Sobran graduated from Eastern Michigan University and received a bachelor's degree in English. He studied for a graduate degree in English, concentrating on Shakespearean studies, following his graduation. In the late 1960s, Sobran spent time lecturing on Shakespeare and English on a fellowship with the university.
In 1972, Sobran started working at William F. Buckley Jr's National Review magazine. (During the 1970s, he frequently used the byline M.J. Sobran.) He stayed twenty-one years, eighteen of them as senior editor, before being removed from the publication amidst controversial charges.
Along with his work at National Review, Sobran spent 21 years as a commentator on the CBS Radio "Spectrum" program series, and is still a syndicated columnist, first with the Los Angeles Times, and later with the Universal Press Syndicate. His newsletter is currently distributed by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, a public relations firm.
Sobran wrote a column for the Catholic newsweekly The Wanderer entitled Washington Watch from 1986 to 2007. He also has a monthly column which appears in Catholic Family News. He writes the "Bare Bodkin" column for Chronicles.
In 2001 and 2003 Sobran spoke at conferences organized by Holocaust denier David Irving. Holocaust denial movement sharing the podium with Sobran included Paul Fromm, Charles D. Provan, and Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review. In 2002 he spoke at the Institute for Historical Review's annual conference.
Sobran was fired from National Review in 1993 and was accused of being an anti-Semite (most notably by Jewish neoconservative writer Norman Podhoretz). Podhoretz wrote that "Joe Sobran's columns ... [are] anti-Semitic in themselves, and not merely 'contextually.'" Buckley disagreed with Podhoretz's accusation, noting that he "deemed Joe Sobran's six columns contextually anti-Semitic. By this I mean that if he had been talking, let us say, about the lobbying interests of the Arabs or of the Chinese, he would not have raised eyebrows as an anti-Arab or an anti-Chinese."
One such comment was that the New York Times "really ought to change its name to Holocaust Update." Sobran claimed that founder William F. Buckley told him to "stop antagonizing the Zionist crowd," and Buckley accused him of libel and moral incapacitation. Sobran also complained of "a more or less official national obsession with a tiny, faraway socialist ethnocracy."
Shortly after Buckley's death, Sobran wrote that the two had reconciled: "My employment ended unhappily, much to my regret now, but I rejoice to say we patched things up a year or so ago."
Through much of his career, Sobran identified as a paleoconservative and supported strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. In 2002, Joseph Sobran announced his philosophical and political shift to libertarianism (paleolibertarian anarcho-capitalism) citing inspiration by theorists Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe. He has referred to himself as a "theo-anarchist."
Sobran says Catholic teachings are consistent with his opposition to abortion and the Iraq War. He also argues that the 9/11 attacks were a result of the U.S. Government's policies regarding the Middle East. He claims those policies are formed by the "Jewish-Zionist powers that be in the United States."
Sobran is the author of many books, including one about William Shakespeare, Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time (1997), where he endorses the Oxfordian theory that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true author of the plays usually attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon.
He is also the author of:
Sobran has produced a number of published articles and speeches, including:
Joseph Sobran is an American journalist who has written extensively on American politics and culture. His columns have been nationally syndicated since 1979, beginning with the Los Angeles Times, then Universal Press, and now Griffin Internet. He also writes for The Wanderer, a weekly Catholic newspaper.