Joe Sobran’s Real Transgression

By American Remnant

Declan Leary admires the late Joe Sobran, who passed on ten years ago.

Mr. Leary used most of a recent article he wrote for The American Conservative to praise Sobran’s many gifts and insights. Leary, for instance, called Joe Sobran “a rare talent, fueled by a remarkable mind.” He described Sobran’s writing as “unmatched” for its “clarity of thought.” Joe, noted Leary, citing comments by Sobran’s National Review colleague Matthew Scully, had a facility with language that made his writing appear easy, except that no one else could duplicate it.

Leary’s aim was to praise Joe Sobran’s contributions to conservative thought. Leary summed up Sobran’s “remarkable body of work” by concluding that his conservative thesis was “deceptively simple,” one that was based in “humility and gratitude.” Leary wrote that Sobran’s view of a conservative was someone “who sees that the world is good, rejoices in that goodness, and recognizes that he would not do very well to remake it from scratch. Just as this worldview, planted as it is firmly on the ground, discourages utopian endeavors, so too it mandates the preservation of what good we have built through conservative action.”

It is instructive, however, that Leary felt compelled to begin his fine essay on Sobran’s contributions to conservatism by dealing with how Joe Sobran has been “judged” for his ”alleged anti-Semitism.” Sobran, he wrote, “now tends to be mentioned only in sanctimonious whispers, as a hard-right crank and certified loon.” Leary wrote that Sobran’s “infamous” 2002 appearance before the Institute for Historical Review, which “peddles in Holocaust denial,” was something that “cannot be excused,” and he lamented what he called Sobran’s “reprehensible actions in later life.”

Nevertheless, Leary concluded that Sobran’s work had great value and that the “pall” that had fallen over his legacy “should not have fallen so heavily.”

No, it shouldn’t have.

Leary’s point is that Sobran’s ill-advised appearance at the IHR, something that he should not have done, was not the most important thing about him. What he misses is why that pall did, in fact, fall so heavily over Joe Sobran, and what that revealed about public life in our society. What’s missing goes a long way toward explaining why positive statements about anyone our establishment has cast into the outer darkness are commonly prefaced with a ritual condemnation.

The fact is that the powers-that-be had portrayed Joe Sobran as a “crank” and a “loon” long before his IHR appearance. He had been ostracized and vilified for years, especially by nervous conservatives, in a way that Al Sharpton, for example, was not. That’s the Al Sharpton who played an inexcusable, infamous, and reprehensible role in the 1991 pogrom in Crown Heights, an event of actual violence against Jews.

Yet Al Sharpton was not ostracized or dismissed by national media as a crank or a loon. He has prospered. No pall has fallen over Al Sharpton. Why is that?

The answer to that question is simple enough. The right reverend is black, a leftist, and a rabble rouser. In short, he is “diverse,” while Joe Sobran was not. What’s more, he is a useful demagogue for the left and our globalist elite. Thus, Al gets a pass, even for his part in mob violence directed against Jews, while Joe, who had never advocated violence against Jews or anyone else, did not.

But why did that pall fall over Joe Sobran in the first place?

The answer to that question is also a simple one, if, that is, one understands the dynamics of political power in our society.  

Joe Sobran behaved as if he were a free man still living in free country. And in doing so, he violated one of the most sacrosanct taboos in American public life. Joe raised the issue of the enormous power and influence of the Israeli lobby and its “Amen corner” in our country. Sharpton may have helped instigate a pogrom, but our establishment saw Sobran as far more dangerous. Ironically, in destroying Joe Sobran’s career and reputation, the American political establishment only proved how right Joe had been.             

One comment

  • Joe Sobran was the most enjoyable political columnist of my lifetime. His problems with the neoconservatives predated the IHR conference and even the First Gulf War. It is also important to note that the allegations of anti-Semitism leveled against him were triggered almost entirely by his criticism of American foreign policy in the Middle East, which as he correctly pointed out, was heavily and unjustifiably slanted in Israel’s favor. Except for occasional mentions of the intense anti-Christian views of some Jews, to my recollection, he never dealt much with other aspects of the Jewish question. I can only imagine what would have happened if he had begun to delve into some of the other areas that intrepid writers like Kevin MacDonald and E Michael Jones have explored. Yet, that was enough to get him fired by the flagship journal of the conservative movement. In his response to Buckley’s reprimand, in Chestertonian fashion, he said wasn’t obsessed with Israel – the American government was, because of the influence of a powerful lobby that no one dared to name.

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