Joe Sobran, RIP.

(Tim) As a subscriber to Joe Sobran's e-text syndicator, last night I was sent word Joe had departed this life. Then friends sent me links to notices of Joe's death at other places including National Review and First Things. Both lamented his passing while going on to regret how Joe's great learning had made him mad. Not angry-mad but anti-Semitic-mad.

He'd criticized Israel's foreign policy, then gone on to point out how toxic Jewish influence on the affairs of men had been visible in the twentieth century in Marxism and the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies--a Holocaust that in simple gallons of blood drowns the evil of the Third Reich. Too, Joe had the chutzpah to point out how Europeans were gagging men who publicly questioned aspects of our received history concerning the Christian/Jewish/homosexual/handicapped German holocaust.

"He's a Holocaust-denier!" they huffed and puffed. But of course, anyone who actually read Joe through the years knew he wasn't denying the Holocaust, but that he had a much larger point--namely, the hypocrisy of public intellectuals...

When he said things like "I'm not in a position to judge the historical record of the Holocaust," he was making it clear he wasn't denying the Holocaust, but exposing the hypocrisy of intellectuals who used courts and prison to silence any discussion. In other words: "I'm no expert on that particular holocaust, but when a man who's asking questions gets taken to court for doing so, something is upside down. Not being an historian, I can't judge the matter myself, but it's obvious the questions should be heard and answered in journals and books and debates--not censored by intellectuals who use the courts to do their dirty work."

Joe was trying to make the fight fair. But it wasn't because he had any Holocaust-denial inclinations. He simply hated group-think and cowardice and thought both occurred most frequently surrounding the Jewish race and nation of Israel in the late twentieth century. Seems boringly obvious to me.

As I said quite often, my affection for Joe had long ago grown into love. I deeply grieve his passing and, although a Calvinist of Calvinists, I think I may attend his Tridentine (Latin) funeral mass.

If readers would like to read some of the criticism and defense of Joe's work and life, check out this page.

Comments

The only book I have of Sobran's was Single Issues from back in the 1980s but it is still a very perceptive work.

People should go and look at the First Things comments (the actual First Things reaction is utterly predictable and why I haven't subscribed in years). Someone who I respect, like Francis Beckwith, gives a long Sobran quote as "proof" of his anti-Semitism. Part of it includes this:

"Jews have generally supported Communism, socialism, liberalism, and secularism; the agenda of major Jewish groups is the de-Christianization of America, using a debased interpretation of the “living Constitution” as their instrument. When the Jewish side of an issue is too unpopular to prevail democratically, the legal arm of Jewry seeks to make the issue a “constitutional” one, appealing to judicial sovereignty to decide it in defiance of the voters."

Now what honest and informed person can deny that? Even Richard Neuhaus ever so hesitantly hinted at such realities.

It is ironic that the New York Times obituary is much fairer to Sobran than his erstwhile friends have proven.

Tim,

It was so very saddening to read the comments - particularly the non-argument from Frank Beckwith who is supposed to be one of the better Christian philosophers. Even the lengthy list of quotes just posted by Mr. Payne over there do not prove what he thinks they prove. It's as if there is an automatic brain-freeze that occurs when any word even remotely critical of Israel and the Jewish people gets published. Thinking capacities seem to be frozen at about the third grade level.

By the way, I spent a delightful couple of hours this afternoon with our mutual friends. When I told them of the to-do on the FT blog and the subject - they said they stand with you on it.

Kamilla

Well said. It's funny how people seem to think Sobran went a little crazy with age. I think his writing improved as he grew older. It was more compact, even more memorable. He was one of the greats.

You put it well on First Things:

"When men work themselves into high dudgeon opposing evils the world is unanimous in opposing–things such as sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, stereotypes, generalizations, assaults on abortuaries, and racism..."

This is sort of our version of "anti anti-communism." I was occasionally puzzled at the time by Joe's flirtation with the deniers, but I wonder if Joe was in some sense indulging this contrarianism because he believed that the Hive was part of a greater problem than the one they were trying to stamp out.

Interesting that Mr. Bottum appears unhappy that people are willing to defend Mr. Sobran and finds the occasion of his death not to be a fitting occasion for his defense.

Tim,
It was most excellent meeting you at my brother Joe's wake. It was a real healing for me. I'll be forever grateful for meeting you and hearing your beautiful words. Thank you.

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