Facebook boots Farrakhan, but whom does he harm? Himself, mostly

SHARE Facebook boots Farrakhan, but whom does he harm? Himself, mostly

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s participation in a a rally Thursday on the South Side is drawing criticism from Holocaust survivor Fritzie Fritzshall | Getty

Honestly? I was sorry that Facebook banned Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan from its global social media platform for his steady patter of anti-Semitic nonsense, which is old as the hills, common as dirt, and lodged, in larger or smaller shards, in the hearts of half the people in the world. Maybe more.

Not that his twisted worldview isn’t harmful. It is. The harm is real. But like most bigotry, like most self-administered poison, it is destructive primarily to the possessor; the career of Farrakhan is ample proof.

He yearned to shine on a larger stage, to be taken seriously and touch the hearts of millions, and came close at times. But like any addict, either because he was feeling too good or too bad, he celebrated his successes and mourned his setbacks with another heady hit of hatred while good people, revolted, looked away.


Generally. Some folks like junkies. Find them thrilling, romantic, fun. While Farrakhan’s flock of die-hard faithful is small, he is largely tolerated, certainly not denounced, among a larger group of supposedly-decent observers because raging against whites in general and Jews in particular provides them with a low-rent naughty pleasure, a kind of catharsis. They never pause to realize they are doing the exact same thing — diminishing the humanity of a group they don’t know based on laughable fiction — that they find so offensive when directed toward themselves. It’s not a unique shame — all humans are prone to this, alas — but nothing to be proud of, either.

When I worked at the Wheaton Daily Journal, a third of a century ago, conservative Christians in that town engaged in a strategy I called “wallpapering the world.” They would seek out what they objected to and try to cover it up so they didn’t have to look at it, whether Playboys tucked behind the counter at the local 7-Eleven or the College of DuPage performing “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You.”

That didn’t work because it never works. We are each in charge of our lives, and must embrace or reject what we ourselves feel must be embraced or rejected. The problem isn’t that Farrakhan believes hateful delusions; the problem is that other people seek them out. Blocking Farrakhan won’t solve that; they’ll just find their fix somewhere else.

Besides, Farrakhan is low-hanging fruit. If Facebook wants to muzzle destructive hatred, it should block Donald Trump, who gives haters permission and the illusion of respectability. Banning Farrakhan just gives him another excuse to play the victim. It elevates him among the crowd that laps up his brand of BS. “Blocked by Facebook” is a badge of honor to them, the new “Banned in Boston.” Facebook can’t stamp out his brand of glittery-eyed fantasy any more than Wheaton College could stamp out birth control.

Of course Facebook is a private company and can stifle whom it pleases. People self-regulate on Facebook. I’ve heard Louis Farrakhan speak, and have much more sympathy toward him than he would ever extend toward me. He’s a tragedy of his own making. I’ve never encountered Alex Jones’ brand of conspiratorial cruelty, to my knowledge. But it would seem the legal system is shutting up Jones, as he is sued by Sandy Hook parents for libeling them mercilessly.

Besides. Facebook has become so important, its blocking a toothless old lizard like Louis Farrakhan can’t be celebrated by anyone in the opinion business — when I suggested that Carol Moseley Braun wasn’t going to be elected mayor in 2011, I too was tarred as a hater. It’s an easy charge to make, and if applying the standards of political reality and mathematical reason to a candidate of color makes you a bigot, well, I’m guilty. So I could be next. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg will veer rightward as he ages — it happens, particularly among the super-wealthy — and start throwing off moderates for the sin of believing in the basic decency and rationality of people, which sometimes seems like another baseless delusion.

I prefer to let myself and everybody else speak their hearts and minds, clearly and openly, and be judged accordingly. Louis Farrakahn and his ilk don’t like that either, don’t like being marginalized for the venom they spew. In their hall-of-mirrors world, receiving their due is just another crime against them.

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