Sucker Punch: The Hard Left Hook that Dazed Ali and Killed King's Dream
Jack Cashill's interview with Jamie Glazov of FrontPageMagazine.com:The Lie of Ali
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | May 10, 2006
FP: Jack Cashill, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.Cashill: Always a pleasure. I read frontpage regularly and have great respect for what you are doing, especially on campus.
FP: Thank you sir. So what made you write this book about Muhammad Ali?Cashill: The original inspiration came when, as a student at Purdue, I attended a large screen showing in
FP: Tell us about Ali and his betrayal of Malcolm X. Do you think this betrayal made Ali complicit in, or responsible for, Malcolm’s death in some way?Cashill: In the Nation of Islam (NOI) only Malcolm X thought Ali had a chance to defeat Sonny Liston. Only Malcolm attended the fight. Yet immediately after Ali’s victory, NOI leader Elijah Muhammad called Ali and offered him full membership in the Nation and even an Arabic name on the one condition that Ali have nothing further to do with Malcolm X. Ali accepted the offer and watched passively as the Nation hunted Malcolm X down. Shortly before Malcolm X’s assassination, his wife, Betty Shabazz, implored Ali to intercede, and he refused. He was understandably afraid, but that is not the stuff that heroes are made of.
FP: You show how Ali consistently insulted Joe Frazier in public – and how he did this in a grotesque racial manner. What do you think was the significance of this behavior on the part of Ali? And if Ali was proud of being black and supposedly represented black
FP: Describe for us Ali’s attitude toward women and how he put this attitude into practice.Cashill: Ali graduated from high school a virgin and fainted at his first kiss. His instincts towards women were basically good—his mother was a sweetheart, and he loved her deeply--but his Nation of Islam handlers convinced him of the inferior role of women and encouraged him to ignore the Nation’s own prohibitions on adultery. This he did in prodigious fashion, leaving four wives behind in the process.
FP: Ali was a racist and even called for the execution of interracial couples. How come this was never talked about in the media? Can you talk about it for us now?Cashill: As late as 1975, at the summit of his career, Ali was publicly arguing for the lynching of interracial couples and the creation of an African American homeland. By this time, though, the media so identified with Ali on his draft resistance they were willing to overlook his overt racism. The difference between the way they treated Ali and, say, John Rocker is rather something.
FP: Tell us about some of the relationships Ali nurtured with some of the most vicious and sadistic tyrants in the world.Cashill: One of the tragedies of Ali’s life is that he was illiterate. In the 1960s if you could not read there were not many other ways to absorb information. Ali’s handlers filled the void, and so Ali witlessly courted some of the most brutal dictators on the planet: Qadaffi, Idi Amin, Papa Doc Duvalier, Nkrumah, Mobutu, Marcos. Mobutu, by the way, was complicit in the death of the black nationalist hero, Patrice Lumumba.
FP: The Nation of Islam had executed many people that Ali knew about, and yet he said nothing and remained with the murderous organization. One tragic example involves the Hanafi family. Can you talk about that and some other dark examples?Cashill: When Nation of Islam activists executed five friends and family of the Hanafi sect—four of them children, two of them babies that they drowned—Ali did not quit the Nation or even publicly protest. True to form, the media did not dare suggest that he should do either. The Nation then brutally tortured and murdered the one killer who cooperated with the police. There were other murders as well. Even though the house in which the Hanafi killings took place was owned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this incident has all but vanished from history.
FP: Describe for us Ali’s Muslim odyssey. Was he actually a good Muslim?Cashill: During his active career, Ali was not an orthodox Muslim but a member of the Nation of Islam, a racist sect that did not even believe in an after-life. Ali traces his hour of enlightenment to “around 1983.” It was only then that he became a “true believer” and dramatically changed his behavior. He even showed up in 1984 at the Republican National Convention as a Reagan supporter. Needless to say, the media do not like to talk about this.
FP: What was Ali’s attitude toward Jews?Cashill: While in the Nation of Islam, Ali mouthed Elijah Muhammed’s disdain for all white people, Jews included. This hatred, however, was never heartfelt. After his own epiphany, Ali publicly scolded Farrakhan for his anti-Semitism.
FP: So overall, how is it that the most thoroughly documented personal story in human history, literally, could be so thoroughly mistold?Cashill: Thomas Hauser, Ali’s authorized biographer, gives away the game. He argues that “when the spotlight turned from Ali’s acceptance of an ideology that sanctioned hate to his refusal to accept induction into the US Army, Ali began to bond with the white liberal community, which at the time was quite strong.” Here the Ali myth was born. Had Ali not become an antiwar symbol, he never would have become a symbol of racial healing either. Ali’s manic racial ideology had unnerved the white liberal community. Even after his rejection of the draft, old school liberals continued to despise that ideology. The young antiwar left, however, really didn’t give a hoot about integration or racial harmony beyond the talk stage.
FP: This is all, of course, very much interconnected with the myth of the 60s and how it distorted our understanding of American history. Can you comment on that?Cashill: Ali at least had an excuse. He had no idea what was going on in
FP: So who has had to suffer to make the Ali myth work?Cashill: The most obvious victim was Joe Frazier whose entire existence was cheapened by Ali. The second most obvious is Joe Louis, who volunteered for the Army in the same month that Elijah Muhammad was arrested for conspiring with the Axis powers, January 1942, the month of Ali’s birth. No one did more to integrate the military than Joe Louis, who gave up four years at the peak of his career. In the Ali retelling, however, Joe Louis was a “chump.”
FP: Overall, Ali clearly betrayed Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Correct?Cashill: Yes, he did. In the mid-1960’s, when the nation was moving towards King’s ideal of a nation where character mattered more than color, Ali helped steer it in the other direction. Ali was one force out of many, but his influence was substantial.
FP: Can you talk a bit about how Ali - and by extension, the Democratic party - estranged the white working class?Cashill: In the book I tell a little of my own story. Growing up in
FP: So how did the racialization of sport destroy a tragic figure like Mike Tyson?Cashill: Ali all but created promoter Don King. King used Ali’s racial posturing as a prop to pry Tyson away from the “Jews in suits” who were handling his career, brilliantly and honestly. There are few better illustrations of how the culture has gone awry than the relative destinies of Mike Tyson and Floyd Patterson, who led stunningly parallel lives—at least until Cus D’Amato died and King swooped in.
FP: Jack Cashill, thank you for this fascinating interview and for setting the story straight.Cashill: Thank you Jamie.
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