“In recent times,” the Anti-Defamation League wrote in March 2018, “there has been one constant in anti-Semitism in America: Louis Farrakhan.” Yet, Netflix was seemingly unperturbed by the head of the Nation of Islam’s four-plus decades of documented antisemitism and vitriol. The media services provider initially planned to air a documentary chronicling Farrakhan’s life, but suddenly canceled it the day before its Aug. 1, 2018 premiere.
The film is entitled The Honorouble Minister Louis Farrakhan: My Life’s Journey Through Music, and was originally produced in 2014 by the Nation of Islam leader’s son. It’s a safe bet that the “documentary” will be more hagiography than history.
On July 30, 2018 Farrakhan tweeted out a teaser for the forthcoming film, encouraging his followers to watch the film, which “explores the minister’s life journey through music.” The next day—after considerable public outcry—the network claimed that an error; an “internal miscommunication” had occurred, and asserted that they had never intended to stream the documentary, which nonetheless had been named in a July 25, 2018 Independent article listing forthcoming Netflix shows.
Although Netflix’s response seemed confused and perhaps disingenuous, the song and verse of Farrakhan’s life is clear—and it’s been one of inveterate hate.
Farrakhan joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) in the mid-1950s. NOI has “maintained a consistent record of anti-Semitism and racism since its founding in the 1930s,” the ADL noted in its profile of the organization. Shortly after Malcolm X’s 1965 assassination by NOI members, the then head of the Nation, Elijah Muhammad, appointed Farrakhan to the posts previously held by Malcolm. In February 1975, Farrakhan became head of the NOI.
Like most antisemites, Farrakhan is also an avid conspiracy theorist. In a 2015 speech, for example, the minister claimed that Israelis and Jews had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks. Israelis and Jews, Farrakhan asserted, “don’t fear America because they control it from within.”
Like his hero Hitler, Farrakhan has proudly embraced the label of anti-Semite. During a 2015 speech at the Mosque Maryam in Chicago, he exhorted, “the Satanic Jews that control everything and mostly everybody, if they are your enemy, then you must be somebody.” Farrakhan received a standing ovation for his remarks. In February 2017, Farrakhan said that Jews are “not really Jews but are in fact Satan,” and as “great and master deceivers” they should be considered “the enemy of God and the enemy of the righteous.”
In another 2014 speech at the Nation of Islam’s 2014 Saviour’s Day convention at Detroit’s Joe Louis arena, Farrakhan praised the famed auto magnate and anti-Semite, Henry Ford, who, among other things, promoted Nazism and the Protocols of Zion, a Tsarist-era forgery that purports to show a Jewish conspiracy to control the world. In a 2013 speech at Tuskegee University, Farrakhan claimed that “whites” selected President Barack Obama to do their bidding and accused the U.S. of bringing cancer to black communities.
When he’s not preaching before auditoriums of thousands, Farrakhan has used other means to promote his—and the Nation’s—ideology. In a 58-part online lecture series that ran from January 2013 until February 2014, the NOI leader “characterized Jews as ‘Satanic’ and promoted a wide range of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, alleging Jewish control over government, finance, entertainment, and other sectors,” the ADL noted. Farrakhan has also promoted an NOI tract called The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews: How Jews Gained Control of the Black American Economy. Jews, the 2010 NOI book asserts, are responsible for “promoting a myth of black racial inferiority” and for exploitation of African-Americans.
NOI even has a self-proclaimed “historical research department” that promotes antisemitic conspiracy theories on both the Nation’s website and social media accounts.
Farrakhan’s hate extends beyond Jews, however. As The Weekly Standard has highlighted, Farrakhan is deeply misogynistic, asserting “When a woman does not know how to cook and the right foods to cook, she’s preparing death for herself, her husband, and her children” and “man is supposed to have rule, especially in his own house…and when she rules you, you become her child.” Farrakhan has also routinely unleashed anti-gay and anti-transgender tirades, calling gays and lesbians criminals, sinners and “degenerates.”
Farrakhan’s hate, however, hasn’t stopped him from having an array of self-styled progressive admirers and apologists. Leaders of the Women’s March, such as Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, have publicly praised him. Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have refused to denounce him, welcomed him into their offices, and in a belatedly released 2005 photo that included then-Sen. Barack Obama, even posed for a picture with him.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has claimed to take a strong stance against racism—even firing the company’s communications chief, Jonathan Friedland for his “descriptive use of the N-word on at least two occasions at work.” This, Hastings said in a company wide memo made public in June 2018, “showed unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity, and is not in line with our values.”
Roy E. Disney, the now deceased head of a current Netflix competitor purportedly remarked, “It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” “Internal miscommunication” or not, the fact that Netflix even considered streaming a pro-Farrakhan “documentary” raises questions about the media provider’s values. It’s hard to imagine Netflix contemplating running a film supportive of David Duke, the white supremacist politician. Why the double standard for Farrakhan?
(Note: A slightly different version of this Op-Ed appeared in The Times of Israel on Aug. 4, 2018)