrakhan "speaks the truth."
According to another, 40% of the participants at his 1995 Million Man March
said they had negative feelings about Jews. That's an impressive result, not
because of the proportion in and of itself but because that's the number who
felt sufficiently relaxed about their "negative feelings" to admit them
cheerfully to The Washington Post. In fairness to the Nation of Islam, they
don't just offend Hymies. At a "Black Holocaust Conference," one of
Farrakhan's lieutenants, a "Professor of Egyptology," held up a painting of
the Last Supper and called Christ's Disciples "a whole lot of white faggot

When the High Court lifted the ban on Farrakhan, Fleet Street was roused to
one of its instant fits of indignation. But to get steamed up about
Farrakhan's bigotry is to miss the point: The Minister's status rests on
blacks remaining a permanent victim class, and it's hard to be a victim
unless someone's victimizing you. Farrakhan's attacks on Jews in particular
and "white devils" in general are not just entirely logical, but also an
excellent career move. The media have yet to record a single occasion when
the Minister's anti-Semitic diatribes before his large black audiences have
been met with a solitary boo. At Madison Square Garden, the line advising
Jews to "remember, when God puts you in the ovens, it's forever" was, in
fact, a big hit.

But let it go, I say. Objecting to Farrakhan as a bigot overlooks the more
basic objection that he's a fruitcake. His Million Man March brought at
least half that number to Washington, to stand in the street listening to a
two-hour Farrakhan speech, in the course of which the former calypso singer
went into a medley of his favourite numbers: "There in the middle of this
Mall is the Washington Monument, 555 feet high. But if we put a one in front
of that 555 feet, we get 1555, the year that our first fathers landed on the
shores of Jamestown, Virginia, as slaves. In the background is the Jefferson
and Lincoln Memorial. Each one of these monuments is 19 feet high. Abraham
Lincoln, the 16th president, Thomas Jefferson the third president, and 16
and three make 19 again. What is so deep about this number 19? Why are we
standing on the Capitol steps today? That number 19, when you have a nine,
you have a womb that is pregnant, and when you have a one standing by the
nine, it means that there's something secret that has to be unfolded ..."

You don't have to be a numerologist to spot the flaw in this theory: One
secret that's easily unfolded is that in 1555 there were no black slaves on
the shores of Jamestown, and no permanent immigrant settlements anywhere in
North America; Jamestown wasn't settled until 1607, and no slaves arrived
until 1619. But if nine is the pregnant womb and one is the known number of
Jesse Jackson's love children, then six minus one equals five, and
$5-million is the interest-free loan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi gave Farrakhan
to start his "Power Inc" company in 1985, and if you multiply 5 by 19 you
get 95, take away the 16, you're left with 79, which equals Farrakhan's two
stately homes in the Chicago area plus his 77-acre rural retreat.
Coincidence? Unlikely.

By the time Farrakhan had moved on to explain why the 440 cycles of the A
tone in music were reminders of Egypt in the Eighteenth Dynasty, the U.S.
media knew they had a problem. The Minister has always had his whimsies --
he claims that once a month he's taken up into a spaceship orbiting the
Earth to commune with Elijah Muhammed -- but faced with a man talking
gibberish to the biggest gathering in Washington in decades, the American
press froze. You can say a man's dangerous and demagogic, but, if you point
out he's a loonytoon, what does that make the huge tide of people hanging on
his every word? What does that make the popular black magazines like EBONY,
which hailed him as one of the 20th century's "immortal giants," or JET,
which is as punctilious about his status as the Court Circular is about the
Queen Mum's ("The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan Celebrates His 68th
Birthday" ran the headline last month)? What does that make the leading
black academics who were drooling all over the speech? It was, said
Harvard's Cornel West, "depths of black love speaking to depths of black
suffering." Black love, black suffering, we all love that storyline. But
black nuttiness? No way. So the major newspapers declined to report the
Minister's numerological excursions, treating those portions of the speech
like Victorian piano legs and obscuring them with discreet ellipses. The New
York Times allowed that Mr. Farrakhan's address was "complex."

Racial politics in America is so toxic that white commentators can be
respectful to, alarmed by or disappointed with a black leader but they
cannot laugh at him. In the last week, every British national newspaper has
gleefully mocked every Farrakhan idiocy; after decades of coverage, they've
yet to be reported in the major American papers. What happens when it's
deemed unseemly to point out how risible someone is? Farrakhan may never
achieve his goal of a separate black nation, but he's already leading the
way to a separate black reality, where the facts of whitey's world go
unrecognized, and instead it's taken for granted that the AIDS virus was
invented by the CIA to kill blacks. Some on the right insist that,
underneath the overheated rhetoric, he's an exemplary social conservative;
some on the left admire him as a pioneer of Balkanized identity-group
politics long before they were popular. But to all but the most partisan
observers Minister Farrakhan presents a more basic conundrum: How nutso does
an African-American community leader have to be before his fellow blacks
hoot with derision and walk away?