Louis Farrakhan: The music man

Louis Farrakhan

As we noted last week, Louis Farrakhan, the longtime head of the Nation of Islam and one of the most notorious white-haters and anti-Semites in America during the last few decades, began his career as a calypso musician. He quit music on orders from Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammed, but decades later he returned to it, reportedly after being encouraged to do so by yet another one of his high-placed and apparently shame-free friends – Sylvia Olden Lee, a vocal coach who was the first African-American employee of the Metropolitan Opera and who performed at the White House for the first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Farrakan gave the first performance in his newly resumed career as part of a three-day Winston-Salem, North Carolina, event devoted to black musicians and classical music. It was reviewed in the New York Times on April 9, 1993, by Bernard Holland, who wrote:

He plays the violin.

Can Louis Farrakhan play the violin? God bless us, he can. He makes a lot of mistakes, not surprising for a man who had virtually abandoned the instrument for 40 years and has only owned one since 1974. Yet Mr. Farrakhan’s sound is that of the authentic player. It is wide, deep and full of the energy that makes the violin gleam. His thrusting sense of phrase has musical power to it….

“God bless us”? Holy cow.

That was only the beginning. In February 2002, in Cerritos, California, Farrakhan gave a violin recital entitled “A Night of Beethoven.” The years went by. Every now and then, when he wasn’t busy delivering venomous sermons or hanging out with the likes of Barack Obama and Keith Ellison, Farrakhan would return to the musical stage, apparently to the great enjoyment of many, who either shared his vile views or who were somehow willing to overlook them.

Snoop Dogg

Now his career as a performing artist has reached a new chapter. On March 15, both Haaretz and the Jewish Daily Forward reported that he’d just dropped a new seven-CD set. Artists like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Barbra Streisand have had big hits with albums of duets on which they perform with other big-name stars. Farrakhan’s new release, Let’s Change the World, follows the same formula. Among the entertainers who appear with him on the set, which sells for $260 and “features 45 songs in a variety of genres, including classical, gospel, jazz, folk, opera, rap, reggae and calypso,” are Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg, Chaka Khan, Rick Ross, Damian Marley, Stephanie Mills, and Common. Snoop Dogg, as it happens, is not only a musical collaborator of Farrakhan’s but a sometime member of the Nation of Islam, which he joined in 2009.

Well, as they say, music is the universal language. It transcends place and time and culture. And, sometimes, simple moral decency.

Celebrating terrorism: Max Blumenthal

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Max Blumenthal

Last June, we examined some of the sleazy shenanigans of one Max Blumenthal. Following in the slime trail of his dad, Sid Blumenthal, the longtime Clinton operator, bagman, lackey, factotum, spinmeister, and all-around inside-the-Beltway creep, young Max (he’s 38) has for some time now been pursuing his own career as an amoral political hack and hanger-on, gaining a reputation as —among other things — a shameless apologist for Vladimir Putin and a fierce critic of Israel.

Then again, the word critic isn’t quite strong enough to describe what young Max is up to when it comes to Israel.

As the Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote in January: “A writer should avoid hyperbole. But when it comes to Max Blumenthal…it’s hard to avoid superlatives. Max is quite simply one of the most biased, anti-Semitic, terrorist-defending, Israel-has-no-right-to-exist haters out there.”

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David Mikics

David Mikics, writing in the Tablet in March of last year, summed Max up as follows: “Max Blumenthal’s stock in trade is anti-Zionist polemic dripping with cartoon-like, racially weighted depictions of Israeli Jews. What distinguishes him from many other anti-Zionist writers is not his political views, but the obsessive nature of his work, which seems animated not by moral passion or analysis but by hate.” In 2013, Max published the book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, which, in the words of J.J. Goldman in the Forward, seeks to “show the suffering and unbroken spirit of the Palestinians and the callous cruelty of the Israelis.” Eric Alterman of The Nation, who is anything but an apologist for Israel, wrote in his review: “It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”

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Rabbi Schmuley Boteach

Max, noted Boteach in March, “is known for creating the hashtag #JSIL—the Jewish State in the Levant—a play on the acronym ISIL, aka ISIS. In Max’s twisted mind, the democratic State of Israel is on par with ISIS.” Throughout his writings about Israel, indeed, Max repeatedly likens the Jewish state to the terrorists who seek to destroy it. And, naturally, to Nazi Germany.

hillaryemailsMax’s anti-Israel writings gained a special kind of attention recently when some of the e-mails dating back to Hillary Clinton’s Foggy Bottom days began to be published, and it turned out that Sid was sending excerpts from his son’s poisonous screeds to the Secretary of State – who responded by praising Max’s work. In March, Boteach’s pro-Israel organization, the World Values Network, bought a full-page ad in The New York Times urging Hillary to cut her ties to both Sid and Max. The ad included several anti-Israel quotations by both father and son. Hillary appears to have ignored Boteach’s plea.

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Father and son

Then, in April, the Telegraph published a recording in which Max, speaking at a March event at the London School of Economics, celebrated a 2014 massacre of Israeli soldiers by Hamas commandos who entered an IDF base in Israel through a series of underground tunnel from the Gaza Strip. At the base, these terrorists killed “every soldier they encounter[ed].” Since they wore video cameras on their helmets during the entire operation, moreover, they were able to provide young Palestinians with a visual record of their triumph. For Max, this was a beautiful thing: after being “humiliated” repeatedly by the IDF, those youths had a chance to see their side win a glorious victory over “the occupier” and to recover their own “dignity” by becoming terrorists themselves.

The Nation: lies, lies, lies

We concluded our previous post on The Nation, the leftist weekly now celebrating its 150th anniversary, with a recent summing-up  by Daniel Greenfield. The Nation, he wrote, has “learned nothing from the past. Instead it repeats history as farce, stumbling from one tyranny to another in the hopes of finding progress somewhere among the corpses.” Having “aided the Soviet plan for world domination,” Greenfield noted, The Nation is now “doing the very same thing for the Islamists.”

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Yep. And just as it manages to align itself, in all its preening, putatively progressive self-satisfaction, with the least progressive forces on earth, it consistently savages the one democracy in the Middle East – and then, when necessary, lies through its teeth about it. In a recent interview with the Jewish Daily Forward on the occasion of The Nation‘s big anniversary, Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel insisted that her magazine had a “great” pro-Israel record, and cited what she described as a 1940s Nation article by Ron Radosh “lobbying Truman, the UN, for the creation of the state of Israel.” But Radosh himself, after reading the interview, called vanden Heuvel’s attempt to claim his article as a part of The Nation‘s heritage an outrageous misrepresentation. “My wife and I,” he explained in a Facebook post, “wrote an article for World Affairs Journal about Freda Kirchwey and Israel, and NOT for The Nation. In fact, vanden Heuvel wrote a letter to the editor accusing us of being Likudniks. Now she tries to make it appear our pro-Israel article appeared in her magazine.”

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Harry Dexter White

But, of course, without lying – outright lying – a magazine like The Nation, which is still peddling ideas that have been totally shot down by history, wouldn’t be able to survive. Just as the USSR pursued a systematic policy of radically revising its own past – including the total removal from the public record of any trace of certain individuals who’d played major roles in government – so The Nation just keeps on amending its own annals. So deep-rooted at Ms. vanden Heuvel’s magazine is this longstanding impulse to dodge and distort, to prettify and prevaricate, that, as Jonathan Tobin has noted, it ran a review in 2013 that – with breathtaking audacity – sought to whitewash the late U.S. Treasury official Harry Dexter White by quite simply ignoring Soviet records proving that he’d been a KGB spy. Throughout the Cold War, observed Tobin, the folks at The Nation had pretended that “Soviet infiltration of Washington in the 1930s and 1940s was a figment of the imagination of demagogic right-wing anti-Communists”; but after the Cold War, when the facts were put before them, they continued to cling to their falsehoods.

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Michael Moore

As noted, The Nation‘s anniversary issue also contains some new material. There are testimonials to the magazine’s extraordinary value by Gloria Steinem and Alec Baldwin, among others. Michael Moore offers a long piece – which is apparently intended to be funny – about why he should be elected president. In another article, Kai Bird argues for total U.S. “disengagement” from the Middle East – in other words, leave Israel at the mercy of its neighbors. Bird presents this as a respectable retreat from imperialism –because, in the eyes of The Nation, absolutely everything is ultimately about U.S. imperialism. Also included is yet another attack on “Islamophobia” – which, of course, The Nation has been savaging for years. The anniversary issue’s overall message is summed up in a cartoon by the reliably execrable Tom Tomorrow; entitled “All the Right Enemies,” it expertly toes the party line, claiming that The Nation has always been on the right side of history.

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Art Spiegelman

(It should be mentioned that, in the entire issue, there’s one admirable exception to the rule of irresponsible inanity: cartoonist Art Spiegelman, author of Maus, pays tribute to his late colleagues at Charlie Hebdo, writing “I have NO interest in baiting psychopaths, but I must show respect to the foolhardy and brave Charlie Hebdo artists.”)

Fittingly, the issue concludes with a few brief contributions from young people who are presented as embodying the future of the magazine and its ideology. Here’s a sample, from a 22-year-old Harvard student: “I am 22 years old, and I have been a climate activist for ten years. My call is for a radical future now.” Plus ça change…

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Mikhail Gorbachev

Quite appropriately, one of the big names who have provided a blurb for The Nation‘s anniversary issue is Mikhail Gorbachev. “It is very important a magazine that stands for left-wing, progressive ideas has an audience in America,” writes Gorby. That The Nation, on the occasion of its 150th anniversary, can proudly flaunt the approval of the last unelected Communist ruler of the Soviet Union says pretty much all you need to know about what this rag is all about.