I need to check out the right-wing Catholic blogs more often. Otherwise, it might have been even longer before I learned that Joseph Sobran, an embarrassing oddity for the ultraconservative commentariat, died late last week, succumbing to kidney failure and what sounds like a cascade of other health problems brought on by him being such a p.o.s.
You’ve probably never heard of him. I’ve only heard of him because my newspaper carried his column, one of the relative few that ran him at his peak and the tiny handful that hung on after Sobran broke with William F. Buckley Jr. and was fired by the National Review. It was bad enough that we bought his phoned-in paleoconservative dreck when he was respectable, but after Buckley called him out for praising an unapologetically racist magazine, and Sobran retaliated by saying his mentor was a tool of the Podhoretz clan and more concerned with getting seated at the right dinner parties up there in Jew York, well, he crossed the line into embarrassment.
If you paid absolutely no attention to any of this when it was happening in 1993, I’ll try to make this tie together with what we were talking about yesterday. Because while it’s no doubt way too generous to call Sobran crazy, he was one of those right-wing shitheads who took radical and offensive positions in part, I am sure, because he just liked being reviled, and was somehow able to make the revulsion read — in his own mind, anyway — as resentment for a brave truth-speaker. Such as? Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant. William Shakespeare was a fraud. The Clintons were white trash. And the Jews were indirectly responsible for 9/11, by shaping U.S. Middle East policy to favor Israel. And so on. The last time I looked him up, he was referring to Barack Obama as “our mulatto president.” Classy.
After his cashiering from polite salons, he was free to do things like give speeches to the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust-denial group. He spent a lot of time in this keynoter claiming he has no animus for Jews. As for what Hitler did, well…
Here I should lay my own cards on the table. I am not, heaven forbid, a “Holocaust denier.” I lack the scholarly competence to be one. I don’t read German, so I can’t assess the documentary evidence; I don’t know chemistry, so I can’t discuss Zyklon-B; I don’t understand the logistics of exterminating millions of people in small spaces. Besides, “Holocaust denial” is illegal in many countries I may want to visit someday. For me, that’s proof enough.
…Of course those who affirm the Holocaust need know nothing about the German language, chemistry, and other pertinent subjects; they need only repeat what they have been told by the authorities. In every controversy, most people care much less for what the truth is than for which side it’s safer and more respectable to take. They shy away from taking a position that is likely to get them into trouble. Just as only people on the Axis side were accused of war crimes after World War II, only people critical of Jewish interests are accused of thought-crimes in today’s mainstream press.
If the president says he was born in Hawaii, I take him at his word. After all, I wasn’t there.
Sobran’s passing was barely noted in respectable conservative journals, ignored by the blogosphere, and, as I mentioned before, acknowledged sadly by right-wing Catholics. Apparently Sobran considered himself a faithful and devoted servant of the Roman church, albeit twice-divorced and not enough of an expert on chemistry to formally acknowledge the slaughter of 6 million of God’s chosen people. I think even they were embarrassed by him.
I wonder what his last days were like. Where did he get his money? How did he live? In such cases, it’s useful to remember that there’s a very good chance he spoke to groups like the Institute for Historical Review because their checks cleared. (Boy, there’s a short film ready to be made, eh? “The Old Conservative in Exile.” Shiny suits, pilled cuffs and dandruff just play better on the big screen.)
Whew. I need a palate cleanser. How about a feature borrowed from Zorn, Fine lines?
Add the butter. One of the many reasons that restaurant food often tastes better than the stuff we make at home is that restaurant cooks do not know your cardiologist and have no real interest in your long-term enjoyment of life. They cook for this moment and for the fleeting feeling of delicious transcendence they can offer a diner. Next time, you can use less. This first time, add all four tablespoons.
– Sam Sifton on a pork ragu
Our symphony orchestra is on strike. Gloomy Gusses here think its death is inevitable, that a world-class orchestra is simply something we can no longer afford:
There are lots of numbers here, like there are in just about any labor dispute. But, at base, there are only two metrics that truly matter in the first DSO walkout since 1987 — changing consumer demand and the 21.3 percent decline in Michigan’s median income between 2000 and 2009.
That nation-leading collapse, a sickening number for the ripple effect it delivers to everything from home values and wage levels to public tax revenues and, yes, support for the local orchestra, goes further than just about anything else in describing what’s happening to the DSO. It’s also what will affect public and private institutions, businesses and communities, here for years to come.
Orchestra musicians can walk picket lines for the next year and it won’t change the fact that the economic profile of their geographic home has changed dramatically, if not irreversibly, in ways that peers in New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco simply haven’t seen and probably won’t.
As much as it pains me to say, that’s probably true. Although it was also true during the Depression, and the DSO hung on then. With help. You know how Francis Ford Coppola got his middle name? Well, his daddy was a flutist in the Detroit Symphony in the 1930s, and never forgot the group’s sugar daddy, whose financial support kept the place afloat. It could still happen.
Let’s close with a bookend, then. I have work to do:
“If a guy is anti-Semitic and no one is listening, is he still anti-Semitic?” — Paul Shaffer
Happy Tuesday, all.