The major news media serve as our country’s collective memory. Too often, they function in that role as if they had suffered a few too many blows to the head.
Case in point: the hagiographic treatment, the almost-unbroken chain of praise, that Muhammad Ali has received since his death over the weekend. Ali was certainly one of the most interesting Americans of the past half-century — a great athlete who, with wit and wile, marketed himself as “The Greatest” and was accepted by millions as just that. He was not a saint or nearly a saint.
He is supposed to be a hero for standing up for his religious principles. Yet the religious group that he embraced — the faction of the Nation of Islam associated with Louis Farrakhan — was one grounded in racism and in hatred for Jews, “white devils,” and America. How bad was the NOI? It negotiated with the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to achieve the two sides’ mutual goal of racial separatism….
Back then, when he was under the influence of the NOI, Ali was so ignorant that he renounced his birth name, Cassius Clay Jr., as a “slave name,” when in fact the Cassius Clay for whom Ali’s father was named, the historical figure, was an abolitionist hero.