Louis Farrakhan Thinks I'm a Good Jew

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A writer finds it alarming (and slightly gratifying) to hear his book praised by a public figure who once called Hitler "a very great man."

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Imagine my surprise when I came home from the supermarket Sunday evening and my wife greeted me with the news that Minister Louis Farrakhan had been talking about my book, The New Hate. She'd seen a mention of it in the Twitterverse, and when I logged onto my own Twitter account, I found a direct message waiting for me: "He had plenty of praise for your book, Mr. Goldwag." The sender of this message had tweeted back and forth with me about Farrakhan a few weeks earlier. He'd wondered if I considered him to be anti-Semitic. I'd told him that I did.

It wasn't the first time I'd been praised, however obliquely, by a professional racist.

Last fall I traveled to Washington, D.C., to sit in on a day-long conference sponsored by The National Policy Institute, a think tank dedicated to the interests of white people and what they call "European culture." Most of the 100 or so attendees already knew each other; I would have stood out like a sore thumb even if I had been better able to keep my thoughts and feelings under wraps.

When I published my account of the forum at the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog, some of its participants posted comments. "I applaud Arthur Goldwag," wrote Richard Spencer, the NPI's Executive Director. "He clearly doesn't like us much, but his depiction of what was said at our event is, more or less, accurate." He took exception, however, to my contention that most Americans--including the vast majority of Republicans and Tea Partiers--roundly rejected the NPI's racialist ideology.

"Surely, Mr. Goldwag," he wrote, "even you don't believe that our message is 'profoundly foreign to most Americans.' If this were so--and we are the equivalent of experts in basket-weaving or peddlers of alien conspiracy theories--you wouldn't waste your time reporting on us. The threat that many, many Tea Partiers might start agreeing with us seems to be the raison d'être of ... your entire writing career."

As it happens, I have written extensively about alien conspiracies, and even weirder and more obscure things than that. But I had to admit he'd struck a nerve. It wasn't so much because of what he said about America's ripeness for the NPI's way of thinking (I still don't believe that very many of us are ready to tear up the Constitution and start over again as an ethno-state, founded on the mystical imperatives of blood and soil) but because of what he'd said about me. The fact that he'd addressed me by name disconcerted me--I'm superstitious that way. As Joshua Trachtenberg wrote in Jewish Magic and Superstition, "to know a name is to be privy to the secret of its owner's being, and master of his fate. "

But back to Minister Farrakhan. February 26 is the birth date of the Nation of Islam's founder Wallace D. Fard. Every year since 1981, when it was designated Saviours' Day, Farrakhan has commemorated the occasion with an epic stem-winder.

In Sunday's four-hour-plus spectacular, which I subsequently downloaded from the Nation of Islam website, he held forth about the Federal Reserve, the national debt, the Zionist capture of Hollywood and the U.S. Congress, 9/11 Truth, flying saucers, sinister weather patterns, and pretty much every other conspiracy theory he's been promoting since he recorded the calypso record "The White Man's Heaven Is the Black Man's Hell" more than half a century ago. For much of the speech he alternately praised and derided Obama, who, for all his naïveté about the Satanic nature of white America, Farrakhan believes, is a fundamentally "good and beautiful man"--and a martyr in the making.

"Never," Farrakhan said, "has a sitting president been spoken of in the manner that President Obama and his family have had to endure. Not just by the birthers and right-wing zealots but those in high places. People with great influence have spoken against him in a manner that has never been accorded to even the worst of America's white presidents."

The litany of indignities--PhotoShopped pictures of Obama's face superimposed onto an ape's; prayers that his wife be a widow and his children orphans; baseless accusations that he is a Marxist, a terrorist, a Nazi, an angry black man, and for all that he's bent over backwards to accommodate the Jewish State, an enemy of Israel--went on for more than half an hour. It culminated with the now-notorious Atlanta Jewish Times's column last January, which suggested that Mossad might have to assassinate Obama if Iran acquires nuclear weapons so that the more Israel-friendly Joe Biden can "take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States' policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies." True, Andrew Adler, the column's author, was loudly condemned by leading Jews--but was that because he made a horrific statement, Farrakhan darkly wondered, or "did he expose the plot too early?"

Not that all Jews are wicked. "There are members of the Jewish faith that are striving to live the life that Moses and the Israelite prophets taught," Farrakhan conceded, quoting a verse from the Koran to prove the point. And then he issued them a challenge: "You want good Muslims to condemn bad Muslims?" he thundered. "You want good Christians to condemn bad Christians? You want good Negroes to condemn those that you say are bad? Well what about you? What about this synagogue of Satan that say they are Jews but are not? When are you gonna rise up and put them down, and make it known that you are not of them?"

His voice dropped to a conversational level; his tone was all sweet reasonableness. "To show you that Farrakhan is not teaching hate," he said, "this is a book that just came out a few days ago. It's The Obama Hate Machine: The Lies, Distortions, and Personal Attacks on the President and Who's Behind Them. So don't look at me like I'm doing something wrong. Two books came out," he added, holding up Bill Press's and my books as Exhibits One and Two. "The New Hate, by Arthur Goldwag."

For a left-wing, non-Zionist Jew who has written hundreds of thousands of words exposing and deploring the evils of programmatic hatreds and grand conspiracy theories such as the ones that the Nation of Islam is premised on, hearing my name pronounced by Minister Louis Farrakhan was like having an out of body experience. That same magnificent voice had proclaimed that "Hitler was a very great man" and, in the tradition of anti-Semites since medieval times, accused Jews of vampirism--"I don't like the way you leech on us. See, a leech is somebody that sucks your blood, takes from you, and don't give you a damn thing."

Had he even looked at my book's index? His name is in it more than once. Speaking of alien space conspiracies, Farrakhan claims to have ridden in a "flying wheel"; he believes that not just HIV but white people themselves were created in a laboratory by evil scientists. Though he is not a member of the populist right, Louis Farrakhan is no less a hater than Richard Spencer, Pat Buchanan, or David Duke.

I can't deny that for a fleeting moment, I felt a kind of guilty pride in the thought that he had put me in the column of "good" Jews. But mostly I was floored by the irony. I didn't write The New Hate to stir up paranoia about a devilish plot cooked up by an elite secret society to assassinate the president (though of course I worry for Obama's safety). I wrote it in the hope that it might provide an antidote for precisely that kind of thinking. It certainly won't so long as demagogues like Louis Farrakhan keep stirring the pot.   

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Arthur Goldwag is the author, most recently, of The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right. A freelance writer and editor for more than 30 years, he has worked at Book-of-the-Month Club, Random House, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in New York City.

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