Brimelow says Sobran became an immigration restrictionist before his death. Is it true?
(Note, Oct. 5: substantial comments on Sobran’s immigration position follow the main entry.)
Peter Brimelow introduces the late Joseph Sobran’s last article, a disjointed and rather meaningless reconsideration of William F. Buckley. Brimelow says that he himself was put off by the article at first, and put it aside, but now,
I wonder if I was too harsh. The article is somewhat off-topic for VDARE.COM, but at least it reiterated Joe’s very belated formal conversion, which he credited to the influence of Pat Buchanan, to the cause of patriotic immigration reform—something that some of his obituarists, for example Larry Auster, seem to have missed.I was intrigued to read this. The career of Sobran’s views on mass non-European immigration had run from complete indifference in 1994 (as you can hear by listening to my close questioning of him from the floor following his speech at the first American Renaissance conference, where he admits he has no interest in or concern about the issues of immigration and race—the latter being the principal subject of that conference), to, in 2006, the standard liberal Christian open borders mindlessness, as indicated by this remark he made in April 2006:
I can’t imagine Jesus standing on the border to turn them back.So I didn’t know what Brimelow was talking about. Also, I looked through Brimelow’s introduction to Sobran’s article and the article itself to find a reference to Sobran’s switch to immigration reform, and couldn’t find it. The only reference to immigration in that article is this:
But by the time I left [National Review in 1993], Bill [Buckley] had lost touch with the movement he had done so much to shape and misshape. His political radar was even poorer than my own. He was miles behind Pat Buchanan and others in seeing that immigration, for example, would become a red-hot topic. Time and again, Pat has shown a rare prescience.To say that Buchanan was right when he said that immigration would become a “red-hot topic” is not to endorse immigration restrictionism. So I looked at this, and thought, what the heck is Brimelow talking about? He speaks of a Sobran conversion on immigration, but there is none to be seen.
So, wanting to get to the bottom of the matter, I looked through my own entries on Sobran, and found this item linked in my obit of Sobran. In February 2008, a reader brought to my attention a Sobran remark in August 2006 (just four months after his “Jesus at the border” comment) in which he said he had suddenly seen the light about immigration. It seems that I had forgotten about this Sobran remark when I wrote my obit of Sobran last week. Here’s what Sobran said in August 2006:
Rarely has a book rocked me as Pat Buchanan’s latest one has. State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, just published by Thomas Dunne Books, shattered my skepticism about the problem of immigration, which I’ve tended to think could be handled by gradual absorption and assimilation, as in the past. Buchanan argues powerfully that the current wave is radically different from previous ones. In America both the volume of newcomers and, all too often, their attitudes resist the adaptation to our traditions we used to be able to assume. As Enoch Powell warned a generation ago, when Britain began to feel the impact of limitless immigration, the thing has the character of an invasion; the aliens, he noted, were arriving not as mere individuals, but as whole villages, transforming British culture, and not for the better. Now the same thing is happening here—but on a much larger scale [â€¦]I replied in the February 2008 entry:
Sobran has been familiar with and hearing the arguments of restrictionists for many years. He was a speaker at the 1994 AR conference. He was criticized then for not taking immigration seriously. He’s been dealing with, or rather taking the other side on, this issue ever since then, and being criticized for paleocons for it. Then in April 2006 he made those statements (linked here at VFR) saying that Jesus wouldn’t turn back illegal aliens, and therefore we shouldn’t either—thus denying any moral right of America to defend its borders, even from the illegal alien invasion. So by April 2006 Sobran’s position on immigration has gotten worse than ever. Then in August 2006 he reads Buchanan’s latest book on immigration and—as though he’s never heard these facts, arguments, and concerns before, though spending his entire life on the American right and paleo-right—he suddenly sees the light and realizes immigration is a problem!Sobran lived for four years after his conversion statement, certainly enough time to see if he ever revisited the issue. What does the test reveal? Since August 2006, we have one remark by Sobran about immigration in his last written article in 2010. I’ll quote it again:
But by the time I left [National Review in 1993], Bill [Buckley] had lost touch with the movement he had done so much to shape and misshape. His political radar was even poorer than my own. He was miles behind Pat Buchanan and others in seeing that immigration, for example, would become a red-hot topic. Time and again, Pat has shown a rare prescience.In 2010 Sobran praised Buchanan, not for being an immigration restrictionist, but for being prescient about the fact that immigration would become a red-hot topic. As far as we can tell (there may be some Sobran article on immigration that I haven’t seen and the Brimelow hasn’t linked or quoted), there was zero follow-through from Sobran’s conversion in August 2006.
I’m not denying the fact of the conversion. But the conversion is very partial. To repeat the facts we’ve already looked at: Before his August 2006 conversion, his position had been that mass non-European immigration was no threat at all and that we should have open borders to illegal as well as legal immigration. Then in August 2006 he sudden grasped that certain immigrant groups would probably not assimilate:
In America both the volume of newcomers and, all too often, their attitudes resist the adaptation to our traditions we used to be able to assume. As Enoch Powell warned a generation ago, when Britain began to feel the impact of limitless immigration, the thing has the character of an invasion; the aliens, he noted, were arriving not as mere individuals, but as whole villages, transforming British culture, and not for the better. Now the same thing is happening here—but on a much larger scaleAnd what was his response to this sudden insight, which had eluded him for the previous fifteen or twenty years during which immigration had been a burning topic on the right in which he was a prominent figure?
For me, reading this book is like listening to a doctor as he gives you a brilliant diagnosis of your terminal illness…. If all three of these prophets are right, the twenty-first century isn’t going to be a whole lot of fun.So Sobran in August 2006 didn’t say a word about immigration reform or immigration restriction. Instead, he followed the standard path of so many people who have for many years supported immigration, who have seen absolutely no problem in it, and who have dismissed restrictionists as alarmists, and then suddenly see that there is a problem after all, but throw up their hands and say, “It’s too late to do anything about it.” Such people go from arrogantly dismissing the very notion that immigration is a problem; to declaring that the immigration problem is so serious that it can’t be solved and we are doomed.
As an example of this pattern, see what I wrote about Fred Barnes in January 2006 (at the moment I can’t find my entry where I link and quote the original Barnes article):
Several years ago Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard noted, almost in passing, that immigration was Hispanicizing California and that the state was therefore effectively lost to the Republican party. This was the first time to my knowledge that Barnes had ever said anything critical about immigration. Throughout the 1990s immigration restrictionists had been desperately calling for drastic cuts in Hispanic and other Third-World immigration, one of their concerns being the demise of the Republican party and of conservative politics in this country as a result of the liberalizing effect of huge Hispanic populations. Yet The Weekly Standard, of which Barnes is managing editor, had dismissed out of hand any worries about our mass immigration policies. The magazine had never published a single article about the size or the likely cultural and political effects of the post-1965 immigration or even treated it as a legitimate issue. Yet now Barnes was quietly admitting that immigration was a very big problem, dooming conservatism in the nation’s biggest state—while he added that it was now too late to do anything about this.In conclusion, Sobran followed essentially the same path as the arch neocon Fred Barnes: from immigration is not a problem at all, and restrictionists are to be dismissed, to immigration is a terrible problem, but we can’t do anything about it, we’ve already lost.
And for this standard piece of pro-immigration optimism turning into anti-immigration defeatism, Brimelow praises Sobran for his “belated formal conversion … to the cause of patriotic immigration reform.” Wrong. Unless there is some immigration-restrictionist statement by Sobran that we haven’t seen yet, Brimelow has simply misread what Sobran said and has given him credit for something for which he does not deserve credit.
Dave T. writes:
I’m not sure how obvious this is but perhaps the common psychological thread that explains the behavior of both Sobran and Barnes is that neither are willing to discuss the consequences of immigration, period. Either immigration is a good thing and we shouldn’t worry about it, or immigration is a bad thing but it’s a fait accompli and, therefore, not worth writing about. In either case, a conspiracy of silence is preserved because of an unspoken fear of what all this immigration portends for the long-term viability of American liberalism.October 5
Richard O. writes:
Excellent point on bait and switch.Paul K. writes;
Here’s a statement on immigration from Joseph Sobran’s Washington Watch column, published in The Wanderer (July 15, 2004). [LA replies: Yes, so this was before his “conversion.”] I interspersed my bolded comments in it.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 04, 2010 06:39 PM | Send