Joseph Sobran

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Joseph Sobran
Joseph Sobran.jpg
Michael Joseph Sobran Jr.

(1946-02-23)February 23, 1946
DiedSeptember 30, 2010(2010-09-30) (aged 64)
Alma materEastern Michigan University
Political partyConstitution Party

Michael Joseph Sobran Jr. (/ˈsbræn/; February 23, 1946 – September 30, 2010) was a paleoconservative American journalist. He wrote for the National Review magazine and was a syndicated columnist. During the 1970s, he frequently used the byline M. J. Sobran.

In his columns, Sobran was moralistic, opposed to big government, and an isolationist critic of U.S. foreign policy. When he fired Sobran from his longtime job at National Review in 1993, publisher William F. Buckley termed some of Sobran's writings "contextually anti-Semitic". In the early 2000s, Sobran was a speaker for a Holocaust denial group.[1][2]


Early life[edit]

Sobran was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, into a Roman Catholic family. He graduated in 1969 from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He studied for a Master of English degree with a concentration on Shakespearean studies. In the late 1960s, Sobran lectured on Shakespeare and English on a fellowship with Eastern Michigan.[1]


In 1972, while at Eastern Michigan, Sobran published rebuttals of criticisms from other faculty of an upcoming campus visit by William F. Buckley Jr., publisher of the National Review and a prominent conservative. After reading Sobran's comments, Buckley hired him as a columnist at the National Review. After three years, Buckley promoted Sobran to senior editor.[1] They had a long friendship.[3]

Aside from his work at National Review, Sobran spent 21 years as a commentator on the CBS Radio Spectrum program series. He was a syndicated columnist, first with the Los Angeles Times and later with the Universal Press Syndicate. From 1988 to 2007, he wrote the column "Washington Watch" for the traditionalist lay Catholic weekly The Wanderer. He also wrote a monthly column for the traditionalist Catholic Family News (a publication considered anti-Semitic by the Southern Poverty Law Center[4]) and the "Bare Bodkin" column for Chronicles magazine. He was a media fellow of the Mises Institute.[5][6][1]

Firing from National Review[edit]

In 1993, in a column in The Wanderer, Sobran attacked Buckley for his support of the 1991 Gulf War. Already unhappy with Sobran's columns on Israel and anti-Semitism, Buckley was reportedly angered that Sobran had used information from their private conversations and decided to fire him as senior editor. Buckley said he considered some of Sobran's columns to be "... 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".[7][8] In response to his firing, Sobran claimed that Buckley told him to "stop antagonizing the Zionist crowd" and accused him of libel and moral incapacitation.[9] In his own assessment, Columnist Norman Podhoretz wrote that Sobran's columns were "anti-Semitic in themselves, and not merely 'contextually'".[10]

In 1994, he founded "Sobran’s: The Real News of the Month", a newsletter that published until 2007.[1] Sobran was named the Constitution Party's vice presidential nominee in 2000, but withdrew later that year due to scheduling conflicts.[11]

Institute for Historical Review[edit]

In 2001, Pat Buchanan offered Sobran a column in Buchanan's new magazine The American Conservative. (After Sobran's death, Buchanan called him "perhaps the finest columnist of our generation".[12]) However, the magazine's editor, Scott McConnell, withdrew the offer when Sobran refused to cancel his appearance before the Institute for Historical Review, a leading Holocaust-denying group.[3]

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.[13] Referring to Sobran's appearance at the 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".[14] 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".[15]

In the 2008 presidential election, Sobran endorsed Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin.[16]

Death and legacy[edit]

Sobran was twice married and divorced. He had four children. Sobran died in a nursing home in Fairfax, Virginia, on September 30, 2010, of kidney failure due to diabetes.[3][1]



Throughout much of his career, Sobran identified as a paleoconservative like his colleagues Samuel T. Francis, Pat Buchanan, and Peter Gemma.[third-party source needed] He claimed to support a strict interpretation of the United States Constitution. He asserted that the Tenth Amendment meant that almost every federal government act since the Civil War had been illegal.[1] In 2002, Sobran announced his philosophical and political shift to libertarianism (paleolibertarian anarcho-capitalism), citing inspiration by theorists Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe.[17] He referred to himself as a "theo-anarchist".[18]

Sobran asserted in the neo-Confederate Southern Partisan magazine that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream had become an "American nightmare" because civil rights had encouraged, in Sobran's words, "black thugs".[19]

Catholic teachings[edit]

Sobran said Catholic teachings were consistent with his opposition to abortion and the Iraq War.[citation needed] Asked to summarize his views, Sobran said once, "I won't be satisfied until the Church resumes burning for heresy" — a remark that Buchanan's biographer Timothy Stanley described as "funny, offensive and honest".[3]

Jews and Israel[edit]

Sobran frequently used his columns to criticize Israel, the Holocaust and Zionism. In one column, Sobran wrote that The New York Times "really ought to change its name to Holocaust Update".[20] In a 1992 column, he complained of "a more or less official national obsession with a tiny, faraway socialist ethnocracy", meaning Israel. Sobran argued that the 9/11 attacks were a result of the United States government's policies in the Middle East. He claimed those policies are formed by the "Jewish lobby".[1]

In 2002, Sobran wrote, "My chief offense, it appears, has been to insist that the state of Israel has been a costly and treacherous ‘ally’ to the United States. As of last Sept. 11, I should think that is undeniable. But I have yet to receive a single apology for having been correct."[1] Sobran said he lacked the "scholarly competence" to be a Holocaust denier. He also claimed that the official number of Holocaust victims was inaccurate and that Nazi Germany was not intent on racial extermination.[21][third-party source needed] He said his attitude was not anti-Semitism but "more like counter-Semitism".[22]

Published works[edit]


At the time of his death, Sobran was working on two books, one concerning Abraham Lincoln's presidency and the United States Constitution and another about de Vere's poetry.[citation needed]

Articles and speeches[edit]

His essays appeared in The Human Life Review, Celebrate Life! and The Free Market.

  • 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
  • Anything Called a Program is Unconstitutional – Griffin Communications – 2001


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Grimes, William (October 1, 2010). "Joseph Sobran, Writer Whom Buckley Mentored, Dies at 64". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  2. ^ Rudin, Ken (2010-12-29). "Political Powerhouses: Remembering Those Who Died". NPR. Retrieved 2022-07-11.
  3. ^ a b c d 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
  4. ^ "12 Anti-Semitic Radical Traditionalist Catholic Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2022-07-11.
  5. ^ "The Free Market | Mises Institute". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  6. ^ "Joseph Sobran, 1946-2010". 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  7. ^ McDonald, Michael (June 2011). "Wills Watching". The New Criterion. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  8. ^ "In Pursuit of Anti-Semitism," National Review, 16 March 1992.
  9. ^ Ralph Z. Hallow, "War of words raging at National Review," The Washington Times, October 7, 1993.
  10. ^ William F. Buckley Jr."In search of anti-Semitism: what Christians provoke what Jews? Why? By doing what? – And vice versa Archived 2006-02-23 at the Wayback Machine", National Review, December 30, 1991.
  11. ^ "PRESIDENCY 2000". 2000. Archived from the original on 2008-05-10. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  12. ^ W. James Antle, III (October 4, 2010). "Remembering Joe Sobran". Enter Stage Right. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  13. ^ "For Fear of the Jews". 2002-06-22. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  14. ^ Deborah Lipstadt "'Skeptical' on the Holocaust?", The New York Times, October 5, 2010.
  15. ^ Matthew Scully, "Bard of the Right", National Review Online, October 16, 2010.
  16. ^ Sobran, Joseph (November 3, 2008). "Joseph Sobran". The American Conservative. Archived from the original on 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  17. ^ "Sobran's - The Reluctant Anarchist". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  18. ^ "Joseph Sobran's Bio". Archived from the original on 2006-11-13. Retrieved 2007-01-15.
  19. ^ Hague, Euan (2008-12-31), "7. Neo-Confederacy and Education", Neo-Confederacy, University of Texas Press, pp. 202–225, doi:10.7560/718371-010, ISBN 9780292793873, S2CID 243776146, retrieved 2022-07-11
  20. ^ Jim Naureckas, "The Philadelphia Inquirer's New Spectrum: From Centrism to Anti-Semitism", FAIR, November/December 1995.
  21. ^ "For Fear of the Jews". Sobran's: The Real News of the Month. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  22. ^ Weisberg, Jacob (1990-10-22). "The Heresies of Pat Buchanan". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved 2022-07-11.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Constitution nominee for Vice President of the United States

Succeeded by
Curtis Frazier