The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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Joseph Sobran
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 Most RecentIdeology Archive

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How the mighty are fallen! Or falling, anyway. Tony Blair is finished. George W. Bush is being deserted by the party he has wrecked, the submerging Republican majority. And Rudy Giuliani, only recently the front-runner for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, looks like a goner. Thanks to Pope Benedict, he probably has no hope of... Read More
So Barack Obama has Big Momma on the canvas. When it comes to fundraising, he has essentially beaten La Hillary at her own game, nearly matching her $26 million but with far more donors. And since we’re all a wee bit tired of her, he’s the sentimental favorite. It’s the young underdog versus the aging... Read More
Dozens of people have announced their candidacies for the White House in 2008, and if I had to bet at this point, I would put my money on the old woman. Hillary may be awful, but at least she is predictable. I suppose I can learn to resign myself to her. What difference does it... Read More
Some readers accuse me of having nothing good to say about President Bush, but I can hardly help that. He swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and even his defenders don’t seriously say he has done so. I can easily imagine a movie called Mr. Bush Goes to Washington and America Goes to Hell.... Read More
I just heard on the radio that the publication of O.J. Simpson’s new book has been canceled. Literature’s loss, I guess. This particular Literary Event of the Season was aborted because of widespread disgust that Simpson was still profiting from crimes he says he didn’t commit. Like many other observers, I take his denial with... Read More
Though I try to keep abreast of new ideas, the conclusions of modern science are often, as they say, “counterintuitive” — that is, contrary to what common sense might lead you to expect. In the realm of physics, this is true of the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and the currently fashionable... Read More
Nowadays, in startling contrast to my youth, it’s very fashionable to claim to be a conservative. Back in the Sixties, conservatism was still rather a fugitive thing, and the fashion was liberalism or even radicalism. By the late Eighties, liberal had become “the L-word,” and liberals were looking for a less alarming euphemism, such as... Read More
When I was a kid learning to play chess, I couldn’t wait to move my queen. She was the most powerful piece on the board, so I wasted no time using her to attack. Guess what? On his next turn, my opponent captured her. It hurt my little feelings, but those were the rules. I... Read More
In the modern West, Islam is thought of as a violent religion, and I’ve done my part, along with some fanatical (but not necessarily typical) Muslims, to reinforce this view. It’s fatally easy to mistake the nuts for the norm. But I think there may be a better way to look at the situation. “Error... Read More
According to a verse in the Koran, it is said, there must be no compulsion in religion. So why are Muslims so often violently intolerant? The question is raised anew by the fanatical Muslim reaction to Pope Benedict’s recent speech in Germany by millions who neither knew nor cared what he was actually saying. The... Read More
Have a few drunken words to an arresting officer ever gotten as much publicity as Mel Gibson’s “despicable” (by his own admission) outburst to officer James Mee? Gibson apologized, which is all he could do, and that should have been the end of it. But of course it wasn’t. Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League... Read More
At certain moments, you realize with stunning clarity how empty and absurd our political clichés really are. “Democracies don’t start wars,” Condoleezza Rice repeated the other day. What can that possibly mean in the real world? Taken literally, this simple formula implies that any time a democracy is at war with a nondemocracy, the nondemocracy... Read More
American sportswriting has changed a lot since the 1920s. It’s less lyrical, hyperbolical, and moralistic than in the days when Grantland Rice and others set its lessons in rhyming verse. Schoolchildren used to memorize “Casey at the Bat” — the tragic story of Mudville’s great slugger striking out in the clutch. But American optimism demanded... Read More
Nearly every Christian, I suppose, has had the experience of being belabored by unbelievers about the putative sins of what is termed “organized religion” — the Spanish Inquisition, the trial of Galileo, the Salem witch-hunts, and so forth. What surprises me is that Christians have been so slow to turn the argument around and point... Read More
Back in 2000, candidate George W. Bush described himself as “a uniter, not a divider.” If we didn’t all remember that, you’d think I’d made it up. Now Bush has dubbed himself “the decider.” Well, things change, people change, and our perceptions of them change; but with Bush, everything has changed, and in the most... Read More
I don’t watch television much anymore, but I gather that Stephen Colbert is the hottest comedian on the tube this month. I missed his latest achievement, an act of lese majesty at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, where he ridiculed the chief guest, President Bush, without mercy. Bush and his wife had to take... Read More
The Princeton historian Sean Wilentz has caused a stir by arguing, in Rolling Stone magazine, that George W. Bush may be the worst president in American history. Of course you have to bear in mind that Wilentz, as a good liberal, ranks Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt among the greatest. Still, he has uttered a judgment... Read More
Things are getting messy. Before I address today’s headlines, let me offer my simple, comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East. First, give Palestine back to the Brits. Then adopt a reverse Monroe Doctrine: the United States will stay out of the Eastern Hemisphere. Think about it. Okay, now to today’s headlines. Abdul Rahman, the... Read More
In the 1979 movie The In-Laws, Peter Falk plays a dotty former CIA man who awes his sidekick, Alan Arkin, a timid dentist whose daughter is married to Falk’s son. “Were you involved in the Bay of Pigs operation?” asks the fascinated Arkin. Falk replies proudly, “Involved in it? It was my idea!” “Success has... Read More
What’s the proper form of address for a terrorist with a long record of mass murder? Emily Post doesn’t cover this one, but in the state of Israel his title may be “Mr. Prime Minister.” The political career of Ariel Sharon, successor of such democratic leaders as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, appears to have... Read More
“The great sociologist of religion Emile Durkheim called the contrast between the sacred and the profane the widest and deepest of all contrasts the human mind is capable of making,” wrote the late Robert Nisbet. “Everything above the level of the instinctual, Durkheim concluded, began in human veneration, awe, reverence of the sacred — be... Read More
I can never sufficiently thank Al Gore for creating the Internet. It has become an indispensable tool for my work and even an important part of my life. I owe it new friendships and the renewal of dear acquaintances, to mention only two of its countless benefits. The drawbacks are hardly worth complaining about. But... Read More
Here we go again. A newly released document indicates that Judge Samuel Alito once formulated a plan for the “eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade,” which might have resulted in the horror — dreadful to contemplate — of unemployed abortionists. The good Darwinists of the U.S. Supreme Court had decided that a human fetus is... Read More
Nothing looks as dated as yesterday’s futurism. If you watch the old sci-fi film Things to Come, made in 1936 and based on an H.G. Wells novel, you’re struck by the naiveté of what it prophesied for 1970. It envisioned all sorts of marvelous new inventions, huge shiny stainless steel gadgets, but it didn’t foresee... Read More
The debate over the Iraq war is essentially over. “I think there’s a fair chance we’ll win,” says Brent Scowcroft to Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker. “But look at the cost.” Scowcroft was the first President Bush’s national security advisor, his best friend, and a hawk in the first war on Iraq. But that... Read More
“Our enemies are nearer the truth in their opinions of us than we are ourselves,” wrote LaRochefoucauld. Something to ponder when we hear complaints about anti-Americanism. And there may be even more vanity and self-deception in the group than in the individual ego. The White House is upset about the Newsweek story by Michael Isikoff... Read More
Thomas Jefferson was a great man, but not necessarily a great president. In the same way, I’m not sure that John Paul II has been a great pope; but I have no doubt that he is a very great man. He’s still proving it. Writing of Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton remarked that the term great... Read More
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, has called Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code “rotten food” and evidence of “anti-Catholic” attitudes. He laments that even Catholic bookstores are carrying “stacks” of it. He wants to “unmask the lies” the book propagates. Cardinal Bertone’s words have gotten a lot of attention because, for one... Read More
The January 30 elections in Iraq confounded those who predicted that they would be a bloody disaster. They weren’t. This illustrates why it’s unwise to stake your principles on predictions. If your predictions are wrong, you risk discrediting your principles. Members of the outnumbered, outvoted, disgruntled Sunni minority were unable to deter or discourage most... Read More
The capital is still buzzing about President Bush’s inaugural address. Liberals tend to deem it empty, overreaching, extravagant in its promise to end tyranny all over the world. Conservatives have found it inspiring, “intellectually rich,” even “revolutionary.” Since when is revolutionary a conservative compliment? Modern conservatism is usually dated from Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the... Read More
No topic I write about stirs a more unexpected response than secession — the right of a state to withdraw from the United States. You might think the issue was settled forever in 1865, when the North crushed the South in the Civil War. But many Americans, North and South, still like the idea, and... Read More
In a recent column I made an observation about the vocal “gay community” that may bear amplification. On the one hand, these advocates tell us — us presumptive “straights” — that people’s “sexual orientation” should be of no concern to us. Then they turn around and tell us that their “orientation” is the most important... Read More
The New York Times reported recently that many churches are in effect backing President Bush for reelection. I find this disturbing because I find Bush disturbing. But judging by the flood of letters to the editor this story provoked, many liberals find it disturbing because they find religion in public life disturbing. One Times reader... Read More
Since the eight Clinton years already seem like the good old days, we shouldn’t be amazed at the huge, affectionate reaction to Ronald Reagan’s passing. Reagan himself was a symbol of the good old days even while he held office. In our nostalgia, we forget how contentious the Reagan years actually were. President Bush is... Read More
Once you’ve killed a certain number of people, even with the best will in the world, it becomes awkward to make the cheerful admission, “I goofed.” Halfway through his river of blood, Macbeth reflects that going back would be as tedious as going all the way across. Actually, it turns out that he hasn’t even... Read More
Jews in America are often spoken of as a “minority.” So they are, in more than a numerical sense, as I will explain. But despite their small numbers they are also a powerful faction, though the term faction is rarely applied to them. In Federalist Number 10, James Madison gave a famous and useful definition... Read More
Last week they didn’t know who Richard Clarke was, if they’d even heard his name. This week they’re all attacking his character and motives with utter certitude. “They” are the Bush defenders in the media, the ones who insist that their president has never told a lie, so that those who suggest otherwise must be... Read More
Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ has been greeted by some remarkable expressions of hatred for Christianity — all in the name of fighting anti-Semitism, of course. By now it would take a whole book to deal with them thoroughly, but the prize for venom goes to columnist William Safire of the New... Read More
Sometimes I think that if people really listened to themselves, I’d be out of a job. When they can’t mean what they say, you are entitled to doubt that they’re saying what they mean. Few are saying that Mel Gibson had no right to make a film about the Crucifixion. But many are saying he... Read More
For weeks, Mortimer Zuckerman’s tabloid the New York Daily News has been trashing, in advance, Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of Christ. In “news” articles, opinion pieces, and editorials, it has published predictions that the move “will” (not “might”) incite violence against Jews and maybe ruin Gibson’s Hollywood career. The paper is shocked — shocked!... Read More
According to a verse in the Book of Proverbs, I believe (though, being a Catholic, I can’t find it), “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” Thanks in large part to vitriolic protests by Jewish groups, Mel Gibson’s forthcoming film The Passion of the Christ will surely be a stupendously popular movie. Jewish-owned media... Read More
Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Vatican would say nothing about same-sex “marriage.” It’s beneath its dignity to enter into debate with a sick joke, and when it does so it only allows progressive-minded fools to change the subject. Such fools, some of them nominal Catholics, argue that the Church is a bunch of... Read More
Many years ago I heard the first lady of the United States give a speech. I didn’t fully approve of her, and I was determined not to be easily impressed — my usual wary attitude toward the high and mighty. My resolution lasted about five seconds. Her opening sentence was a one-liner Bob Hope would... Read More
The question has become a roar: Did the Bush administration lie about “weapons of mass destruction” to get the country into war with Iraq? Republican royalists resent the very idea that their president could lie. It seems to them what the awful French would call lese majesty. Of course our (lower-case) republican institutions are based... Read More
I had a history minor in college, so listen up. I know what it is to stay awake long nights boning up on why World War I started — the world war nobody talks about — and to remember the facts long enough to pass an exam. In a nutshell, some archduke got shot in... Read More
“Either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” This is the Bush “doctrine,” and it is dangerous nonsense. It’s a piece of moral blackmail, designed to force the people of the whole world to choose between false alternatives. It means that if you refuse to play ball with America — George W. Bush’s America,... Read More
To read the conservative and neoconservative press, you’d think that President George W. Bush combined the military genius of Napoleon, the courage of Coriolanus, and the moral wisdom of Confucius. My own view is that he confirms the truth of the adage “Never send a boy to do a man’s job.” Actually, the presidency is... Read More
The news that I would be addressing the Institute of Historical Review came to some people as ... well, news. It was mentioned in the Jewish newspaper Forward and on the Zionist Wall Street Journal Online. The editors of two conservative magazines called and wrote me to express their concern that I might damage my... Read More
Nearly every day for nearly 2,000 years, Catholics have celebrated Mass, the sacrificial reenactment of the Last Supper. They have built thousands of churches, monasteries, convents, hospitals, schools, and other religious and charitable institutions. They have prayed, fasted, said rosaries, made novenas, and performed innumerable good deeds. They have developed great theologies and created towering... Read More
A few weeks ago I tried, in my feeble way, to express why I fell in love with the Catholic Church. I received many gracious and grateful responses from others who felt the same way, some of them converts like me. Inevitably, there were also a few jeers, directed not so much against me as... Read More