After extinguishing reason and fairness at The New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, the cancel cultural enforcers in the profession once called journalism have come after the Chicago Tribune’s premier columnist, John Kass, falsely accusing him of antisemitism.
In his July 22 column, “Something grows in the big cities run by Democrats: An overwhelming sense of lawlessness,” Kass dared to point out an undisputed fact: That billionaire George Soros has financed some of the leftist Democrats running those cities.
While the mayors of those cities are in the spotlight for their destructive policies, Kass wrote, their public prosecutors should not escape attention. They “fly under the radar” as Soros spends “millions of dollars to help elect liberal social justice warriors as prosecutors” to remake the criminal justice system in his mold. To avoid angering their base, such Sorors-funded prosecutors “release violent offenders back into poor neighborhoods to commit other violent acts on poor people.”
His Chicago example was the far-left Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who reportedly received at least $2 million from a Soros-backed political action committee. Foxx, who heartily subscribes to a leftist platform that includes, among other things, prosecuting fewer nonviolent crimes, drew national attention from an independent investigation of her dismissal of a grand jury indictment of Jussie Smollett, the actor charged with falsely staging a racist and homophobic attack.
Nine members of the executive committee of the Chicago Tribune Guild, a union representing Tribune workers, fired off an open letter demanding Kass and the paper apologize for what it called an “indefensible invocation of the Soros tropes.” Kass, it raged, had sullied the paper’s reputation and driven away readers with his “shocking” and “anti-Semitic” column.
Never mind the executive committee themselves already fouled the reputation of the newspaper by joining the swarm of left-wingers who attack co-workers because of their opinions, and worse, grossly misstating those views.
So, what is the “trope” they were enraged by? The far-left regards it as a right-wing conspiracy theory to state Soros does such things as orchestrating and funding the rioters whose violence has shaken America in recent weeks and months. Indeed, leftists have become quite skilled at using the fact that Soros is Jewish to cast even factual discussions of his political activities as antisemitic attacks.
In a startling jump in logic, the executive committee archly averred: “The odious, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that billionaire George Soros is a puppet master controlling America’s big cities does not deserve a mainstream voice, especially at a time when hate crimes are rising.”
Soros’s son, Alexander, piled on, charging Kass with being a tool of a “white supremacy” cabal that blames Jews for urban riots. “The logic is simple,” he wrote, “Those who promote these lies want you to believe that Black and brown people are not smart or strategic enough to organize such actions themselves, so Jews must be pulling the strings. Evil Jewish financiers want to somehow replace white people with supposedly more pliant people of color.”
Yet Kass said or implied nothing of the sort. His column said nothing about Soros’s ethnicity or religion, only his political activities. Anyone who regularly reads his work knows Kass doesn’t believe or traffic in antisemitic conspiracy theories. For supposed journalists dedicated to reporting the facts, the executive committee’s leap into this fanciful conclusion was stunning, unprofessional, and, frankly, just plain stupid.
Cancel culture cronies locally and in the media, however, quickly and mindlessly repeated the smear. So the newspaper acted: Tribune Editor-in-Chief Colin McMahon demoted Kass from the spotlighted landscape of Page 2, where the once legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko roamed, back into the corral where other columnists reside to help “maintain credibility of news coverage.”
McMahon justified the move by saying he had long planned the move of Kass and other columnists appearing in the news section into the editorial section to help readers distinguish between news and opinion. We’re to believe the timing of the move was merely “coincidental.” McMahon didn’t elaborate on whether he agreed with the executive committee that Kass was soiling the paper’s credibility.
Kass is the only conservative columnist who regularly appears in the Tribune. As a voice that is rarely heard in deep blue Chicago, Kass long has received the fisheye from co-workers in the newsroom. So the executive committee’s attack, while unexpected, isn’t too surprising. He also has declined, as is his right, to join the union. His critics did not cite those reasons in their letter, but his conservativism, especially on the cultural side, makes him a tempting target.
Perhaps his critics expected that Kass, like other cancel culture targets, would humbly apologize in the vain hope that the mob would back off. Quite the contrary. In a follow-up column, “What happened to an America where you could freely speak your mind?” Kass wrote:
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 … And I will not soil my name by groveling to anyone in this or any other newsroom.
He detailed examples of newspapers that had similarly pointed out the fact of Soros’ influence but were not accused of antisemitism. “The larger question is not about me,” he wrote, “or the political left that hopes to silence people like me, but about America and its young. Those of us targeted by cancel culture are not only victims. We are examples, as French revolutionaries once said, in order to encourage the others.”
Throughout all this, the Tribune’s management conspicuously and sadly failed to defend its 35-year employee who had started his career there as a copy boy. As Kass pointed out, “Newspaper management has decided not to engage publicly with the union. So I will.”
The response might have surprised the executive committee, who argued that Kass had prompted many readers to criticize the column in “stark terms” and cancel subscriptions. Instead, thousands of readers rose to his defense in emails, social media, and letters to management. His Facebook page was flooded with supportive comments. Because of the ridiculous and unfair treatment of Kass, some threatened to cancel their subscriptions or said they already had.
In another follow-up column, “Thanks for your support, and a recommendation for a movie about false narratives,” he summed up his motivation: “I haven’t been canceled. And I expect to keep writing as long as I can. In the few letters I’ve been able to answer, I’ve been asked, with all that’s gone on, with all the pressure and the trolls, why do I keep on writing? To encourage the others, I say. To encourage the others.”