The Real News of the Month

February 2002
Volume 9, No. 2

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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{{Material dropped from features or changed solely for 
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  -> The Moving Picture
  -> Keeping Slaves Happy
  -> Ourselves and Someone Else's Posterity
Letters to the Editor
Nuggets (plus Exclusives to this edition)
List of Columns Reprinted


The Moving Picture
(page 1)

     Have you noticed, as I have lately, how many Arabs 
name their sons after basketball players?

*          *          *

     And the inevitable follow-up question: If Islam is a 
"religion of peace," how come there are so many brawls in 
the NBA?

*          *          *

     The untimely death of Buddy, Bill Clinton's Labrador 
retriever, has raised eyebrows from sea to shining sea. 
Buddy is only one of myriad Clinton acquaintances who 
have met their Maker ahead of schedule. Sure, it *looked* 
like an accident. They always do. But if ever there was a 
dog that knew too much for his own good, it had to be 
Buddy. Paradoxically, he was also the last sentient being 
who trusted Bill.

*          *          *

     TIME magazine really wimped out by naming Rudy 
Giuliani as its "Person of the Year." When old Henry Luce 
ran the mag, he never shrank from picking Hitler or 
Stalin -- the obvious newsmakers of certain other years. 
It was always explained that the choice was an 
acknowledgment of fact, not an honor. Since September 11, 
only one man has dominated the covers of all the 
newsmags, including TIME -- and it wasn't Rudy.

*          *          *

     I figured that if al-Qaeda had another trick up its 
sleeve, it would play it during the holiday season. But 
apparently all it could come up with was a guy trying to 
give himself a hotfoot on a plane. How brilliant! On the 
other hand, we can't be sure that the War on Terrorism 
has made us any safer; it can hardly have made America 
better loved. Time will tell.

*          *          *

     Do American conservatives have any agenda besides 
killing? George Will has written a column recommending, 
as a model of how to make war, General William Sherman's 
proposal to exterminate the entire ruling class of the 
Confederacy. (Sherman eventually distinguished himself by 
slaughtering Indians indiscriminately; it is to him that 
we owe the apercu: "The only good Indian is a dead 
Indian.") That is, Will would have had Robert E. Lee 
shot. Classy guy. Will reminds you of what Burke meant 
when he lamented the age of chivalry had passed. No 
wonder liberals can plausibly equate conservatism with 
"hate." You might suppose that a conservative was someone 
who, like Burke, wants to conserve things he loves.

*          *          *

     Jewish organizations are calling for a boycott of 
all French products. Why? Because France won't recall its 
ambassador to Britain, Daniel Bernard, who made bluntly 
critical remarks about Israel at a private dinner party 
in London. Among other things, he asked why one little 
country should put the whole globe at risk of another 
world war. Good question, but Israel couldn't do it 
alone. American support and assistance is also necessary. 
So far Bernard and the French government have refused to 
back down, which gives hope that others in high places 
are thinking (if not yet talking openly) along the same 

Keeping Slaves Happy
(pages 2-4)

     I used to be skeptical when champions of the 
Confederacy insisted that most slaves in the Old South 
were content with their lot. But since the 9/11 attacks, 
I find it easy to believe.

     No slave system can work if the slave population is 
perpetually restive and chafing for liberty. It's now 
fashionable to portray Southern slavery as a constant 
ordeal for the slaves, with shackles, chains, and whips 
their daily lot. In fact this lurid picture has been 
drawn ever since the Civil War, when Union propaganda 
made slavery sound like unremitting torture; Lincoln 
spoke darkly of "every drop of blood drawn with the 

     But it would hardly pay to have slaves if the master 
had to spend every waking hour subduing them. Much easier 
to keep them contented, with the assurance that the 
master is their protector. They may yearn for ultimate 
liberty, as the old Negro spirituals attest, but 
meanwhile their lives may be bearable enough -- as 
Lincoln, despite his public rhetoric, privately admitted.

     Aristotle, ever the realist, remarked that most men 
are "slaves by nature." I don't know exactly what he 
meant, or how you test such a proposition; "most" may be 
an overstatement. But human nature includes both the 
desire for liberty and a dread of responsibility, and we 
see how often men are eager to follow a leader and submit 
to his will, or how implicitly they trust the supposed 
expertise of a ruling elite. David Hume likewise marveled 
at how easily the many are ruled by the few.

     In the twentieth century the claims and powers of 
the state increased so vastly that it may be said that 
state slavery has replaced private (chattel) slavery. 
Under Communism the state's authority was nakedly 
absolute; in "free" societies it was, and is, qualified, 
chiefly by a traditional morality and by personal legal 
protections. Neither this morality nor these protections, 
we should note, are a fruit of democracy; on the 
contrary, they predated it and it has weakened them. If 
the democracies are still relatively free, as compared 
with the Communist states, this is more in spite of 
democracy than because of it.

     Through the taxing power the democratic state now 
confiscates large portions of private property without 
due process of law. The process of confiscation has been 
streamlined through such devices as withholding taxes, so 
that most people hardly notice what is being taken from 
them and can retain the happy belief that they are living 
in a free society. One of the marks of "democracy," after 
all, is a vigorously promulgated optimism.

     In periods of calm men prefer liberty and bridle at 
state control. But in times of panic they loyally obey a 
dictator. After the 9/11 attacks, most Americans seemed 
to forget that the United States Government is 
theoretically their servant and were willing to cede it 
all sorts of arbitrary power in the hope and faith that 
it would protect them. Submission to the new power -- 
servility to the state -- became a patriotic duty.

     This is nothing new. During earlier wars the same 
thing happened: the servant became the master. The 
personal will of the Leader became law. Normally gradual 
encroachments of the state accelerated. Civil liberties 
were violated, constitutional restraints forgotten. 
Resistance to the state was quickly interpreted as 

     At such moments the servile side of human nature 
emerges, and we are seeing it today. Large majorities of 
Americans support the Bush administration's new 
constraints on constitutional liberties. That is, "We the 
People," having laid down the rules for our government in 
the U.S. Constitution, now consent to allow the 
government to violate that Constitution. We recognize the 
government's superiority to the Constitution that was 
supposed to bind it. What, then, is the point of having a 

     Over two centuries, the U.S. Constitution has proved 
unenforceable, because the government it supposedly 
controls has arrogated to itself the authority to 
interpret the document as it pleases; always, of course, 
to its own advantage. The plan of a federalized system 
has been adroitly converted into a mandate for 
centralized power, the original division of power only 
superficially retained.

     But all the clever schemes of tyranny could never 
have worked if free men had merely fixed their eyes on 
the essential question: What is the original source of 
the state's authority? Why is obedience to the state a 

     Obviously society requires law, or commonly accepted 
rules of conduct. But as Michael Oakeshott has reminded 
us, laws are, properly speaking, observed rather than 
obeyed. They bind everyone alike. They are impersonal. 
*Commands* are obeyed, and a command is the expression of 
a particular personal will. Commands may of course be 
disguised under the forms of law, but the "laws" of the 
modern state are still in essence commands.

     St. Thomas Aquinas said that all positive law, in 
order to be valid, must conform to immutable natural law. 
A human law at variance with natural law is void -- 
unconstitutional, as it were. A ruler who commands his 
subjects to commit, or submit to, immoral acts is a 

     Genuine laws are by nature finite, because the 
natural law is fixed. In a healthy community laws are few 
and are seldom changed, and a man can be law-abiding by 
keeping the Ten Commandments. But commands are limitless, 
because they proceed from the human will, which is 
inexhaustible. That is the real source of "big 

     Yet today it is everywhere assumed that man has a 
moral duty to obey the state, no matter what it commands. 
Why? How can submission to an arbitrary will be a moral 
obligation? It's absurd to suppose that every petty new 
Federal regulation proceeds from, or is harmonious with, 
the natural law.

     The modern state was explained around the time of 
its origin by Thomas Hobbes in his 1651 classic 
LEVIATHAN. Rejecting the Christian conception of natural 
law, Hobbes came up with a materialist version. According 
to Hobbes, the first law of nature is self-preservation. 
But in the state of nature, every man is at war with 
every other man; in this war of all against all, every 
man's self-preservation is perpetually at risk, and men's 
lives are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." 
The Leviathan state emerges when a single sovereign 
acquires the power to "keep them all in awe." Fear of the 
ruler displaces mutual fear and chaos. It simplifies 

     That is, the state is defined by its power to kill. 
Men have no choice but to obey it, if they want to live. 
Obedience is rational, therefore (in the only terms 
Hobbes recognizes) moral. The essence of the state is a 
monopoly of terror.

     Few have espoused this grim view, yet it has a 
plausibility that makes it perpetually fascinating. Like 
Machiavelli, Hobbes speaks for many who would never agree 
with him openly. He offers a philosophy they can live by 
even if they don't profess it.

     In fact, we obey the state not because conscience 
requires it, but because we fear what it may do to us. 
When the chips are down, it may kill us; short of that, 
it can make life miserable in myriad ways. Its powers now 
far exceed those available to rulers when Hobbes wrote. 
Ordinarily it chooses harassment rather than murder, but 
the threat to kill if necessary is always implicit.

     In democratic theory, a vague theory at best, we 
have a moral duty to obey the state because "we" are the 
state, and every member of the community has a duty to 
assent to the justice of the collective will as embodied 
in a freely elected government. We may "disagree" but not 

     But in fact only a few officials are elected, the 
individual vote is meaningless, and nobody can possibly 
keep track of all the doings of state officials. Nobody 
can even name all the agencies of the state. It would be 
worth nobody's time to try to keep track of them, since 
little can be done about them. They rule by force and the 
threat of force, however oblique. It comes down to that.

     Making allowance for changing times and 
circumstances, Hobbes more or less had it right. In plain 
terms, the modern state is based on human timidity and 
confusion (which are mutually reinforcing). Maybe this is 
what Aristotle had in mind.

     Modern man is more submissive to the state -- by 
far! -- than medieval man was to the Church. Yet the 
illusion persists that modern man is free. True, he is 
nobody's personal property, but he is a serf to an 
amorphous power he can't define. He learns the slogans of 
democracy but is baffled by the labyrinthine realities of 
the bureaucratic state, which bears no relation to those 

     He obeys he knows not why. The state threatens him, 
yet he feels that it also protects him from things even 
worse than itself. He can see that the politicians he has 
"elected" are fools and knaves, yet he trusts that "the 
government" as a whole is a repository of wisdom and 
expertise. He trusts this undefined thing more than he 
trusts his own mind. So he never asks the most basic and 
obvious questions, the ones Hobbes at least tried to 

     Still, Hobbes was wrong. Because force has no moral 
authority, there can be no specific moral duty to obey 
the state, no matter how much popular support it enjoys. 
One man has no right to compel another; neither do a 
million to compel one. Nor may one man "consent" to be 
compelled. That is moral nonsense. "Consent" can 
legitimize neither slavery nor the state, but only 
cooperation. Yet the state spares no effort to convince 
us that we are compelled with our consent! When we obey 
it, we are only obeying ourselves. So who is this thug at 
my door who says he'll put me in jail and take my money? 
It must be ... but of course! ... myself!

     True obligations are moral obligations. No man can 
create an obligation for another by a sheer assertion or 
act of will: "You must obey me." His demand for obedience 
acquires no moral authority if he supports it with a 
threat: on the contrary, "Obey me or I will hurt you" is, 
morally, far worse than a mere "Obey me." Yet most people 
accept this ugly threat -- the essence of the state -- as 
an expression of authority! This is all the more 
remarkable considering that the state no longer claims to 
be of divine origin and has, in fact, become nakedly 

     If the state confined itself to enforcing our 
natural obligations (as, not to kill or steal), the 
question would still remain why any particular man or 
body of men should monopolize the power of enforcement. 
All of us have a natural and unalienable right to protect 
ourselves and, if we choose, others. But the state claims 
much more than this. It claims to monopolize the right -- 
the *right,* mind you -- to create obligations 

     And where does it get this right? "*I* don't know," 
we say to each other. "I thought *you* knew." Actually, 
nobody knows. But that doesn't stop us from obeying.

Ourselves and Someone Else's Posterity
(pages 5-6)

{{ Material dropped or changed solely for reasons of 
space appears in double curly brackets. }}

     A friend inscribed his new book to me the other day. 
His inscription provided the only cheering words in the 
entire volume. To my mind the book is more disturbing 
than the 9/11 attacks.

AND CIVILIZATION (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's 
Press); the author, my friend, is Patrick Buchanan. The 
title gets right to the point.

     The native populations of Europe, and the white 
population of the United States, are dying off. They 
aren't reproducing themselves. Their birthrates are 
below, in most cases far below, replacement level. The 
average Spanish woman, for example, bears 1.07 children. 
In all Europe, only Muslim Albania has a high birth rate.

     Meanwhile, Third World immigrants are flooding into 
the West. Many of them are illegal, but the laws are not 
enforced because young workers are needed to support the 
aging natives and because governments are afraid to 
enforce the laws against the alien populations.

     Two outstanding factors have produced this 
situation: the welfare state, which is pledged to support 
the elderly; and contraception (with abortion as a backup 
guarantee), which has allowed Western women to put jobs 
ahead of family.

     There are other factors too, including politics and 
ideology. Bill Clinton has famously exulted that within a 
few decades whites will be a minority in the United 
States. He and the Democratic Party have opened the gates 
to aliens, hoping to enlarge their political base as they 
lose the loyalty of white voters. And of course liberal 
ideology (shared by many nominal conservatives) forbids 
whites to practice the self-serving politics which 
nonwhites are permitted and even encouraged to indulge 
in. Mexicans speak openly of "la raza" -- the race -- and 
of a "reconquista" of the Southwestern states.

     The advocates of feminism, abortion, and Zero 
Population Growth have taught young Western women that 
traditional women's roles are not only optional but 
undesirable. The mythology of the "population bomb" took 
root decades ago and has yet to wear off, despite ample 
refutation, and to most Americans small families have 
become both a convenience and a sort of civic duty. 
Christian morality is in decline; even the Catholic 
clergy and hierarchy have pretty much given up opposing 
artificial birth control and blessing large families. 
High taxes in the "advanced" countries also discourage 

     Margaret Sanger's vision of eugenic contraception, 
to quell the growth of nonwhite populations, has 
backfired; only whites and the Japanese are eliminating 

     In 1960, people of European stock were a quarter of 
the earth's population; by 2000 they were reduced to a 
sixth; by 2050 they will be only a tenth, and their 
average age will be 50.

     In Russia, where there are already four or five 
abortions per live birth, this grim future has already 
arrived. While the population is aging, life expectancy 
for men is only 59 years. China's exploding population 
will soon move into, and conquer, the largely vacant 
Eastern Siberia, while Muslims will do likewise in 
Central Siberia.

     Reading Buchanan, one is struck by the way 
government policies, especially those driven by 
liberalism, have helped create this {{ situation at every 
turn. }} Secularism, the welfare state, taxation, 
contraception, abortion, sexual license, civil rights, 
feminism, immigration -- virtually every measure that was 
supposed to better the human condition has conspired to 
construct a gigantic trap for the West. And now there may 
be no way out.

     The whole process has been so systematically 
perverse that you can't help suspecting it was 
deliberate; then again, short-sighted social planners 
lack the cunning for such a grand design. What is certain 
is that the United States has been ruled and guided by 
people who are deeply alienated from and hostile to the 
West and its traditions, especially its Christian 

     One of the books that inspired Buchanan, James 
Burnham's SUICIDE OF THE WEST (1964), described 
liberalism as "the ideology of Western suicide." Burnham 
didn't mean that liberalism caused the decline of the 
West, which he thought was due to deeper factors (perhaps 
just the exhaustion that eventually comes to all 
civilizations), but that it provided a comforting 
rationalization for a decline that was already in 
progress. For Burnham liberalism was a sort of 
intellectual anesthetic, a euthanasia for a moribund 
patient. It offered the comforting interpretation of 
every Western defeat as a forward step for "progress."

     Buchanan is much more inclined to blame liberalism 
and its related ideologies. He particularly stresses that 
"progressives" have consciously sought to destroy 
Christianity, and he cites abundant evidence from their 
own books, manifestoes, and other documents. Accordingly, 
he tends to think the damage is reversible, if only the 
heresy is renounced.

     Here I must say that his pessimism is much more 
convincing than his optimism. His evidence for Western 
decline and doom is weighty; his argument for Western 
recovery sounds relatively facile, even desperate. In the 
court of reason he may win his arguments with liberals; 
but in the real world, liberal arguments, however 
fallacious, have become established institutions, against 
which refutation is unavailing.

     At this point, for example, it is hard to imagine 
American women choosing to have more babies for the sake 
of the West's future. Oh, you can *imagine* it, in the 
way you can *imagine* France converting to Buddhism, but 
it seems more like a fantasy than a serious possibility. 
Self-absorption, alias "self-fulfillment," has become a 
profound cultural habit. "Sex," as we have learned to 
call it, is now a matter less of procreation than of 
recreation. It sounds like a platitude to say that both 
sexes have an equal right to orgasm without the burden of 
children; who could deny it?

     In 1968 Pope Paul VI promulgated the most 
controversial papal encyclical of the twentieth century, 
HUMANAE VITAE, condemning artificial contraception. 
"Controversial" is hardly the word for a document that 
found very few defenders, even among Catholics, though it 
merely repeated what previous popes had taught, what 
nearly all Christians recently believed, and what many 
Muslims and pagans still regard as morally obvious. 
(Multiculturalists, take note!)

     The real core of the sexual revolution is not to be 
sought in calls for "gay rights" and legal abortion, but 
in the normalization of contraception *between married 
couples.* We are now beginning to see the consequences. 
True, Paul VI spoke more of the intrinsic immorality of 
corrupting the marital act than of the demographic 
results of doing so; but after all, a pope can speak 
authoritatively only of the nature of sin, not of its 
earthly penalty for the sinner. In this world, the sinner 
may sin with impunity, even with profit.

     In 1968, all the bright people agreed that 
contraception was a purely "personal" question. In 
pragmatic terms, it was reproduction, not birth control, 
that seemed irresponsible. What if every act of coition 
produced a child? Horrors! Paul VI was on the side of the 
Population Bomb, of overcrowding and starvation and 
unmitigated global misery!

     "Dissent" from HUMANAE VITAE immediately became the 
orthodoxy of the progressives. And a peculiarly smug 
orthodoxy it was, admitting no room for a second opinion. 
You were shamed into silence if you held a sneaking 
suspicion that the Pope had a point. And once 
contraception had gained acceptance by seemingly orthodox 
Catholics {{ -- including such conservatives as William 
Buckley -- }} the sexual revolution had won a victory 
Hugh Hefner could never have achieved.

     Few (George Gilder, {{ author of SEXUAL SUICIDE, }} 
was the great exception) perceived the far-reaching 
nature of that revolution. Its rhetoric implied that it 
was confined to private areas of no public concern -- 
"the bedroom." That is rather like saying that 
cannibalism concerns only the kitchen.

     Buchanan has made what should have been obvious 
impossible to deny or evade. Reading his book is like 
having your doctor tell you you have cancer, probably 

     In blunt terms, the white races are endangered. 
Their children may soon be powerless, disinherited, and 
very few; even their languages may disappear from Europe 
and America; their cultures may be forgotten. In a few 
generations Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and P.G. Wodehouse may 
be more remote and obscure than Homer is now. The new 
denizens of America and Europe will discuss their affairs 
in other tongues and think in entirely different terms 
than those we take for granted. Any surviving whites, 
having only faint memories of their ancestors, may play 
no role in the fate of the new societies that displace 
the old ones. Christianity may be reduced to a tiny sect, 
with no influence over a miscellaneous culture, part 
Muslim, part pagan, which will absorb traces of the West 
but not its spirit.

     Even darker outcomes are imaginable. If the new 
society, losing the genius of Western science and 
technology, sinks into poverty and disease, the white 
remnant may be either enslaved or reduced to a minority 
of persecuted pariahs, blamed for the misery of the 
majority. Liberalism's slogans and favored history 
lessons will have no authority -- Hitler will have ceased 
to horrify (if Mao, why not Hitler?) -- and racial 
extermination would no longer be unthinkable.

     I can only say: Read this book if you dare.

Letter to the Editor
(page 4)

Mr. Sobran -- There is another Catholic priest on trial 
in Boston for molesting a boy. This has been going on for 
centuries, demonstrating just how corrupt the Catholic 
Church is. Sure, the Catholic Church used to sweep all of 
this under the rug, protecting the pedophile priests 
instead of the boys. I admire Andrew Greeley for coming 
down hard on the Catholic Church on these matters. What 
if a priest molested your boy, Joe. Would you still 
remain in the Catholic Church?



     If a priest (with the connivance of his bishop) 
betrayed the Church and my son, would I still remain in 
the Church? I hope so. The betrayal of Catholic truth no 
more invalidates that truth than Judas's treachery 
invalidates the Redemption.

     One reason I believe in our Lord is that he is still 
hated after 2000 years. The world has long since forgiven 
Julius Caesar, who killed and tyrannized countless 
people. He is no threat to anyone today; Christ is. In 
the same way, the Catholic Church is still bitterly hated 
by people who no longer care about Stalin or Mao. The 
corrupt clergy "argument" is only applied to Catholics. 
And I never hear Catholics trying to argue that the 
Protestant clergy are all Elmer Gantrys; Protestantism 
doesn't inspire envious insinuations. It's only 
Catholicism that people want to tear down this way. And 
these attacks only reinforce my faith.

     There is a strange psychological need in some men to 
destroy the great and glorious, just as some homosexuals 
are always accusing others of being secretly homosexual. 
If the Church weren't of divine origin, she wouldn't be 
hated this way. People would let her die, without trying 
to kill her.

     Personally, I have never met one of these pedophile 
priests we always hear about nowadays. This is one of the 
world's fashionable slanders against the Church. Every 
generation has a new version.



argues that we *need* military bloat. We never know where 
we may have to fight next, and a stripped-down military 
would be insufficiently ample and mobile to face 
unpredictable challenges. Of course it depends whether 
"we" means a constitutional republic, defending its own 
borders, or a global empire. It's obvious which 
Easterbrook means. An empire never knows who it may have 
to bomb next. (page 4)

THE PAST AND ITS HEIRS: To me the late eighteenth century 
means, above all, Mozart and Burke. Yet I know of no 
reason to believe that they ever heard of each other. 
What a pity, since each, in his way, exemplified a 
civilization that seems to exist only in retrospect! 
Maybe the eighteenth century I revere never existed until 
it was already gone. In the twentieth century Mozart was 
displaced by rap music, Burke by George Will. We can't 
choose our successors. (page 4)

AS FOR ME: I was once called "a worthy successor to C.S. 
Lewis." My first reaction: What an honor! My considered 
reaction: Poor Lewis! (page 9)

SAVING THE QUEEN: The stylish and able historian Lady 
Antonia Fraser has just published a sympathetic biography 
of Marie Antoinette, showing that the poor queen remains 
maligned and misunderstood to this day. She never said 
"Let them eat cake," of course -- one of the many 
slanders her revolutionary tormenters heaped on her (they 
also induced her young son to accuse her of sexual abuse) 
before and after they beheaded her. She was an ordinary 
but decent woman caught in a tidal wave of fanaticism. 
(page 10)

FOR FUTURE REFERENCE: The historian Stephen Ambrose has 
been caught plagiarizing. Sort of. In a recent book he 
borrowed a few dozen words from a book by another 
historian; he cited the source in a footnote, but used 
the words verbatim without quotation marks. (page 11)

Exclusive to the electronic version:

ACADEMIC FADS (CONT.): Is there such a thing as genius? 
According to the NEW YORK TIMES, some progressive 
academicians are saying the concept should be abandoned, 
since individual "geniuses" are really just carriers of 
class values. So the four-year-old Mozart, it seems, was 
merely a passive vehicle of bourgeois interests! Which 
proves that whether or not we need the concept of genius, 
we certainly can't do without the concept of imbecility. 

WINTER JUST FLASHES BY: No sooner had we recovered from 
Kwanzaa than it was already Black History Month 


* The Myth of "Limited Goverment" (December 20, 2001)

* Who's the Rat? (December 25, 2001)

* The Curse of Beatlemania (December 27, 2001)

* The Greatest, Joyless (January 1, 2002)

* What Do We Owe the State? (January 8, 2002)

* The Powers That Be (January 10, 2002)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran

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