Listening to Louis
Church-going New Englanders [in the early settlements] normally heard two sermons every Sunday — one in the morning and another in the afternoon, each two hours long (or longer) … There was no heat in these buildings … They were bitter cold in winter … It was a point of honor for the minister never to shorten a service merely because his audience was frozen …
That's how things went in old New England, according to David Hackett Fischer in Albion's Seed. I can relate, having just watched Louis Farrakhan's address to the Nation of Islam Savior's Day conference on February 27. Farrakhan was speaking to an audience of 18,000 followers in Rosemont, Illinois. The full video of the speech is here. WARNING: It runs 4h 11m 21s. I can't find a full transcript, though there are edited highlights here.
I'd caught some news clips of the event and wanted to see for myself how incendiary Farrakhan's speech was. I also have a soft spot for black church oratory. I don't have a religious bone in my body, but taken simply as an art form, this stuff can be quite striking. Al Sharpton, for example, who is an ignorant buffoon in all matters that actually engage my powers of reasoning, is a terrific preacher, with cadences and rhythms really quite musical. I could listen to him for … well, not hours, but quite a lot of minutes.
Farrakhan isn't that good, and four hours is much too long for anyone to speak, though I had the advantage over those New Englanders of sitting in a warm room with a pot of tea and some peanuts. (I have found from experience that the general rule for an address is 40-45 minutes max. Any more than that, you lose them.) He was in good voice on the 27th, though. Indeed, he looked remarkably well for a man of nearly 78. The NOI is quite strict about diet, smoking, and drinking; I suppose that helps.
The really striking thing about the address was the almost total absence of anything Islamic in it. Most of the themes and references were in fact Christian. The first few quotes I logged to any scriptures at all were to Isaiah, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Isaiah, Matthew, Habakkuk, Isaiah, Malachi, Matthew, Joel, Joel, Isaiah, and only then, at 42 minutes in, a passing reference to the Koran. The whole middle part of the speech, from 1h 44m to 2h 8m was an exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount. Much of the next hour was organized around a visit Farrakhan had paid to the Church of Scientology, which he seems to have found congenial. Not until 3h 12m did we get any Arabic, and then only some brief snatches. (NOI mosques use an English translation of the Koran.)
We got a lot of NOI theology, which Farrakhan seems quite sincere about. It's wacky stuff, though I suppose no wackier than Young Earth Creationism or Scientology. Yakub the mad scientist shows up — the guy who created white people by eugenics. At the other end of history there was a lot of apocalyptics, with warnings of the great fire coming.
The anti-white and antisemitic material was in plain sight, though Farrakhan mostly remembered to trim his rhetoric to allow for the possibility that there are some good white people and even some good Jews. There were actually a few white people in the audience, picked out by the cameras in reaction shots (though I didn't spot Tim Wise).
Other themes come through when you listen to Farrakhan at length like this. Self-pity is strong: "Our 450-year suffering … The resurrection of our people … To treat a people like this [i.e. sending blacks to prison for breaking the law] is shameful …" So are fantasies of violence against the white oppressor: After a spirited rendering of Isaiah 63.3 ("I will tread them in mine anger and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments …") Farrakhan smacked his lips and added with a sneer, to loud approval: "Yeah, that's the one I represent."
Some part of the antisemitism shtick is Holocaust envy — resentment that any other people should claim to have endured suffering comparable to the black man's. In Ireland the whinier section of the republican movement is scoffed at as "the MOPE faction," where MOPE stands for "Most Oppressed People Ever." Nobody in the Rosemont stadium — certainly not Farrakhan — nursed any doubt that black Americans are MOPE.
Another component of Farrakhan's antisemitism is an inheritance of the old-fashioned Christian complaint that "they killed Our Lord." Farrakhan himself has a bit of a Christ complex, and drops heavy hints that he expects the Jews to murder him: "Don't you think that I know that there's a price that I gotta pay? That's why you all stay the hell away from me …" NOI is in fact just Christianity with a thin coat of Islamic paint. Savior's Day celebrates the movement's founder, Fard Muhammad, who was born on February 26, and whom Farrakhan quite clearly referred to as the Savior.
And then there's the separatism business. Farrakhan plays this differently for different audiences. At Rosemont he was in full separatist mode: "Section off a part of this country; help us to become an independent people."
Steve Sailer identified the problem here in his book America's Half-Blood Prince:
The basic social problem that both Farrakhan and Obama want to alleviate is that, on average, blacks have less money than whites. Farrakhan's plan to create a separate black-only capitalist economy in which blacks could not be cheated by whites out of the hard-earned wealth they would create is doubtful on various grounds. And even if it were plausible, it would require generations of hard work in dreary fields such as toothpaste-manufacturing.
In contrast, Obama's plan to get more money for blacks from whites by further enlarging the already enormous welfare / social work / leftist charity / government / industrial complex is both more feasible in the short run, and, personally, more fun for someone of Obama's tastes than making toothpaste.
In fact even Farrakhan's calls for separatism include a demand that white people give stuff to blacks: "You have to provide us with a good send-off. And if you don't provide us with what is required to let us go, then God will fight you now and is fighting for our deliverance." NOI is, when all is said and done, just another cargo cult.
(Farrakhan considers American blacks to be in bondage still. The logic, if I have grasped it correctly, goes like this: The 13th Amendment abolished slavery "except as a punishment for crime"; so the crafty white devils snuck slavery back by, in Farrakhan's words at 35m 12s, "making nearly everything we do or think of doing a crime.")
I can't say I really mind Farrakhan. He is of course obnoxious in a lot of ways: the white-hating and Jew-baiting, the kissing up to Gaddafy, Mugabe, Castro, & Co. This kind of thing is so widespread among American blacks, though, it seems unfair to single out Farrakhan. It is similarly pointless to object that NOI encourages antipathy between blacks and whites, when everything else in our culture, from Affirmative Action to the endless picking at historical wounds in schools and movies and "diversity" seminars, does the same thing.
Sure, NOI is a crazy cult; but the U.S.A. is full of crazy cults, and always has been. Most of them are harmless — as, so far as I know, NOI is nowadays. You could make a case, I think, that it is less dangerous than actual Islam. (Towards which, by the way, Farrakhan expresses some disdain: "Most of you Muslims that come to America, you don't come around us. You go out in Elk Grove and all with Caucasian people because you want to impress them …" [3h 10m] Perhaps it's those half-hour expositions of the Sermon on the Mount that put them off, Louis.)
And the stern puritanism of the cult — Farrakhan railed angrily at immodest female dress, loose morals, drug-taking, and pornography — surely does some good, adding structure and discipline to thousands of lives. That's not nothing.
I won't be listening to any more of Louis Farrakhan's speeches. For all his spirited delivery, this one got wearisome after an hour or so. Harmless crazy cults have their place in the great scheme of things, I am sure; but they are all much of a muchness when seen up close, and are not meant for the well-educated and intellectually curious.
The dull stupidity of it wears you down at last — the pseudoscience and preposterous historical claims, the leaky logic and ill-concealed crude emotions. I still can't find it in myself to mind "Minister Farrakhan," though, and I wish him many more years of doing what he does so well.