The Real News of the Month

April-May 2006
Volume 12, Number 4-5

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
Subscription Rates.
   Print version: $44.95 per year. For special discounted 
   subscription offers and e-mail subscriptions see, or call the publisher's office.

Address: SOBRAN'S, P.O. Box 1383, Vienna, VA 22183-1383
Fax: 703-281-6617      Website:
Publisher's Office: 703-255-2211 or
Foreign Subscriptions (print version only): Add $1.25 per
   issue for Canada and Mexico; all other foreign
   countries, add $1.75 per issue.
Credit Card Orders: Call 1-800-513-5053. Allow
   4-6 weeks for delivery of your first issue.


  -> Unknown Unknowns
  -> Publisher's Note
  -> On Fatherhood
  -> The Fog
  -> Joe Sobran Turns Sixty
The Sobran Forum
  -> Otto Scott, 1919-2006 (by Phillipa Scott-Girardi
Nuggets (plus electronic Exclusives)
"Reactionary Utopian" Columns Reprinted in This Issue


Unknown Unknowns
(page 1)

     When President Bush confirmed that he'd authorized 
the National Security Agency to conduct an enormous 
secret program to monitor Americans' telephone calls, as 
reported in USA TODAY, I assumed that this remarkably 
unpopular president had finally taken a fatal step too 
far. Now the American public, already revolted by this 
administration's blunders, crimes, lies, scandals, 
domestic surveillance, deficits, et cetera, would roar 

     It soon appeared not. In fact, a poll the day after 
the story appeared found that most Americans, including 
many who generally disapprove of Bush's job performance, 
accepted the program as a legitimate "national security" 
measure to contain terrorism.

     As Bush told it, no laws were broken, the 
Constitution wasn't violated, no calls were wiretapped 
without court orders. The NSA was merely studying 
=patterns= of phone calls in the records of three major 
phone companies (a fourth refused to cooperate).

     Innocent people, in short, had nothing to fear. A 
huge, shadowy government agency, known to most of us only 
by its initials (not to be confused with the National 
Security Council, mark you), was merely exercising, 
without telling us, another power we didn't know about. 
That power isn't authorized by the Constitution, but it 
isn't forbidden by it either, and the U.S. Supreme Court 
has permitted similar things in the past, under certain 
conditions, which are being scrupulously observed by the 
NSA. Possible abuses aren't worth worrying about.

     Big government is just a wee bit bigger than we 
knew, that's all. But then, we're also more secure than 
we knew. No telling how many terrorist plots the NSA has 
foiled! And no telling how much it has cost the taxpayer 
to collect untold volumes of useless information. But 
that's not for us to know either.

     As long as most of us support our government, that's 
what counts. And of course we do support it, without 
knowing quite what it is now. We are assured it's a 
democracy, responding to our needs (as it defines them) 
and under our control.

     What? Your civics teacher didn't explain this to 
you? Well, the old civics books may be a little out of 
date. As Donald Rumsfeld has explained, there are some 
things about our enemies that are known, and some that 
are unknown, and the latter can be further broken down 
into the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns.

     I suppose the same is true about our rulers. We know 
a lot about what they do, and we also realize that a lot 
more than we know is concealed from us. In the case of 
the NSA it happens that some of the unknown unknowns have 
come to light. But countless unknowns remain.

     The film UNITED 93 is being hailed for showing and 
celebrating the courage of the passengers on a hijacked 
airliner on September 11, 2001, who immediately fought 
back against the terrorists. But who will fight back 
against those who have hijacked our country?

Publisher's Note
(page 2)

Dear Reader,

     This month's issue is double the size of a regular 
SOBRAN'S -- twice the size and I hope twice the treat for 
fans of Joe Sobran. This combination April-May issue 
contains two timeless classics: "The Fog" from the CENTER 
JOURNAL (Summer 1982); and "On Fatherhood" from HUMAN 
LIFE REVIEW (Spring 1978). Twelve of Joe's recent 
"Reactionary Utopian" columns are also inside.

     With this issue we introduce a new feature, "The 
Sobran Forum." Joe Sobran and the newsletter lost a good 
friend in May. Otto Scott, a distinguished writer and 
eloquent speaker, died just shy of his 89th birthday. We 
are printing an article in "The Sobran Forum" by his 
daughter Phillipa, who told us that Otto used to send her 
copies of SOBRAN'S with key passages underlined. I am 
happy to report that Otto returned to his Catholic faith 
in the final weeks of his life, receiving the Last Rites 
of the Church.

     You can expect the unexpected in SOBRAN'S, and count 
on something extra each time we appear in your mailbox. 
This month, I am pleased to announce the release of our 
newest publication: REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME: 
hundreds of pithy quotes from Joe that appeared in 
SOBRAN'S over the past five years -- several are featured 
throughout this very special issue.

     REGIME CHANGE is available at =no= charge for all 
renewals to SOBRAN'S. It is a sequel to ANYTHING CALLED A 
REACTIONARY UTOPIAN (now out of print). It fits easily 
into a shirt pocket or a purse and can be a welcome gift 
to a fellow traveler or serve as a treasure trove of 
opinions to annoy your left- (and right-) wing friends.


     Welcome to our new subscribers! We are in the midst 
of a subscription drive and have recruited many new 
readers. Perhaps you would like to sign up a friend or 
colleague now and take advantage of the special offers we 
are giving for new subscribers? See the enclosed "Gift 
Subscription" flyer for details.

     If you are looking for a lively speaker, why not 
consider booking Joe Sobran? He recently was a panelist 
in a forum in Washington, D.C. And he traveled to 
Michigan to give two talks and do a TV appearance for 
John Mangopolous's program, THE BATTLE OF IDEAS.

     Every month there are important enclosures in 
SOBRAN'S, including renewal notices and special items on 
sale. Other timely announcements can be found at our 

     In addition to a subscription drive, we are engaging 
in a fundraising campaign to raise much-needed funds to 
further the ideas and influence of this inspirational 
newsletter. I hope you will consider a donation to 
SOBRAN'S to help us grow.

     Above all, can I count on your prayers for Joe 
Sobran's success and that of the newsletter?

     Thanks for being a loyal reader of SOBRAN'S!

Fran Griffin

Correction: In the February SOBRAN'S in an article on the 
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, the phone number listed 
was incorrect. One can reach the Foundation by writing to 
P.O. Box 270, Vienna, VA 22183; e-mail:; 703-242-0058; toll-free line: 1-877-
726-0058. Visit the new website for information on the 
Foundation's first book, SHOTS FIRED: SAM FRANCIS ON 

On Fatherhood
(pages 3-7)

     Tocqueville observed that the American father 
enjoyed less respect than his European counterpart, and 
it is commonplace that American popular drama depicts 
Father as a comical and somewhat feckless figure. To be 
sure, there is a great deal of affection for this father, 
and for life with him. Tocqueville thought that on the 
whole the American family was a healthy thing, and he 
thought the informality between fathers and sons allowed 
a degree of warmth less easy to achieve in Europe.

     Perhaps nothing separates us from the older European 
experience so much as this. Our own ancestors might sing 
of the "Faith of Our Fathers," but that kind of 
veneration is difficult for us to feel toward =our= 
fathers. It is hard for most of us even to imagine the 
awe formerly inspired by patriarchs -- Abraham, King 
Lear, Old Karamazov are nearly as alien to us as 
Confucius. Patronyms -- Odysseus Laertides, Nikita 
Sergeivitch -- are all but incomprehensible. A last name 
among us is not a symbol of tribal identity, any more 
than a first name is an honorific link with a patron 
saint. Pop Freudianism had a great vogue here, but 
Oedipal theory never had much resonance: the typical 
American father problem is not an oppressive atavistic 
presence brooding over the weak psyche, but simply the 
absence of the father.

     American boys are supposed to be trained for 
independence. This is making a virtue of necessity. They 
are going to be independent anyway. By their mid teens 
they are too mobile and, often, too wealthy to be 
controlled. What can the American father threaten to do 
to his disobedient son? Precious little -- for there is 
little he can withhold. Fathers may be important 
formative influences, but they are not terribly important 
as sources of identity and status. The American father 
bequeaths no title, no tribal authority, and very little 
property. We are a nation of self-made men, and most sons 
can acquire much more than they have any prospect of 

     Moreover, we have no powerful tribal traditions to 
speak of. Social authority is, as the sociologists say, 
bureaucratized, rationalized, made abstract and 
functional. Genealogy does not connect us to any fount of 
sacredness. There is little motive to revere a father, or 
any other human being: the very words "reverent" and 
"pious" are apt to be a bit derisive; to call a book 
"irreverent" is to recommend it, not to censure it. We 
worry very little about what our ancestors might have 
thought about us: we fear the judgment not of our 
fathers, but of our children; not of the past, but of the 
future. This has given a strange new meaning to the word 
"history." The admonitory rhetorical question we ask 
ourselves is now something like "What will history say?" 
Conservative societies worry about betraying a heritage: 
a liberal one worries about betraying a hypothetical 

     The sense that the nature of things is not fixed and 
can be remade inevitably changes our conception of 
everything, including time. The past ceases to be 
something to be cherished and commemorated; tradition 
becomes "the dead hand of the past," rather than 
something in which we jointly participate with 
antecedents and posterity. Continuity no longer is felt 
as a moral and metaphysical urgency. Conventional 
presumptions become disreputable prejudices. A holiday 
becomes an occasion of indulgence rather than of 
holiness; as when we shift an honored president's 
birthday for our convenience. After all, the whole idea 
of honoring something is that we are willing to be 
inconvenienced by the duty of paying our respects: and by 
decreeing that Washington was born on a Monday we really 
cease to honor him.

     The point of all this is not to condemn the changes, 
but simply to point out that they have occurred, and that 
they have resulted in certain losses, which may or may 
not be justified by the gains. One way or the other, we 
should be conscious of what we are doing and undergoing.

     Margaret Mead has pointed out that the capacity for 
childbearing gives women a built-in social role, while a 
corresponding role must be invented for men. For women, 
as Freud notoriously remarked, "biology is destiny"; 
while men, in Sartre's phrase, are "condemned to be 
free." Motherhood is a biological role, and every society 
has it, but fatherhood is a social role which every 
society must reinvent. As a result, there are great 
variations in male roles. Some primitive societies don't 
even recognize that copulation is the cause of 
reproduction, and the role of men varies accordingly. Our 
society increasingly repeals the causal link between 
coitus and birth, and this too has changed the meaning of 
sex -- and the experience of what it means to be either a 
man or a woman. Women too are free now; whether condemned 
or privileged to be free, free they are.

     The conventions of fatherhood have enormously 
intricate consequences. In most societies the paternal 
line has been the source of the individual's (which is to 
say the individual man's) rank. Military and economic 
achievement have been the main modes of achieved rank, 
but even these achievements have usually proved to some 
extent hereditary. Men have often been able to claim 
glory by tracing themselves back to some glorious 
ancestor -- even a god. Lines of descent have at times 
loomed large even in egalitarian America, particularly in 
New England -- where, ironically, an "upstart" line like 
the Kennedys has now been transmuted into an aristocracy.

     Not only honor, but disgrace may be attached to 
bloodlines. Bastardy has been a matter of shame in many 
societies -- mostly, I think, in middle-class societies, 
where it has been uncommon, thanks to a broad and 
universally applied standard of sexual morality to which 
all are expected to conform. In aristocratic societies, 
where ranks vary widely and there are sexual as well as 
other social privileges, it is treated more 
matter-of-factly. And where rank is hereditary, as Samuel 
Johnson noted, it is accepted on all sides as accidental 
without strong moral implications. A nation of self-made 
men tends to be a moralistic nation. More accurately, it 
tends to be moralistic about individuals rather than 
about classes. Americans tend to resist the idea of 
making judgments about classes, because they like to deny 
that classes really exist. This means not only social and 
economic strata, but tribes, races, and, in a sense, even 
sexes. In the quasi-official American ideology, only 
individuals -- "citizens" -- really exist, and the model 
of free and equal citizens supplants collectivities in 
law and manners. There are no "superiors" here, except 
functionally; and increasingly we address even our bosses 
by their first names, signifying the essential national 

     It is generally overlooked that the great American 
institution is the individual. Of course it is odd to 
talk this way, but that it because we don't think this 
way: the individual, for us, is not an institution, but 
an irreducible fact, isn't he (or she)? But the 
individual is always a physical fact without necessarily 
being a locus of morals and rights. Other societies 
demand the subordination of the individual to any number 
of other things: for most of the human race the 
individual has been only a component of larger social 
realities, and one by no means sanctified with individual 
rights of religious freedom, free speech, unlimited 
sexual freedom, and so forth: the degree of freedom 
enjoyed has always been a function of rank. In many ways, 
of course, this is still true even in America, a fact 
that is a source of endless scandal to mainline 
egalitarians. And so we abound in leveling crusades with 
respect to race, wealth, sex, and age. One philosopher, 
Peter Singer, has argued for a kind of equality for 
animals; though, like those who lowered the voting age, 
he has been forced to draw the line at shrimps.

Race and fatherhood

     Let us consider what in America has become an 
especially touchy matter: race. Since the nineteenth 
century, with the rise of biological and anthropological 
inquiry, race theory has become naturalistic, and the 
concept of race has been broadened and magnified. 
Earlier, however, a race was merely a sort of figure of 
speech, so that Dr. Johnson could refer casually to "the 
race of writers." This made sense when the term meant, 
loosely, a line of descent, including an inherited status 
and occupation.

     In earlier times, a "race," in this sense, was a 
narrow thing, much like a tribe or a nation (from 
"natus," born). It meant something you belonged to by 
birth. A Roman dignitary might trace his ancestry to a 
god. The Hebrews traced theirs to Abraham. Aristocrats 
had proud pedigrees. This kind of membership in a larger 
ancestral group carried with it religion, culture, 
whatever social authority one had, and ascribed traits -- 
positive traits in the eyes of members, mostly negative 
ones in the eyes of outsiders, so that tribal or racial 
cohesiveness had functions it no longer has for most of 
us. The racial prejudices we frown on had their uses too 
-- largely defensive, since life depended to a great 
extent on group survival. As Margaret Mead has observed, 
the fear of miscegenation reflects a sense of the 
precariousness of intricate cultural patterns. It also 
reflects the unsophisticated perceptions of tribes which, 
looking outward, see nonmembers as animal, subhuman, 
because they lack the ritual competence (in Erving 
Goffman's phrase) of members: competence, that is to say, 
in the cultural ways of the group, which the group itself 
erects as its measure of humanity. We now term this 
"ethnocentrism," but it would be unwise to adopt a 
posture of simple condescension to it, since it is based 
on the insight that the capacity for cultural 
participation is the mark of humanity. Ethnocentrism, 
properly speaking, means supposing that there is only one 
test (that of one's own culture) for this capacity.

     So even racial prejudices reflect a positive and 
genuine conservative impulse: the desire to maintain the 
integrity of tribal modes. In simpler times there was a 
certain point in assuming that members of other races 
were threats to this integrity: it was often a simple 
fact. With the rise of individualism and the ideal of 
citizenship, however, prejudices of this kind became 
obsolete as safeguards, and became merely negative 
prejudices "against" rather than obverse of group 
loyalty. Pluralism began by assimilating all groups, so 
long as they ceased affronting each other with open 
claims of superiority and exclusive privilege. Humanity 
ceased being composed largely of "barbarians," 
"foreigners," "savages," and "goyim," and became the 
"human race." The very word "humanity" came to mean 
something positive, an equal-opportunity race, universal, 
with open admissions. Everyone was a member; nobody could 
=not= be a member. The jealous and sacred conditions of 
group membership became discreditable "barriers." 
Hereditary blessings became unfair "accidents of birth." 
In a sense, Hitlerism was a desperate and monstrous last 
stand for genealogical triumphalism: hence the violence 
of its appeal and opposition at a historical watershed.

     What all this means is that fatherhood -- and by 
extension descent -- no longer confers authority. One's 
line no longer vouchsafes special dignity or access to 
truth; no longer commands loyalty; is no longer a 
legitimate source of pride. One may be "proud of his 
heritage," but that really means that he needn't be 
ashamed of it, rather than that he may vaunt himself 
above others on account of it. And as social welfare 
undertakes the material responsibilities for child care, 
the old necessity for fathers is considerably weakened.

Feminism and individualism

     If lineage, particularly on the father's side, is no 
longer sacred, there is no obvious reason why fathers 
should have special authority regarding children. A new 
verb, "parenting," expresses the desexing of parental 
roles. Perhaps the most vivid illustration of how far the 
father has fallen is the fact that it is now unnecessary 
for a woman to obtain the consent of her child's father 
before having it aborted -- no matter whether she is 
married or not. Many feminists hold that she has no 
obligation to inform him of her decision to abort. Apart 
from the question whether the child has any rights, this 
raises a question of justice concerning the father. 
Assume that abortion is perfectly justified in every 
case: does it follow that the man should be obliged to 
support a child whose very existence is no longer his 
responsibility? Is the decision that he shall be 
compelled to subsidize a biological accident to be made 
by someone other than himself?

     The answer to these questions is by no means 
obvious, though ceteris paribus, it would seem that he 
should have some say, if not over whether a woman 
undergoes an elective abortion, then over the 
consequences to himself. There is at least an obvious 
inconsistency between holding that a fetus is merely part 
of a woman's body, hers to dispose of at will, and 
holding simultaneously that her will may impose on him 
the obligation to act as if it were partly =his= body. 
Grant that she may control her own body; may she also 
control his? Should her biology be his destiny? She is 
free to abort; what is he free to do? So far the autonomy 
of the woman in this area seems not to coexist with an 
equal autonomy for the man: his succumbs and falls into 
the orbit of hers. Apparently the feminists would say to 
the man what anti-abortionists have said to the woman: 
"You should have controlled your own body at the critical 
moment; having failed to do so, you must pay the natural 
consequence." The woman decides, not only whether she 
shall be a mother, but whether he shall be a father. By 
depositing a small quantity of semen he has to a degree 
subjugated himself to her will.

     All kinds of counterarguments are conceivable; but 
they come oddly from the kind of individualist credo that 
justifies feminism and especially the right to abort in 
the first place. If the fetus has no individual value 
beyond what the mother chooses to give it, then the 
father evidently should have no more responsibilities 
than he has rights. He is otherwise in almost the 
opposite position from the Roman paterfamilias, who had 
discretion to kill even a full-grown child without legal 
penalty. Whatever such a system may be called, it is not 
one of individual liberty.

     As so often happens, the new feminism has gone from 
demanding equal rights to demanding special prerogatives; 
in a word, privileges. Of course all demands for 
privilege in modern America are made in the name of 
equality, and especially in the name of rectifying past 
wrongs, but that hardly means that what is demanded is 
not privilege. In an odd way, the new feminism represents 
not only the flowering of individualism, but even, in 
some respects, the resurgence of tribalism.

     Feminists nowadays are in the habit of talking as if 
women's suffrage and other rights had been wrested from 
men by force. But this is hardly plausible. It was, after 
all, men who voted to let women vote. Nor was this an act 
of sheer magnanimity (or chivalry) on the part of men. 
Women's suffrage was resisted by as many women as men (as 
the Equal Rights Amendment is), because it was rightly 
perceived not so much as a shift of half the political 
power from one sex to the other, as a fundamental 
alteration in the principle of social organization. 
Previously men had been the legal heads of families, even 
if few of them had any great social stature outside the 
family. It was the father who, like the shadow of the 
tribal paterfamilias, voted on behalf of the family, as 
its virtual representative in public affairs. The reason 
women were given the vote was not that people decided 
that men were violating women's rights and interests; if 
men had been conspiring against women with any 
determination, after all, they would hardly have chosen 
to enfranchise them. The real reason was that it was 
generally felt to be a kind of indignity to women as free 
and rational adults for them to be represented by others, 
even their own husbands. And a man who voted to let his 
wife vote did not consider that he was freeing her from 
his bondage; he thought that he was simply honoring her 
individuality. The sexes were not at war, and there were 
no demands for reparations in the form of "affirmative 
action." Such notions of sex as a relevant factor in 
public life were actually being filtered out: women's 
suffrage was a modernizing movement, an act of 
"differentiation" that separated biological identity from 
political identity. The "little woman" became a 
full-fledged "citizen."

     This is an important distinction between the old 
feminism and the new kind, which tends to emphasize 
sexual identities to the detriment of men. The old was 
Protestant and individualist, abstracting political 
"souls" from feminine bodies. The new, while still driven 
by many of the same ideals, also has a more Jewish 
flavor, and hence a quasi tribalism. Even the epithet 
"pig," never a typical symbol in Protestant invectives 
(except Milton's) expresses this element. Nor are 
collective derogations in the Protestant mode. Catholic 
women too (especially disaffected Catholics) are in 
evidence; like Jewish women, many of them have a 
generalized resentment against men and the subjection of 
women to the role of childbearers. Big families are 
disappearing in America: people of all three faiths now 
regard familial satisfactions as less important than 
individual ones. It takes considerable nerve, bordering 
on gall, to insist that sexual intercourse -- what 
Catholic moral theology calls "the conjugal act," because 
it constitutes the sacrament of matrimony -- must be 
"ordered to procreation." To say such a thing is to 
blaspheme against that American god, the individual.

Individualism and independence

     It is not mere flippancy or derision to speak of the 
individual as a "god." This does not mean that the 
individual has any supernatural powers, merely that he is 
a locus of value, an "ultimate term" in our rhetoric (to 
use Richard Weaver's phrase). Many of the forceful terms 
in our public discourse refer to the model of the freely 
choosing individual: autonomy, self-determination, 
liberation, and so forth. In this sense we might say that 
sexual intercourse is now, so to speak, "ordered to 
autonomy," to the "fulfillment" of the participating 
individuals. Some would say that we are merely hedonistic 
-- that sex is really ordered to pleasure. But this would 
be to oversimplify, because pleasure too is ordered to, 
and justified in terms of, autonomy.

     It is not the rise of women that has weakened 
paternal authority, but the rise of the individual. If 
men wanted full power over women and children, they could 
probably have it. But, on the contrary, they have 
systematically -- and for the most part willingly -- 
forsaken it; because they recognize the principle of 
autonomy as sovereign; as universal; as their own. 
Accepting it, they have accepted the consequences. Men 
qua men have abdicated. Nobody has forced them to do so; 
the fact needn't be deplored, but it should be 
acknowledged, along with the reason they have abdicated. 
It has been virtually a religious process, a progressive 
subordination of traditional male authority to a 
charismatic principle. And of course many people think 
that men themselves are better off for the changes.

     America has a long tradition of declarations of 
independence, and few Americans want to be George III. 
This has meant a long succession of social fissions in 
the name of liberty (under whatever synonym). But finally 
the governing principle (what Weaver calls the 
"tyrannizing image") has been the individual. In America 
even collectivity movements, if they are to gain a large 
following, must appeal to individualism. The 
anti-abortion movement itself has adopted the language of 
individual rights rather than the terminology of the 
"integrity of the conjugal act" that one would expect if, 
as its foes insist, it were a "reactionary" Catholic 

     The notion that one's individual being may inhere in 
larger social bodies, or that one must subordinate 
himself to an order of reality larger than the individual 
self, is increasingly hard for Americans even to grasp, 
let alone take seriously. Even the science of sociology 
remains suspect here by its very nature, because it views 
people under the aspect of more or less predictable 
classes rather than as free (and hence unpredictable) 
individuals. The sociologist had his own answer: as 
Talcott Parsons has put it, modern society has 
"institutionalized" individualism. One proof of this is 
that less modernized societies than our own, like 
Vietnam, Russia, and Brazil, have in their various ways 
rejected the autonomous individual we have tried to 
propagate among them as a bit of foreign tissue.

     This is surely an interesting fact -- and, from the 
viewpoint of the individualist ideology, an odd one. We 
have been taught by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and perhaps 
Kant and Mill to think of the individual as the "natural" 
unit of society. How is it that less advanced -- and 
presumably more "natural" -- societies have been less 
hospitable to this unit? The reason is that the 
autonomous individual is not a reality in any "state of 
nature" yet discovered. On the contrary, primitive 
societies are nearly always authoritarian (and 
male-dominated). Individualism is a late bloom of 
civilization. It is only when a society is highly refined 
and sophisticated that it can entertain individual 
"rights" sustained by the entire social structure. The 
state-of-nature philosophers themselves were creatures of 
remarkably advanced cultures. It was only when the 
private contract had been long established that men could 
imagine that all of society had its origin in a "social 

     Individualism did not antedate civilization. It is 
the froth of civilization. Of course everyone professes 
to know better than Locke that such a state never existed 
in nature. (Actually Hobbes had admitted as much.) But, 
just as fundamentalists and literal interpretations of 
the Bible have given way not to simple unbelief but to a 
rarefied liberal Christianity, with theologians like 
Rudolf Bultmann distilling a Christian essence from the 
residue of facticity, so modern individualism continues 
to hold that somehow the individual is "real" and society 
merely "conventional."

     But of course this is a fatal reduction. The 
interrelations of individuals (which is all that 
"society" means) are as real as the existence of 
individuals. Indeed, no individual could exist unless at 
least two other individuals had interacted biologically; 
and hardly one could have survived without the systematic 
support of others. Most important, no one can have 
"rights" unless others recognize, respect, and defend 
such rights. There can be no genuine right that does not 
presuppose a viable social order.

     In a sense, abortion is the test of individualism. 
If we realize that every individual is essentially 
dependent on society, we can construct (or rather 
perfect) a social order that fosters genuine individual 
rights. But the doctrine that the genetically unique 
human being in the womb may be killed at another's whim, 
however this doctrine is disguised in the rhetoric of 
liberty or self-determination for those others, is a 
false and self-contradictory conception of freedom. It is 
like speaking of the liberty of the slaveowner. It really 
means privilege: the "right" under law of one person to 
violate the right of another.

     One test of a right, after all, is whether it can be 
universalized and reconciled with other rights. The 
"rights" asserted by the new feminism seem to have been 
formulated willfully, without consideration either for 
those of fetuses, whose humanity is denied, or for those 
of fathers, whose humanity is, however grudgingly, 
admitted. The phrase "women's rights" means more than it 
purports to mean. Most people assume that it means simply 
the extension of human rights to women, when in fact it 
means the extension of special rights to women as a 
privileged class -- at the expense, if need be, of the 
rights of others outside that class. Hence this feminism 
is not altogether in Parsons's language a universalist 
movement, but a regression to particularism. Its rhetoric 
is progressive and humanitarian, but its substance is 
reactionary and anti-human. It makes unqualified claims 
for self-serving values without regard for the competing 
claims of other values, or the rights of other people. 
And the best evidence of its essential inconsistency and 
even hypocrisy is its on-again, off-again 
admission/denial of the relation between a man and his 

     In a sense, there is no turning back from 
individualism. Civilized people have recognized that we 
are all related to each other, and that each is therefore 
special by virtue of membership in the whole. It may be 
wearisome to repeat that no man is an island, and it may 
seem fresh and daring to assert that every woman is an 
island; but a philosophy that denies even the most 
intimate of human relations -- those among spouses, 
parents, and children -- is hardly a philosophy of the 
sacredness of responsibility, not only in its derogation 
of duty, but in its indifference to the things that 
really do make people respond to each other morally: 
love, the sense that a part of one's self is invested in 
others who are close to one. Human dignity means not that 
everyone is important to himself, but that he is likely 
to be -- and ought to be -- precious to someone besides 
himself. One of the evil things about abortion (as we are 
often reminded) is that it arises, in many cases, from 
the dereliction of men who don't want to be fathers. 
Surely it is no remedy to weaken the rights of men who 

This essay originally appeared in HUMAN LIFE REVIEW 
(Spring 1978) and was reprinted in the book SINGLE 

The Fog
(pages 8-9)

     Now and then one comes across a passage in an old 
book that seems to leap off the page to address the 
present. I recently happened across this one in G.K. 

           There are two things, and two things 
      only, for the human mind, a dogma and a 
      prejudice. The Middle Ages were a rational 
      epoch, an age of doctrine. Our age is, at its 
      best, a poetical epoch, an age of prejudice. 
      A doctrine is a definite point; a prejudice 
      is a direction....
           It is not merely true that a creed unites 
      men. Nay, a difference of creed unites men -- 
      so long as it is a clear difference. A 
      boundary unites....
           It is exactly the same with politics. 
      Our political vagueness divides men, it does 
      not fuse them. Men will walk along the edge of 
      a chasm in clear weather, but they will edge 
      miles away from it in a fog. So a Tory can 
      walk up to the very edge of Socialism, =if he 
      knows what is Socialism.= But if he is told 
      that Socialism is a spirit, a sublime 
      atmosphere, a noble, indefinable tendency, 
      why, then he keeps out of its way; and quite 
      right, too. One can meet an assertion with 
      argument; but healthy bigotry is the only way 
      in which one can meet a tendency.... Against 
      this there is no weapon at all except a rigid 
      and steely sanity, a resolution not to listen 
      to fads, and not to be infected by diseases.

     I think this perfectly catches the plight of the 
orthodox in our own day. All the new enthusiasms, so 
baffling at first, turn out to be elaborate evasions. 
What looks like an unfortunate ambiguity turns out to be 
a willful equivocation. For while you ought to apologize 
for failing to understand the new theological, political, 
or cultural savant, finally it dawns on you that he has 
been intent on confusing you all along. His vagueness is 
not an accident, but a strategy.

     A familiar example is the campaign for legal 
abortion. At first the reformers wanted to sound as if 
they deplored abortion as much as anyone, but thought the 
way to contain its evil effects was to legalize it and 
thereby put it under the standards of public hygiene. 
Soon, however, they had attained legalization, and began 
expressing doubts as to whether we could even say that 
abortion was wrong. And finally they demanded that 
abortion be accepted as a "basic constitutional and human 
right." Their doctrine has shifted; their direction has 
remained constant.

     Abortion foes have been accused of stridency and 
bigotry for predicting that legalizing abortion would 
lead to legalizing infanticide and euthanasia, but they 
have been vindicated by events. The once furtive practice 
of allowing defective infants to die (usually by 
starvation) has begun to peep forth to seek -- and obtain 
-- the sanction of the courts. A movement for euthanasia 
has already begun.

     All this is happening in a moral fog. At each step, 
the new enthusiasts warn us against expecting further 
steps, yet further steps regularly follow. And why not? 
We hear the constantly changing rationales for change, 
but no principle on which we can expect change to stop. 
We are merely told that it is futile, and morally 
reactionary, to "oppose" change.

     The convolutions of casuistry are dizzying. We are 
informed that to outlaw abortion is to impose a religious 
conviction on others, and even that getting an abortion 
is a free exercise of religion, yet we are also informed 
that the public should subsidize abortion. All that is 
clear is that somebody really wants to increase the 
number of abortions by whichever means and arguments will 
serve the purpose.

     The appeal to religious freedom is especially 
audacious. Orthodox people are forbidden to bring their 
doctrines to bear on political and public issues. The 
unorthodox may do so freely. They tell us, for their own 
ends, that abortion is a human right, but they forbid us 
to define a human being.

     It must be said that they have enjoyed tremendous 
success -- not so much in persuading as in confusing and 
demoralizing. If there is even the faint suspicion that a 
human fetus has a soul of its own, an immortal soul, then 
we should be opposing legal abortion with all our might. 
We do not. We are afraid to bring this up. Legal abortion 
can only depend on the dogmatic =denial= of the soul. 
Abortion advocates should be forced to make this denial 
explicit. They are not.

     The orthodox, in short, have allowed their enemies 
to manipulate the terms of the debate. Embarrassing words 
like "soul" were effectively banned years ago, by an 
unwritten rule which both sides still scrupulously 

     I speak of "orthodox" and "unorthodox" rather than 
"Christian" or "anti-Christian." This is another 
concession to the fog. Many of the unorthodox are 
professing Christians, appealing to Christian principles, 
even as the devil cites scripture for his purpose.

     It is the essence of heresy to seize on a piece of 
the truth and magnify it until it cancels out other parts 
and distorts the whole. Freedom of the will (or for that 
matter predestination) can be cited to nullify the claims 
of moral law. Nowadays people typically insist on the 
right to follow their consciences without respect to what 
their consciences may be following, or where they may end 

     The same pattern occurs in American jurisprudence, 
where the Bill of Rights is exalted over the body of the 
Constitution. To many people, in fact, the Bill of Rights 
=is= the Constitution. They think it is self-evidently 
good if the Supreme Court construes the whole 
Constitution in such a way as to "expand" the rights of 
the individual.

     But what individual? The individual as dissident, 
heretic, crank, eccentric, freak, pervert? What about the 
individual we are best acquainted with: the member of 
family, church, workplace, society? The Constitution 
prescribes the social order. To invoke the Bill of Rights 
for the purpose of subverting that order is rather like 
quoting the Bible to subvert the truth of Christianity: 
it is simply perverse. But it is common practice.

     The new enthusiasts are often accused of being 
utopian. I sometimes think this is exactly the wrong 
charge. A utopia is a vision, an intelligible ideal. It 
may be impossible, but at least it must be specific. The 
innovators are just the opposite. They seldom specify. 
They dislike the status quo, and they want change, but 
they give few clues as to when they would stop changing. 
The radical never gives us a hint of the kind of society 
in which he could be a contented conservative.

     Chesterton give us another clue when he speaks of 
"the modern and morbid weakness of always sacrificing the 
normal to the abnormal." The contemporary idealist has no 
ideals because, although he is hypersensitive to 
abnormalities (about which we can often agree with him), 
he is usually blind, deaf, and dumb with respect to 
norms. The only ideals he deals with are the animating 
ideals of normal society, and he hates them. He has a 
whole vocabulary of invidious terms of all the epics, 
loyalties, and aims by which ordinary people live.

     The Protestant Reformation was begun by people who 
wanted to remove what they saw as specific corruptions of 
Christendom, so that the Christian faith could be whole 
again. But there was another kind of spirit that arose 
too -- a spirit of perpetual discontent, that could never 
say that its work was accomplished until the faith was 
purified into annihilation. C.S. Lewis observed that 
certain liberal strains of Christianity could never 
convert the heathen, because they were a way out of 
orthodoxy, not a way in.

     The observation has a broader application to all of 
contemporary culture: it is infested by people who are 
bent on destroying the West, whether they know it or not.

This essay originally appeared in CENTER JOURNAL (Summer 
1982) of Notre Dame University, Indiana.

Joe Sobran Turns Sixty
(pages 10-11)

These web pages (with photographs from Joe's birthday 
party this past February) load pretty quickly for most 
users, but those with dial-up connections should expect 
to have to be patient.


Otto Scott, 19182006
by Phillipa Scott-Girardi
(page 12)

     Otto Joseph Scott, born Otto Scott-Estrella Jr., age 
87, passed away peacefully on May 5, 2006, in Issaquah, 
Washington. Mr. Otto Scott was a journalist, editor, 
columnist, book reviewer, corporate executive, and author 
DECKER. His articles and essays have appeared in numerous 
publications, including the LOS ANGELES TIMES, SAN DIEGO 

     Mr. Scott was an Associate Scholar for the American 
Council on Economics and Society, and a member of the 
Council on National Policy, Philadelphia Society, 
Committee for Monetary Research and Education, the 
Author's Guild, and the Overseas Press Club. He is the 
recipient of the George Washington Medal from the Freedom 
Foundation (1976) and the John Newman Edwards Media Award 

     From 1998 to 2004, Mr. Scott was a "scholar in 
residence" at the Tri-City Covenant Church in 
Somersworth, New Hampshire, where he provided historical 
insight to the school and church staff and assisted in 
Sunday School instruction, high-school history, and Bible 
and economics courses.

     John Chamberlain, writing in THE FREEMAN stated, 
"From a libertarian point of view, Otto Scott is 
America's most exciting contemporary historian and 
biographer." The WALL STREET JOURNAL said, "Otto Scott is 
the thinking man's author for the Bicentennial." And Dr. 
Hans Sennholz, past president of the Foundation for 
Economic Education says, "Without OTTO SCOTT'S COMPASS, 
this Foundation would be devoid of an important 
philosophical guide."

     Mr. Scott is one of a great many Americans who are 
well-known to a special audience, but unknown to the 
nation at large. His ideas and concepts have had a way of 
filtering through society, very often detached from their 
origin. The phrase "the Silent Majority" is one such 
example. But not many know that this phrase was coined by 
Otto Scott.

     While Mr. Scott made a living from his corporate 
biographies, his fame was achieved from his thorough 
knowledge of history and poetic use of language. Mr. 
Scott was also the author of OTTO SCOTT'S COMPASS, a 
monthly journal of contemporary culture which ran for 15 
years and was widely read by well-known conservatives.

     Though his work has proceeded without fanfare, it 
had not gone unnoticed. Of the past, he has commented, "I 
do not regard the past as dead. On the contrary, I regard 
the past and the present and even the future as part of 
an eternal reality. Ours are the same tests and crises 
that our fathers and forefathers encountered: all I do is 
remind my contemporaries that Eternity watches us 

     Otto is survived by his daughters, Katherine Anne 
Scott-Estrella, residing in Tucson, Arizona; Mary Nazelle 
Crispo, residing in Brooklyn, New York, grandson 
Alexander Widen; Phillipa Scott-Girardi (Stephen 
Girardi), residing in South Orange, New Jersey, grandsons 
Gabriel Molina and Matthew Girardi; and Ann Elizabeth 
Scott-Hugli (Hans A. Hugli), residing in Sammamish, 
Washington, grandchildren, Roxane Sri Hugli and Alexander 
Philip Hugli. Otto Scott was preceded in death by his 
wife of 34 years, Anna Barney Scott, in August 1997.

     Otto Scott is buried at Gethsemane Catholic 
Cemetery, Federal Way, Washington.

Phillipa Scott-Girardi is an international management 
consultant based in South Orange, New Jersey.

     "We are living at a time when public knowledge of 
the past is fading from view, except among largely unread 
specialists. History, which is, technically, the study of 
the past, has until fairly recently been treasured 
because of the lessons it contains. As this knowledge 
diminishes in general terms, it is gradually draining 
everyday lives. If this trend continues unchecked, it 
will render the lives of our children and grandchildren 
empty and barren."
                                            -- Otto Scott
                                   THE COMPASS, May 1994


For liberals, the Constitution as written is boring old 
music. They want the Court to play ingenious new 
variations on it, jazzing it up with penumbras and 
emanations until it sounds like a totally different work, 
one they can really dig. (page 7)
                     -- from REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME

The conservative movement, as it exists today, could have 
taught the old Communists a thing or two about purges. 
When "neoconservatism" comes, principled conservatism 
goes. (page 16)
                     -- from REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME

To complain that a free economy favors the rich is like 
complaining that free speech favors the eloquent. 
(page 17)
                     -- from REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME

Let's put it this way: you don't hear the word 
"usurpation" in Congress for the same reason you don't 
hear the word "fornication" in Las Vegas. When a vice 
becomes popular and profitable, it loses its proper name. 
(page 20)
                     -- from REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME

Today it is easier to imagine the editors of NATIONAL 
REVIEW attending a Bruce Springsteen concert than reading 
Edmund Burke. (page 22)
                     -- from REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME

REPRINTED COLUMNS ("The Reactionary Utopian")
(pages 13-24)

* Apologies to the Swedes (May 18, 2006)

* President Disastro (May 11, 2006)

* Bush's Place in History (May 9, 2006)

* Blaming Bush (May 4)

* Apocalypse Now? (April 27, 2006)

* Bush's Misgovernment (April 25, 2006)

* Free Speech in the Nominal Democracy (April 20, 2006)

* War and Faith (April 18, 2006)

* Shakespearean Masterpiece (April 13, 2006)

* As November Approaches (April 11, 2006)

* The Philosopher and the Fossils (April 6, 2006)

* Jesus' Government (April 4, 2006)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran, except where
explicitly noted.

You are receiving this message because you are a paid 
subscriber to the Joe Sobran column or a subscriber has 
forwarded it to you.

If you are not yet a subscriber, please see
for details or call 800-513-5053.

Copyright (c) 2006 by the The Vere Company, All rights reserved.

[ ENDS ]