By: Mark Glennon*
John Kass of the Chicago Tribune is one of maybe three consistently right-of-center columnists in all of Illinois, and certainly the most widely read, so it was only a matter of time before the mob tried to off him.
Now we have it, from the Chicago Tribune Guild, which is that newspaper’s union. It’s perhaps the most vicious effort to date in the cancel culture’s assault on journalism, and it’s based on a charge that’s entirely fabricated.
Kass wrote last week about the growing sense of lawlessness in urban areas, focusing on the connections between soft-on-crime prosecutors and the political donations that helped elect them from billionaire George Soros.
Yawn. Old story, you might think. Anybody following American politics has, for several years, seen a very long list of news stories and commentary in media of all political stripes across the nation about those Soros contributions, which are thoroughly documented. And Kass was hardly the first to address the obvious question about the connection between those prosecutors’ work and the surge in violent crime.
But it wasn’t lack of originality that the Tribune union alleged. It was Kass’s “odious, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that billionaire George Soros is a puppet master controlling America’s big cities.” Kass’s message, the Guild wrote in a letter to all staff, “does not deserve a mainstream voice, especially at a time when hate crimes are rising.”
The Guild went on:
This column from the Tribune’s lead columnist does a disservice to our entire institution, not just the editorial board, for which he nominally works. It undermines the efforts of our newsroom to provide fair and diligent reporting to readers who, we all know, don’t always grasp the distinction between “opinion” and “news.”
We ask that the paper, and Kass separately, apologize for his indefensible invocation of the Soros tropes….
But read Kass’s column. Read it again. It contains nothing whatsoever that says or implies anything remotely like that. It’s entirely about Soros’s contributions and their effect on law enforcement, which obviously are important matters to address.
Among those who have covered the topic before is Commentary, which was founded by the American Jewish Committee and has long had a central focus on “the future of the Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture in Israel, the United States, and around the world.” Anti-Semitic?
Aside from the pure cruelty to Kass and its naked contempt for diversity of opinion, the Guild’s letter is a tragedy for other reasons.
To charge anti-Semitism where there is none dilutes attention to real anti-Semitism, which there’s no shortage of. That includes false charges against Soros. Crank stories about Soros abound on the internet and they often include anti-Semitic, world conspiracy theories. Defeat those by attacking them, not columns that are entirely unrelated, or you will only inflame the conspiracy theorists.
Consider the irony that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is among the prosecutors whose campaign Soros funded – with a whopping $333,000. It’s not irony, actually, but consistency.
It’s Foxx who let Jussie Smollett off. What most infuriated many about that, especially blacks, was that his made-up story of bigotry detracts from real stories of bigotry. The Tribune Guild is guilty of precisely that, undermining the real fight against real bigotry by concocting a fake one. So much for the mob’s sincerity about bigotry.
Kass has now published his own response to the union’s letter.
Standing ovation to him for dealing with the mob exactly as one should, by not giving in a single inch. From Kass’s response:
I will not apologize for writing about Soros.
I will not bow to those who’ve wrongly defamed me.
I will continue writing my column.
Kass says Tribune management has decided not to take sides on the controversy. That’s a big mistake by the Tribune if true. This is a chance to distinguish itself from the long list of formerly reputable media, from the New York Times on down, that have thrown both their own reputations and the most fundamental standards of journalism to the wind.
Most of Chicago’s beaches are wide open because of the coronavirus shutdown, so the Tribune Guild should have no trouble taking a running jump into Lake Michigan. That’s what they should be told to do.
This article was corrected, in the fifth paragraph, to change “Kass” to “Kass’s message.”
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.