Those who create the magic that is Hollywood are currently confronting a multitude of challenges, from new technologies to mega-mergers to working with partners from cultures far different than our own. Another challenge facing studios, content creators and social media companies is how to navigate the sometimes thin line between freedom of speech and dangerous hate that should not be tolerated. For that reason, some were concerned this week by Netflix’s eleventh-hour decision not to stream a 2013 film about Louis Farrakhan that was produced by his son. That wasn’t the case, however, for us at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
We are convinced that Netflix did the right thing, and we thank them for doing it. Here’s why.
In 1997, Simon Wiesenthal, the late heroic Nazi hunter, agreed to bestow his name on our new institution with one caveat: You must fight the new haters with the same vigor that I pursue the old ones. For 40 years, we have strived to live up to our end of the deal, as haters have come in and out of the picture. There were aging Nazi criminals and, since the 1978 Skokie March, young (neo) Nazis. There was state-sponsored anti-Semitism from the now-defunct Soviet Union, and genocidal anti-Semitism from today’s Ayatollahs in Iran. And, in the 1980s, bigots spread their message by putting flyers under windshield wipers, while bigots today do so via social media.
Over the years, one man, the “honorable” Rev. Farrakhan, has never deviated from his hate. In 1985, his full-blown demagogic attack at the Forum, before a roaring crowd of 14,000, led Hollywood icon and founding Simon Wiesenthal Center Board member, Frank Sinatra, to express his concerns to us about Farrakhan’s bigotry and urge us to “keep fighting!”
Throughout the decades, the Center protested Farrakhan’s attacks against Jews, Judaism, gays and immigrants. We also placed him on our Top 10 Anti-Semites List and released a study that debunked his Big-Lie that Jews played a central role in slave trade in the 19th century. But Rev. Farrakhan’s charisma and message of Black empowerment has caused some to overlook his decades-long anti-Semitic and homophobic demagoguery.
Here, in his own words from 1984 to 2018, is the real Louis Farrakhan.
In 1984, Farrakhan labeled Judaism a “gutter religion,” later insisting that he meant to say “dirty religion.” That same year, Farrakhan repeatedly called Hitler “a great man”: “[T]he Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that’s a good name. Hitler was a very great man. He wasn’t a great man for me as a black person, but he was a great German. Now, I’m not proud of Hitler’s evils against Jewish people, but that’s a matter of record. He raised Germany up from nothing. Well, in a sense you could say there’s a similarity in that we are raising our people up from nothing.” (Source: Southern Poverty Law Center)
In 1985, before a crowd of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden, Farrakhan threatened Jews, stating that if any harm befell him, “All of you will be killed outright!,” and adding, “You cannot say ‘Never again’ to God because when he puts you in the oven, never again don’t mean a damn thing.’’
That same year, while speaking at the Los Angeles Forum before 14,000 people, Farrakhan denounced Israel as a “wicked hypocrisy” and then taunted, “Don’t push your six million down our throats when we lost 100 million (to slavery).” In his divisive speech, he also mocked and derided Los Angeles’ first African American mayor, Tom Bradley, a moderate political leader and a symbol of tolerance and inclusion.
In 1996, in a Saviours’ Day speech in Chicago, Farrakhan addressed Jews: “You are wicked deceivers of the American people. You have sucked their blood. You are not real Jews, those of you that are not real Jews. You are the synagogue of Satan, and you have wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government, and you are deceiving and sending this nation to hell.”
A decade later, at the same gathering, he said: “These false Jews promote the filth of Hollywood that is seeding the American people and the people of the world and bringing you down in moral strength. … It’s the wicked Jews, the false Jews, that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality. It’s the wicked Jews, false Jews, that make it a crime for you to preach the word of God, then they call you homophobic!”
And six years later, once again in Chicago on Saviours’ Day, he asserted: “In 100 years, they control movies, television, recording, publishing, commerce, radio, they own it all. Magazines. Why do you want all, everything?”
That same year, as part of his Holy Day of Atonement Keynote Address in Chicago, he spewed, “Now, you know I’m going to be lambasted and called anti-Semitic… They’ll say Farrakhan was up to his old canards; he said Jews control Hollywood. Well, they said it themselves! Jews control the media. They said it themselves! Jews and some gentiles control the banking industry, international banks. They do! In Washington, right next to the Holocaust Museum, is the Federal Reserve, where they print the money. Is that an accident?”
A year later, he was at it again, stating, as part of his lecture series The Time and What Must Be Done, Part 20: Making Satan Known, “The Jewish media has normalized sexual degeneracy, profanity and all kinds of sin.”
This year, Twitter temporarily removed Farrakhan from its platform after a speech in which he claimed, the Jerusalem Post reported, that Hollywood’s Jews have forced aspiring actors into anal sex to get parts, and that former president Barack Obama was under “under Jewish influence” when he advocated for same-sex marriage, something which he deemed “Satanic.” The 85-year-old asked a cheering audience, “I wonder, will you recognize Satan? I wonder if you will see the satanic Jew and the synagogue of Satan… because Satan has deceived the whole world.”
Also this year, he launched a new anti-Semitic attack in Chicago: “Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out, turning men into women and women into men… White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled a cover off of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.”
Anti-Semitism and bigotry are more widespread today than they have been at any time since the Holocaust some 75 years ago. This is in large part thanks to demagogues like Louis Farrakhan. Netflix should be applauded for not availing its immense platform to America’s foremost merchant of hate.
Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a two-time Academy Award winner and the only Rabbi who is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.