Michael Joseph Sobran, Jr.
February 23, 1946
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
September 30, 2010
|Cause of death||Kidney failure from diabetes|
Burke, Fairfax County
|Alma mater||Eastern Michigan University|
|Political party||Constitution Party|
Michael Joseph "Joe" Sobran, Jr. (February 23, 1946 – September 30, 2010) was an American journalist and writer, formerly with National Review magazine and a syndicated columnist. Pundit and three-time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan called Sobran "perhaps the finest columnist of our generation".
- Life and career 1
- Departure from National Review 2
- Political philosophy 3
- Shakespeare authorship theory 4
- Books and other publications 5
- Personal life 6
- References 7
- External links 8
Life and career
Sobran was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He graduated from Eastern Michigan University in his native Ypsilanti and received a Bachelor of Arts in English. He studied for a graduate degree in English, with a concentration on Shakespearean studies, following his graduation. In the late 1960s, Sobran lectured on Shakespeare and English on a fellowship with the university.
In 1972, Sobran began working at National Review. During the 1970s, he frequently used the byline M. J. Sobran. He stayed 21 years, 18 as senior editor, before being removed from the publication amidst controversial charges of anti-semitism. Aside from his work at National Review, Sobran spent 21 years as a commentator on the CBS Radio Spectrum program series and was a syndicated columnist, first with the Los Angeles Times, and later with the Universal Press Syndicate. In 2007, he discontinued circulation of his newsletter by mail.
From 1988 to 2007, Sobran wrote a column for the Roman Catholic newsweekly The Wanderer entitled Washington Watch. He had a monthly column that appears in Catholic Family News. He wrote the "Bare Bodkin" column for the paleoconservative Chronicles magazine. Additionally, his essays have appeared in The Human Life Review, Celebrate Life!, and The Free Market. Sobran was a media fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Departure from National Review
In 1993, Sobran was fired from National Review for a series of columns that the publisher William F. Buckley, Jr., considered "contextually anti-Semitic"; Norman Podhoretz wrote that "Joe Sobran's columns ... [are] anti-Semitic in themselves, and not merely 'contextually.'" Buckley disagreed with Podhoretz's accusation but instead "deemed Joe Sobran's six columns contextually anti-Semitic. By this I mean that if he had been talking, let us say, about the lobbying interests of the Arabs or of the Chinese, he would not have raised eyebrows as an anti-Arab or an anti-Chinese." One such comment was that The New York Times "really ought to change its name to Holocaust Update." Sobran claimed that Buckley told him to "stop antagonizing the Zionist crowd," and Buckley accused him of libel and moral incapacitation. Sobran also complained of "a more or less official national obsession with a tiny, faraway socialist ethnocracy," meaning Israel.
Sobran was named the Constitution Party's vice presidential nominee in 2000, but withdrew in April 2000 because of scheduling conflicts with his journalistic commitments.
In 2001 and 2003, Sobran spoke at conferences organized by David Irving and shared the podium with Paul Fromm, Charles D. Provan, and Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review. In 2002, he spoke at the Institute for Historical Review's annual conference. In his speech, which he also reprinted in his newsletter, Sobran addressed the subject of Holocaust denial:
I am not, heaven forbid, a “Holocaust denier.” I lack the scholarly competence to be one. ... Why on earth is it 'anti-Jewish' to conclude from the evidence that the standard numbers of Jews murdered are inaccurate, or that the Hitler regime, bad as it was in many ways, was not, in fact, intent on racial extermination? Surely these are controversial conclusions; but if so, let the controversy rage.
Referring to his appearance at IHR conferences, historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote, "Mr. Sobran may not have been an unequivocal [Holocaust] denier, but he gave support and comfort to the worst of them." Writing in National Review, Matthew Scully said, "His appearance before that sorry outfit a few years ago ... remains impossible to explain, at least if you’re trying to absolve him."
Sobran also wrote:
What, exactly, is “anti-Semitism?" One standard dictionary definition is “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group.” How this applies to me has never been explained.
- Its real message is not that we should like or respect Jews; only that we should try not to hate them. But this implies that anti-Semitism is the natural reaction to them: If it’s a universal sin, after all, it must be a universal temptation. … When he defends Jews, I sometimes feel like saying: ‘Bill! Bill! It's all right! They’re not that bad!’
After his removal from National Review, Sobran barely survived off columns that he penned for paleoconservative journals such as Chronicles. In 2001, Pat Buchanan offered Sobran a column in Buchanan's new magazine, The American Conservative. Editor Scott McConnell withdrew the offer when Sobran refused to cancel his appearance before the Institute for Historical Review.
Through much of his career, Sobran identified as a paleoconservative and supported strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. In 2002, Sobran announced his philosophical and political shift to libertarianism (paleolibertarian anarcho-capitalism) and cited inspiration by theorists Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe. He referred to himself as a "theo-anarchist." In the 2008 presidential election, Sobran endorsed Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin.
Sobran said Catholic teachings are consistent with his opposition to abortion and the Iraq War. He also argued that the 9/11 attacks were a result of the U.S. government's policies regarding the Middle East. He claimed those policies are formed by the "Jewish-Zionist powers that be in the United States."
Sobran considered communism to be, at least in part, a Jewish phenomenon, writing:
Christians knew that Communism – often called “Jewish Bolshevism” – would bring awful persecution with the ultimate goal of the annihilation of Christianity. While the atheistic Soviet regime made war on Christians, murdering tens of thousands of Orthodox priests, it also showed its true colors by making anti-Semitism a capital crime. Countless Jews around the world remained pro-Communist even after Stalin had purged most Jews from positions of power in the Soviet Union.
In his book entitled Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time (1997), Sobran espoused the Oxfordian theory that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true author of the plays generally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon.
Books and other publications
Sobran was the author of many books. At the time of his death, he was working on two books: one concerning Abraham Lincoln's presidency and the United States Constitution and another about de Vere's poetry.
He is also the author of:
- Single Issues: Essays on the Crucial Social Questions – Human Life Press – 1983
- Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time – Free Press 1997
- Hustler: The Clinton Legacy – Griffin Communications 2000
Sobran has produced a number of published articles and speeches, including:
- Anything Called a Program is Unconstitutional – Griffin Communications – 2001
- The Church Today: Less Catholic Than the Pope? – National Committee of Catholic Laymen – 1979
- How Tyranny Came to America, Sobran's, n.d.
- Pensees: Notes for the reactionary of tomorrow National Review, December 31, 1985. (extended essay)
- Power and Betrayal – Griffin Communications – 1998
At the 1994 Costs of Wars conference at the Mises Institute, Sobran presented a speech on "Shakespeare on War and Empire" and the first American Renaissance conference, he gave a talk on "Race, The State, and the Constitution".
Sobran was twice married and divorced. He had four children, and was survived by ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He died in a nursing home in Fairfax, Virginia, on September 30, 2010, as the result of kidney failure spurred by diabetes.
- W. James Antle, III (October 4, 2010). "Remembering Joe Sobran". Enter Stage Right. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
- See, e.g., May 1990 issue of The Free Market and Mises.org blog comment.
- McDonald, Michael (June 2011). "Wills Watching".
- William F. Buckley, Jr., "In search of anti-Semitism: what Christians provoke what Jews? Why? By doing what? – And vice versa", National Review, 30 December 1991.
- Jim Naureckas, "The Philadelphia Inquirer's New Spectrum: From Centrism to Anti-Semitism," FAIR, November/December 1995.
- Ralph Z. Hallow, "War of words raging at National Review," The Washington Times, October 7, 1993.
- "In Pursuit of Anti-Semitism," National Review, 16 March 1992.
- Deborah Lipstadt, "'Skeptical' on the Holocaust?," The New York Times, October 5, 2010.
- Matthew Scully, "Bard of the Right", National Review Online, October 16, 2010.
- Fear of Jews
- Not Your Average Joe
- How I Was Fired By Bill Buckley
- Timothy Stanley, The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan (New York City: St. Martin's Press, 2012), p. 359; ISBN 978-0-312-58174-9
- Joseph Sobran, "The Reluctant Anarchist," Sobran's, December 2002.
- Scott Horton interview with Sobran
- Joseph Sobran, "West Meets East, Again," Sobran's, April 2002.
- "William Grimes, "Joseph Sobran, Writer Whom Buckley Mentored, Dies at 64," October 1, 2010". nytimes.com. October 1, 2010. Retrieved October 2, 2010.