E-Letter To Darryl Fears, Hamil R. Harris and The Washington Post Re: "The End of an Era? With Farrakhan Ill, The Nation Of Islam Prepares for Change"
I read your article, "The End of an Era?” with great interest, having seen it, while in the checkout line of a grocery store in Washington, D.C. on Saturday afternoon. I rarely if ever buy the early Sunday Edition of your paper, but I also rarely ever see the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in a large picture on the cover of The Washington Post.
Your paper has an interesting history regarding Minister Farrakhan, at times writing very inaccurate articles on him and the Nation Of Islam, and at other times, The Washington Post has been more balanced than others in its coverage. One instance that comes to mind is your newspaper's coverage of a press conference Minister Louis Farrakhan held on October 24, 1989 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. Your paper printed excerpts of the Minister’s statement made that day.
Then, on April 30, 1990 Minister Farrakhan granted your newspaper's editorial board and staff an interview. At that interview several executives of The Washington Post were present, including former executive editor, Ben Bradlee. That day, from what I understand, from one who was present, he (Ben Bradlee) was so impressed by a particular aspect of what Minister Farrakhan had to say, in response to a question, that he was overheard telling another person present - of Minister Farrakhan’s articulation of the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and a specific subject that is classified as ‘above top secret’ in the United States government - “he knows.”
That question was about that great wheel like plane which the Honorable Elijah Muhammad spoke of for over four decades.
The Washington Post did a commendable job of accurately presenting Minister's Farrakhan's words - given during that interview - but did not make the public aware of the reaction by an executive of their own paper to what the Minister stated on the Mother Wheel.
Mr. Ben Bradlee’s comment regarding Minister Farrakhan – that “he knows,” is only one of many examples or anecdotes regarding your newspaper and its coverage of current events and the Nation Of Islam over the past several decades, which reveal a double mind, which affects what your newspaper decides to report on and write about publicly, regarding not only the Nation Of Islam, but Black people in America and all over the world, and certain current events, of a geopolitical, religious, economic and scientific nature, in particular. This brings to mind a conversation I had with attorney Daniel Sheehan, in 2001, regarding the controversial Pentagon Papers and how national security and intelligence officials in the United States government periodically sat down with the editorial board, publisher, and executives of The New York Times informing them of what subjects they could not write on, or, how to limit how deeply they publicly explored said subjects. This practice continues today at newspapers all over the country, as many articles on 'national security' arguments made by the Bush administration to media outlets, concerning their coverage of the 'War On Terror,' make clear and substantiate.
In that light, I found not only the content of your most recent article, “The End of an Era?” interesting, but also its timing. It comes approximately six weeks after Minister Louis Farrakhan’s September 11, 2006 letter wherein he openly communicates about his health condition and upcoming schedule. And your writing appears a full week after The Day Of Atonement observance by the Nation Of Islam, commemorating the eleventh anniversary of the Million Man March. Surely, one would think that before now, The Washington Post would have given closer attention to the contents of Minister Farrakhan’s letter and what it implies – some of which you deal with, in "The End Of an Era?" through conjecture, assumptions, innuendo, and even, intellectually dishonesty.
I don’t wish to be overly critical, not only because it is not necessary but also because I have great respect for Mr. Hamil R. Harris, who is listed as a co-author of this piece, and I simply do not know the circumstances under which this article was written. I wonder if Mr. Harris’ perspective was edited out or omitted in most cases. I usually find his articles to be very informed. This one was not.
In any event, please consider some observations I have regarding your front-page story.
First, the Minister’s health condition is improperly summarized in the first paragraph of your article, and later in the article. You write, “Nearly 30 years after Louis Farrakhan seized control of the Nation of Islam, the organization is preparing for a change at the top. The controversial minister is battling what he has described as a ‘life-threatening’ illness -- painful swelling of the prostate that has left him more than 30 pounds underweight, dehydrated, anemic and unwilling to eat.”
Those are your words. Describing his own condition, Minister Farrakhan writes:
"Last year, 2005, five years after a major operation in November 2000, I had a colonoscopy to examine the colon to make sure that no other complications had arisen. At that time, the probe did not detect any significant change in the condition of my colon, but early in 2006, I began to have pain in the anal area, similar to the pain that I had in 1998-1999.
On my trip to Cuba to learn of disaster management preparedness, I spent most of my time there being examined and tested by some of the finest doctors in Cuba. They discovered an ulcer in the anal area, similar to the ulcer that I had in 1998-1999 that almost caused the loss of my life. The doctors in Cuba felt that my health at that time was near perfect, except for that ulcer; but from that time, March 2006, I have been steadily fighting serious pain and infection. In the last month, I had lost nearly 15 lbs. and over the last six weeks, I have lost over 20 lbs. So, I decided to go back to the hospital at Howard University to have my original doctors assess my condition.
I was thoroughly dehydrated, anemic, and low in protein, albumen and iron. Although I have some of the finest cooks who always prepare the finest meals for me, I was in a seriously nutritionally depleted state, because the pain that I was in took away my appetite. The Howard University doctors discovered serious infection and inflammation, which is presently being treated, and now I am forced to do what is necessary to restore myself nutritionally. Otherwise, my present condition could be life threatening.”
You ignore his reference to the ulcer and you totally misrepresent his usage of the phrase "life-threatening." Why do you leave out his words 'could be'? What is your motive?
Why not just use the words of the best source' on this matter, available? And why not mention the date of this letter or where you first became aware of it or where it was first published (http://finalcall.com)? You do not have access to his doctors, to the best of my knowledge and from judging by your writing, so why not rely on a detailed quote from the actual patient, Minister Louis Farrakhan? Later in your article you do quote more liberally from his letter but not in a way that explains his condition thoroughly or properly.
Your article continuously places quotes out of context. You begin your article by quoting Minister Ishmael Muhammad. You write: “’The minister has good days. He has bad days,’ said Ishmael Muhammad, who leads the organization's flagship Mosque Maryam in Chicago and sits on the executive board. ‘The doctors are meeting to talk about what steps they can take to help him . . . so that he does not have to suffer through the pain he's constantly in.’”
The accuracy of your quoting of his words is one matter, but the source and setting of them is another. I wish to focus on the latter, for now. One simply cannot fully understand or judge any communication without knowing the premise, context or motive surrounding it. Minister Ishmael Muhammad’s words, in your article, come from an address he gave last week, on behalf of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan entitled, “Why A Millions More Movement?” Why didn’t you mention this, as well as the date, the title, or other details of his informative message? It hardly would have affected your article’s word count – the cover story of Sunday’s early edition at that - if that was a concern.
Third, the quotes attributed to Professor Ron Walters are interesting. I respect Mr. Walters’ thinking and of course his right to express his opinion but certainly, if accurate, I could not disagree more with the characterization you attribute to him which gives the impression that Ron Walters believes the Million Man March ‘didn’t go anywhere.’
Certainly, dramatic increases in the adoption of Black children by Blacks, crime reduction, and the most dramatic increase in political participation by Black men in American history would belie that assessment in the minds of many. As for the quote, “He didn’t lend himself to implementation. He went off into the desert, and we couldn’t get the implementation and administration started,” which you attribute to Dr. Walters, it is true that Minister Farrakhan did acknowledge that he should have been in better communication with many of those who helped organize the Million Man March immediately after the event (he even placed his words, admitting this, prominently in a year end interview in the newspaper he publishes, The Final Call, several years ago), but is it really responsible and accurate to place responsibility for ‘implementation and administration’ on one man, when it was over 400 Local Organizing Committees across the country that were necessary to make the Million Man March a reality? Similarly, is it Minister Louis Farrakhan’s job to establish the 10 Ministries discussed at the Millions More Movement last year, when hundreds of thousands of people heard his message, description, and encouragement regarding them?
Finally, as for the reference to Minister Farrakhan having "...went off into the desert," a Sister of mine put it best when she, in response to these words attributed to Mr. Walters expressed, "The Minister did go on a World Friendship Tour which was in the desert, to 'promote friendship' and he and his delegation were welcomed with open arms all over the world because of the Million Man March."
I wonder how many critics of Minister Farrakhan's moves made immediately after the March are properly weighing their international ramifications and their impact, for the good of our people in America and the Western Hemisphere. I wonder how many of them have even considered the positive influence the Million Man March had all over the globe, especially in terms of cleaning up the image of Black people in the United States.
Again, I simply don’t know if you accurately quoted my Brother, Ron Walters, but that is just the tip of the iceberg of some of the thinking that exists regarding the words you attribute to him.
Next, in your article you also write, “But recently, Farrakhan returned to anti-Semitic statements. During a speech at the group's Savior's Day ceremony in February, he was quoted as saying that ‘false Jews promote the filth of Hollywood,’ including homosexuality. ‘You may not like me,’ he said, ‘but I don't give a damn. I'm throwing down the gauntlet today.’”
Anyone who watches the video of Minister Farrakhan’s Saviours’ Day 2006 address will realize just how much out of context you have positioned his words. But aside from that, are his words really a return to something of which you, yourselves, do not accuse him? You write, “…recently, Farrakhan returned to anti-Semitic statements,” but you don’t prove or even state that he made anti-Semitic statements in the past. In the previous paragraph you write quite accurately of Minister Farrakhan, “He said reports that he had called Judaism a "gutter religion" misquoted him...” Again, how can he ‘return’ to something you show no evidence of him ever doing? You have constructed what is known in argumentation as ‘the straw man’s argument.’ This is beneath the ethical standards of your profession.
And finally on this point, if there can be ‘hypocritical Christians’ and ‘extremist Muslims,’ why can’t there be ‘false Jews,’ – individuals who say they are of the Jewish faith and culture and yet do not practice its tenets or traditions?
Your article devotes a significant amount of its focus to the issue of succession within the Nation Of Islam. As has been the custom of the mainstream media, for several years, the names of several Believers are mentioned, their background weighed; their character sifted; and their status framed, in a speculative effort at predicting the future leadership of the Nation Of Islam. Every single one of these attempts – yours included – leaves out the perspective and actions of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the scriptures – Bible and Holy Qur’an - that both men work out of, as it relates to the subject of succession. I recently wrote about the perspective of these two men and the scriptures on this important area in two articles published at BlackElectorate.com (http://www.blackelectorate.com). One is called, “From ‘Personality To Principle; From Messenger To Community; From Community To Nation.’...Studying The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s September 11, 2006 Letter.” And the other writing is titled, “On The Importance Of Closing The Gap: Inner Views of The Heart, Mind & Soul Of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan Conducted & Compiled by Jabril Muhammad”.
If you were familiar with this new book, Closing The Gap: Inner Views of The Heart, Mind & Soul Of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, promoted by Minister Ishmael Muhammad at last week’s Day Of Atonement Address you would have known that over five years ago, with the special assistance of Minister Abdul Alim Muhammad – who is mentioned in your article - the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan formed something called, The Commission To Restructure and Reorganize The Nation of Islam. And you also would have known how and why The Commission was ‘born,’ and how it relates to the question of succession that you are so interested in.
If you pay attention to nothing else that I have written I hope that you will at least heed my exhortation to do what any sincere seeker of truth must do – and that is consistently conduct quality research. Get this book today. It will improve the accuracy of your reporting.
Of Closing The Gap I wrote recently:
"I can't see how anyone - Believer, Historian, Critic, Activist, Shriner, Intellectual, Theologian, Artist, Preacher, or Journalist - can intelligently speak, write on or think about Minister Farrakhan in 'up-to-date' fashion without having what is contained within this book. There is simply nothing available like it."
As journalists representing the most respected newspaper in the country - where political matters are concerned - you owe it to yourselves and your readers to be better informed.
Especially when writing on a subject as important and controversial as The Nation Of Islam.
I hope it is accurate investigation and truth-seeking that motivates your most recent reporting and not the kind of mischief-making that went on with the media and U.S. government regarding The Nation Of Islam, during the era of COINTELPRO.
The poor quality of your article makes it hard for one to tell.
I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.
Monday, October 23, 2006
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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of BlackElectorate.com or Black Electorate Communications.