It’s Tuesday and Sobran is still an anti-Semite
Continuing our discussion concerning the invitation to Joseph Sobran to speak Thursday night at the Milwaukee Athletic Club by the pro-business organization Wisconsin Forum, I thought I would share the reactions I’ve received from a few of the Wisconsin Forum Advisory Board members.
Sobran, you may remember, was a former senior editor of National Review before he was forced out when it was determined his writing was anti-Semitic. William F. Buckley Jr made Sobran the opening subject of his “In Search of Anti-Semitism,” an examination of anti-Semitism in politics. Buckley determined that his long-time colleague’s writings were anti-Semitic “in context.”
Since Sobran’s departure from National Review, he has become even more strident in his writing, accusing “Zionists” and “neoconservatives” (i.e. Jews) of “hijacking” the conservative movement to serve Israel. He has also become cozy with Holocaust deniers. (see previous post) Coincidentally, the subject of his proposed speech is, “The Hijacking of the Conservative Movement.”
I have called upon Wisconsin Forum to withdraw their invitation to Sobran. By sponsoring his speech and giving him a platform, they lend legitimacy to his claim to be a part of the conservative movement, and they damage the reputation and the reach of the conservative movement in Wisconsin.
Board member Tim Peterson was the first to respond. Peterson, a Libertarian running for state treasurer, e-mailed,
This is the first I have heard of this. I will look into it.
Libertarian For WI State http://www.timpeterson.com/
I’ll take him at his word, although it concerns me Wisconsin Forum’s “Board of Advisors” seems to be as out of the loop as the Milwaukee Public Museum board of directors.
This profession of ignorance continued in the next e-mail, this time from James T. Barry III (President, Colliers Barry), the chair of the Advisory Board. He takes a moral relativist approach to the news his organization is sponsoring an anti-Semite at the same time washing his hands of any responsibility.
I had no role in selecting Mr. Sobran as a speaker. Nor am I in a position to cancel his speech. My understanding is that Mr. Sobran is speaking on the nature of conservatism — not about the Holocaust or anti-Semitism. The Wisconsin Forum has a tradition of inviting provacative speakers from all points of view, many of whom I strongly disagree with. The fact that we have a controversial speaker does not mean that any of the advisors endorse that person’s point of view. It does mean that our members are interested in hearing a wide range of opinions and, when necessary, challenging those opinions. In any event, I will pass your concern on to those who arranged this event for their consideration.
Barry does not define what limits he would impose (if any) on speakers he would personally disagree with but be interested in hearing what they have to say. Would he oppose the sponsorship of a 9/11 conspiracy theorist? A member of the Communist Party? Ed Garvey? Or is Barry only relativistic about dinner speech topics when it concerns pernicious Jews? I responded accordingly.
As the Chair of the Board of Advisors, shouldn’t you advise? You have a responsibility to advise those who made the decision that inviting an anti-Semite is unacceptable. And should they not accept your advice, I would advise you to resign publicly, stating the reasons why. Because from this point forward, your name is atop the masthead of an organization that sponsored a speech by an anti-Semite. It’s your reputation and your conscience. I don’t know what the organizers of the event are telling you, but Sobran believes (and has written) “Zionists” and Neo-Conservatives “hijacked” the conservative movement. Surely that should make you a little uncomfortable given his declared topic. Decent men have a responsibility not to turn a blind eye to evil. The organization which bears your name at the top has chosen to sponsor evil. Will you live up to the motto of the organization, “Ideas have consequences” or will allow your name and reputation to be sullied by an acquiescence to bigotry?
Finally, one other board member has responded to my challenge, Robert E. Solsrud, the Treasurer of the Wisconsin Forum Advisory Board.
Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will look into it.
I would assume Solsrud might be responsible for writing the check for Sobran’s honorarium, given Solsrud’s organizational title. I would hope he would seriously consider resigning his position rather than so affront his conscience. Given the day’s publicity, I would say there are no more advisory board members ignorant of the moral choice facing them. Each of them are fully responsible for allowing Wisconsin Forum to sponsor an anti-Semitic writer’s trip to Wisconsin and his speech. It’s on their conscience, and it’s their reputations.