Pictured: Alan Dershowitz. (Photo by Senate Television via Getty Images)
In his July 4th hate-filled anti-American rant, Louis Farrakhan singled out this author for condemnation and threats for writing an article urging people to take a Covid-19 vaccine if a safe an effective one were developed.
The article also stated that mandatory vaccinations to prevent the spread of a highly contagious lethal disease was held constitutional by the Supreme Court and would likely be upheld by the current Court. This comment led Farrakhan to say the following:
"So Mr. Dershowitz, if you bring the vaccine and say you're going to bring your army to force us to take it, once you try to force us, that's a declaration of war on all of us. You only have this one life; fight like hell to keep it and fight like hell to destroy those whose heart and mind is to destroy you and take your life from you."
Although the threat is not direct, that is the way Farrakhan incites violence against specific Jews and the Jewish people. In the same speech, he calls the head of the Anti-Defamation League Satan. And then says, "When you see Satan pick up a stone as we do in Mecca." This constitutes an even more direct threat of violence. He then tells his listeners that the Jewish Talmud urges Jews to poison non-Jews, and that he himself was poisoned.
In the most irresponsible proposal in a screed filled with irresponsibility, Farrakhan warns black people not to take any vaccine developed by Americans such as Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci: "Do not take their medications."
"They're plotting to give 7,500,000,000 people a vaccination. Dr. Fauci, Bill Gates, you want to de-populate the earth. What the hell gives you that right? ... You're sure to die now. They want a quicker death."
Farrakhan also admitted that he asked God to make Florida the epicenter of Coronavirus and spewed other nonsense about Covid-19.
For anyone who has followed Farrakhan's hate-filled career — praising Hitler, calling Jews termites, calling Judaism a gutter religion, attacking gays — the content of any Farrakhan speech comes as no surprise. What is surprising is that otherwise responsible media promote and carry Farrakhan's incitements to hatred and violence. This speech was promoted in advance and carried live by the Revolt TV YouTube channel. It was reportedly watched more than 800,000 times.
Farrakhan — like Nazis and Communists — has a First Amendment right to tell his lies and spread his hate. But no media has an obligation to promote or disseminate his bigotry. Fox Soul TV was within its rights, and was right, when it cancelled Farrakhan's appearance. Revolt TV should have done the same. Let him spew his hatred on street corners or in his place of worship. The First Amendment rightly demands that, but it does not demand widespread media promotion and coverage. Nor does it demand silence from responsible Black and Muslim leaders, whose voices should be heard condemning Farrakhan's devaluation of Jewish lives, gay lives, and the lives of people suffering from Covid-19.
All people of good will should condemn and marginalize one of the world's most dangerous bigots. No responsible media should promote his hate speech. And when his poisonous rhetoric turns to incitement of violence against specific individuals, then investigation for direct incitement of violence — which the Supreme Court has ruled is not protected by the First Amendment — may be warranted. Under the principles espoused in Brandenburg v Ohio and other leading cases, "advocacy" of violence is constitutionally protected but not "incitement " to "Imminent lawless action." The line between advocacy and incitement has not always been easy to draw. Moreover, media that have policies against promoting violence should determine whether Farrakhan's statements violate those policies. Farrakhan should be judged by the marketplace of ideas, and his "ideas" should be rejected as tainted and poisonous products.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the book, Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeToo, Skyhorse Publishing, November 2019. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute.