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John Kass' Column About 'Feral Boys' Is A New Nadir... Even For Him

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 8, 2016 9:37PM

John Kass / Facebook

John Kass' lodestar is provocation—and that has taken the Tribune columnist into some pretty ugly, even quasi-racist territory. But his latest incitement represents a new low.

First off, here's how Kass chose to introduce the column, titled "Murder numbers don't tell the story in Chicago. Shootings do," and published Thursday morning:

"The feral boys of #Chicago with their death sticks, a direct product of the #Democratic welfare state." Just let that rattle around for a second, then try to compose yourself.

As former Chicagoist editor Marcus Gilmer pointed out, "feral" has become a preferred epithet for the alt-right, along the lines of "thug." And "boy," well, that sad, racist history precedes itself. This is, of course, the Trump-ian mode of public communication, borrowing "nationalistic" language and turning the dog whistle into a megaphone. But its familiarity makes it no less virulent.

The piece itself begins right away with more reprehensible language, particularly after mentioning Chicago's undoubtedly awful murder statistics:

"Chicago hit 500 homicides the other day, with more killings this year than in New York and Los Angeles combined. So the magic number made national and international news.

Even the BBC dropped in to tell the tale of Chicago violence, of nihilistic feral boys, brandishing their guns in cars, waving their death sticks in rap videos, young African-American men who believe they have no future, waiting to die."

The documentary referenced by Kass can be seen here. It's quite good. The fact that it left Kass reaching for phrases like "nihilistic feral boys" and "waving their death sticks in rap videos" says more about its author than it does the video.

He goes on, arguing the importance of not differentiating homicides from all shootings and making note of a gruesome video in which an elderly man was shot (which we did too; it's terrible). As Wonkette pointed out in a sharp critique, things then get really bad again toward the end. Kass writes, again using the F word:

"The shooters, these feral young men, aren't an accident. They are the direct product of the Democratic welfare state that helped destroy families. The government became the father, the fathers became irrelevant or were driven off, and black families that had withstood decades of Jim Crow segregation began to collapse.

And that was generations ago."

Then, no statistics, no actual policy consideration, nothing but empty-calorie torment.

Wonkette's full-throated rebuttal is worth a full read, but here's another apt section:

"The problem isn’t systemic racism, decades of redlining and job loss, or poverty in general: The real problem is that those terrible Democrats tried to do something about it. Shame on them for destroying the black family. And for making cops afraid of shooting black kids 16 times.

Now apparently all we need to do is eliminate the few remaining shreds of the social safety net, tell people to get jobs, dammit, and let police Git Tough. And round up those feral boys, of course."

Not surprisingly, Kass was roundly condemned. Also, not surprisingly, Kass lashed out when he should have listened.

The contrast between the nuanced, wide-angle reporting done by Moore, a journalist with DNAinfo, in Englewood and the demonstrated fear-mongering of Kass speaks for itself.

Post-factual race-baiting has been made the new normal in 2016; and now Kass seems all too content to join the worst of the fray. That's the true feral nihilism. And it's especially loathsome when its delivered by a messenger parachuting from the outer suburbs. Notice the location stamp on his tweet: the hard front lines of Berwyn.