On Sunday, New York Times reporter Jada Smith celebrated "Justice or Else," an ominously named protest marking the 20th anniversary of the "Million Man March," led by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the preacher notorious for his anti-Semitic and paranoid ravings: "Echoing Calls for Justice Of Million Man March, But Widening Audience."
As hinted by the name, this year's version of MMM latched on to the harder-edged tone of the Black Lives Matter social media movement, seemingly focusing less on individual uplift and family values and loaded with more bitterness than the 1995 edition.
But you wouldn't learn anything about organizer Farrakhan from Smith's adulatory treatment in the Times. Just as the paper has traditionally pulled in its claws while covering the incendiary race-baiter Al Sharpton, the paper is apparently too terrified of activist criticism to even state the basic facts about Farrakhan's conspiracy-mongering. Farrakhan wasn't even mentioned until paragraph five, although he was the organizer of "Justice or Else" and the original Million Man March in 1995.
One also wouldn't find any hand-wringing about this year's "Justice or Else" march theme, although this is the same newspaper that frets whenever Republicans suggest they wish to "take this country back." Instead the Times took a celebratory, soft-focus approach.
Thousands gathered on the National Mall on Saturday to demand justice for the black men and women who have been killed at the hands of the police, echoing many of the cries that rang out in the same spot 20 years ago during the Million Man March.
The anniversary event took “Justice or Else” as its theme. The air of a family reunion -- young children ran about waving red, black and green Pan-African flags that their parents bought from vendors lining the Mall -- mixed with one of political protest, along with anger and frustration from some participants.
Taylor Hunt, a Howard University freshman, said that she had been stirred to action after the death of Sandra Bland, a black woman who was found hanged in a Texas jail cell in July after she was arrested on a traffic violation. Others recalled the deaths of Eric Garner in New York City, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., as the impetus to demand changes in the justice system.
That feeling was expressed in the day’s keynote speech, delivered by Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam and leader of both Saturday’s rally and the original one in 1995. When he came to the podium, people sitting on the grass jumped to their feet. Camera phones were raised and the crowd quieted.
He spoke about politicians who did not act in the best interest of the people, hypocrisy when it comes to human rights and other “hard truths” that he says are necessary to acknowledge in order to keep the movement alive.
“The demand for justice demands integrity,” Mr. Farrakhan said. “The demand for justice demands selflessness. The demand for justice is bigger than all our lives, so the demand for justice must give us the will to wish to sacrifice our lives, because the many are greater than the one.”
In his wide-ranging speech, which lasted two hours, Mr. Farrakhan also called on the African-American community to take more responsibility for black-on-black crime and killings, and for the federal government to take a closer look at the recent string of police killings of unarmed black men and women.
Smith checked all the politically correct boxes:
Extending invitations beyond black men helped illustrate the influence of new fighters against social injustice, many of whom are part of the Black Lives Matter movement. They have taken a different and more inclusive route toward justice, choosing to eschew centralized leadership and to amplify the voices of women, gays and transgendered people.
Farrakhan, by the way, is a Truther who in March of this year blamed the Jews for 9-11, while his opinions of gays and lesbians make current media enemy No. 1 Kim Davis look like a liberal. But Smith skipped Farrakhan's long history of hateful and conspiratorial statements.
At the rally, Farrakhan also likened Republican presidential candidates to "whores," and called for a boycott of Santa Claus while urging his followers to kick the "Caucasian from the North Pole" to the curb. Farrakhan made a lot of fascinating and no-doubt "problematic" statements during his epic speech Saturday, none of which made Smith's article, which was more focused on weaponing left-wing grievances than in thorough newsgathering.