Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sobran's Intellectual Decline and Fall

Guest post:

As a disillusioned paleocon, I've complained about the old-right infatuation with extremism in my discussion of the late Samuel Francis. A further example of the paleocon meltdown is the career of Joseph Sobran, former National Review editor turned embittered pamphleteer, holocaust revisionist, and part-time campaigner for the Democratic Party—he has favored liberal candidates against Republicans, and has a decided preference for Democratic foreign policy. Not surprisingly, Sobran has alienated many readers over the years. Recently his erratic political musings were documented by a major Catholic intellectual (James Hitchcock, “Abortion and the ‘Catholic Right’,” Human Life Review, Spring 2007). This is particularly important because Sobran has marketed himself as a latter-day ultramontanist, publishing in Catholic journals like The Wanderer.

Sobran justifies his rhetorical excesses by pointing to the opposite extreme. But surely one can oppose racial quotas and reverse racism without endorsing the nearest Klan leader. Sobran, however, doesn't have that sense of finesse. As early as 1986 he was offering cautionary praise (but praise nonetheless) for Instauration, a journal published by Wilmot Robertson who wrote The Dispossessed Majority, the bible of high-brow American racialism. As an aside, Robertson is as anti-Christian as he is anti-Jewish. The point here is that it's hard to write off Sobran's extremist statements as occasional foibles. No one can commit that many faux pas without really trying!

When people started criticizing Sobran, one of the first persons who rushed to his aid was Mark Weber, long-time member (currently director) of the Institute for Historical Review. The IHR is well known as a "holocaust revisionist" front for neo-Nazism. Sobran has returned the favor many times by championing the "courageous" views of the IHR. Sobran's worst bit of journalistic muddling is seen in his piece "For Fear of the Jews," which adopts his usual ingénue style of coy provocation. In it he tells us that Mark Weber is really a nice guy, which is quite beside the point (he's trying to whitewash Adolf Hitler, who wasn't a nice guy). As it turns out, Sobran was penning things for the Journal for Historical Review throughout the 1990s, including an essay on "Jewish Power" (January/February, 1999). In 2001 and 2003, Sobran attended conferences hosted by David Irving, who shares Weber's habit of Hitlerian spin control.

Next time, an answer to apologists for Joe Sobran....