There’s a lot of irony in the Nation of Islam’s reaction to Facebook’s banning of the group’s fiery leader Louis Farrakhan.
On Thursday evening, Farrakhan is expected to respond to the ban during a rally at The Faith Community of Saint Sabina — the predominantly black Catholic Church in Auburn-Gresham led by the activist priest, the Rev. Michael Pfleger.
A loyal supporter of Farrakhan, Pfleger called the ban a “free speech issue.”
“I will fight for free speech in this country. If you are going to block everything that you are uncomfortable with, then there isn’t going to be much of Facebook left,” Pfleger said.
Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook, founded the social media platform 15 years ago, along with four college roommates.
Today, the service has more than 2.3 billion monthly active users.
Last week, Facebook and Instagram banned Farrakhan, along with controversial alt-right figures, Paul Nehlen, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, and Milo Yiannopoulos.
Although no specific violation was cited, the banished were lumped together as “dangerous” and in violation of Facebook’s policies banning “hate speech.”
“The decision of Facebook and Instagram to remove [Farrakhan’s] accounts has to be questioned as to the real reason behind it and who is behind it. Only the wicked are afraid when the light of truth appears,” the Nation of Islam said in response to the banning.
While the Nation of Islam called the ban “completely unjustified,” they really should have seen it coming.
After all, Farrakhan has been engaged in a war of words with Jewish leadership since I walked into the Chicago Sun-Times newsroom nearly 30 years ago.
In an interview I had with Farrakhan in 1993, the black nationalist leader was still fighting a decade-old accusation that he referred to Judaism as a “gutter religion.”
“It is my people that I want and I am going to them (Jews) to dialogue, to free my people so they can help me save a nation that is dying in the street. That is what I am all about,” Farrakhan told me.
“I will never bow down. Never. You won’t live long enough if you live a thousand years, to see me wearing out my knees begging no white man to accept me.”
He also railed against what he called “Jewish domination.”
“Who controls black arts? Who controls black sports figures? Who controls black intellectuals, black politicians…When I talk to the Jews, I am talking to a segment of that quorum that holds my people in their grip,” Farrakhan said.
But for all his vitriol, Farrakhan hasn’t been accused of inciting violence against white people.
In fact, at the height of his popularity, Farrakhan repudiated a speech by one of his closest advisers, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, for degrading comments he made about Jews and the Pope and calling for violence against all white South Africans.
Frankly, the last thing I expect to see is Farrakhan fretting over being kicked off Facebook.
In fact, given the longstanding tensions between Farrakhan and Jewish leadership, the last thing I expected to see was the Nation of Islam embracing a platform created by a man raised in a household of Reform Jews.
While Farrakhan vehemently denies being anti-Semitic, he’s done nothing to dispel that ugly characterization.
For instance, in a video posted on Farrakhan’s Facebook account last year, the Nation of Islam leader compared Jews to termites, the Jerusalem Post reported.
So why would Zuckerberg allow Farrakhan to have a voice on a platform he helped create?
That would be like the Nation of Islam’s iconic newspaper, “The Final Call,” giving David Duke a weekly column.
But more important, what happened to “do for self”?
A lot of black people tuned out Farrakhan when it came to his anti-Jewish rhetoric, but they ate up his messages of self-empowerment.
This ban shows why that message is still the one that matters.
“If we ever needed to have black-owned media outlets, we need them now. But we are seeing black media outlets declining. We need to be able to start creating some strong African American media outlets in radio and TV and social media,” Pfleger said.
As long as white people control and own major media outlets — TV, radio, social media — they get to say who can have a say.
Farrakhan ought to know that better than anyone.