“We value the brand so highly,” says Kassam, who claims that there’s room in conservative media for a publication that mixes a tabloid sensibility with a hearty intellectual diet in every article. The site will do news reporting and opinion with an initial staffing level of eight journalists and a first-year budget of about $1 million, according to Kassam.
“Feisty MAGA types,” he says, should prepare their applications for the new Human Events: The new-look site should be up and running in about a month.
Jonathan Garthwaite of Townhall Media, an affiliate of Salem Media Group, confirmed to the Erik Wemple Blog that the sale closed on Wednesday night.
Human Events is intertwined with the conservative movement in the United States. Founded in 1944, the publication grafted its name from a trustworthy source: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The publication reached peak influence in the 1980s, when longtime subscriber Ronald Reagan took up residence in the White House. Reagan was such a loyal reader that he was known to call or write to the editors to discuss the material, according to author Craig Shirley. So influential were the columns that staffers in the Reagan White House engaged in something of a distribution struggle. Top aides, noted historian Richard Reeves, “did their best each week to keep it out of the reading material they gave the President as he headed up to the living quarters and an evening of television.”
A timeline of Human Events history indicates that Reagan began subscribing to the publication in 1961, a time when the conservative media space was sparsely populated. As the decades wore on, Human Events had to learn to share. Since the arrival of the Internet alone, conservative sites such as the Daily Caller, FoxNews.com, the Blaze, NewsBusters, Independent Journal Review, Breitbart, PJ Media and RedState have jostled and elbowed their way toward a piecemeal fragmentation of the right-leaning U.S. audience.
Human Events couldn’t keep up. It dropped print in 2013, and, according to Kassam, it hasn’t turned out original content in four years, though it has been posting syndicated material from Townhall Media.
The new Human Events, pledges Kassam, will leave the poverty in the past. There will be high-end donors contributing to a nonprofit foundation (Kassam says he’s already courting three such people); there will be solicitations for micro-contributions, a la the Guardian; and there will be subscription content. The buffet business model, says Kassam, means the losses that traditionally pile up at political journals on the right and the left won’t do so at Human Events. “I don’t presume that we will” have losses, says Kassam, who insists that the ventures he helmed in the past have all “made a ton of money. I believe that I am that good,” he says.
Bankrolling the venture is Will Chamberlain, a lawyer who Kassam describes as “independently wealthy” and a fierce social-media supporter of President Trump:
Not one comment yet from Republicans about Michael Cohen violating attorney client privilege or his duty of confidentiality— Will Chamberlain 🇺🇸 (@willchamberlain) February 27, 2019
Come on guys
So will Human Events serve as a cheering section for President Trump? “Pro-Trumpism,” says Kassam. “Sometimes Trump isn’t for Trump.” Kassam and Chamberlain — both in their 30s — agree that the site will stick up for the positions that carried Trump to victory in the 2016 presidential campaign. “That’s where I’ve been for almost a decade now, intellectually,” says Kassam.
Does that adherence extend to Trump’s attacks on the media? “I don’t feel like the media is the ‘enemedia.’ I’m not pugilistic about it,” says Kassam, who nonetheless foresees a “Fake News Awards” gala in the future of Human Events.
Kassam, a native of London, left Breitbart in May 2018. The break came months after former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, who’d brought Kassem to the site in 2014, resigned his own position at Breitbart, a move precipitated when his typically edgy remarks surfaced in the popular book by Michael Wolff, “Fire and Fury.” Though Bannon and Kassam have been close, Kassam says he wouldn’t allow the fiery populist to get “anywhere near” his relaunched Human Events.
“Steve takes proprietary control over everything he touches. And that’s his way because he’s that kind of guy — he takes ownership of things,” says Kassam, who once served as an adviser to former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage.
While at Breitbart, Kassam backed Trump with patented Breitbartian bravado. After a woman named Jessica Leeds spoke out in December 2017 about an alleged sexual assault by Trump in the 1980s, Kassam said this on a Breitbart radio show: “The president is married to Melania Trump, one of the most beautiful and elegant women in the world. Jessica Leeds — uh, uh, looks like a, well I don’t want to be cruel. She doesn’t look like somebody that Donald Trump would hit on, grope, prey upon. Even her old pictures . . . 30 years ago when she’s claiming this exists. This doesn’t add up, this won’t stack up to people in their minds. Knowing what they know about President Trump is that he is to some extent a person who likes appearances, who likes good appearances. . . . He likes things glam. Jessica Leeds doesn’t look too glam to me.”
Asked whether he stands by such thinking — misogyny, actually — Kassam responds, “I get my looks attacked all the time as well.”
Kassam is author of “No Go Zones: How Sharia Law Is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You,” a book that addresses a controversial term that got a great deal of rotation in the aftermath of the January 2015 Paris terrorist attack on the offices of satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. Chatter drifted toward so-called “no-go zones,” allegedly Muslim-dominated areas in France and other countries where sharia law prevailed and authorities feared to tread. Fox News apologized for lending credence to the no-go zone story. Kassam’s book defined the zones as areas “in which the authorities find it difficult to govern as they would govern the rest of the nation,” as the author told the Erik Wemple Blog. He also noted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a statement supporting his reporting.
Such editorial sensibilities will make the new Human Events distinct from its competitors. One of those will be the new site — “an independent conservative media company that resists partisan boosterism and combines a focus on old-school reporting with interesting and provocative commentary and analysis” — under the direction of Jonah Goldberg, a fixture at National Review, and Stephen F. Hayes, the last editor in chief of the recently shuttered Weekly Standard. There’s also the Bulwark, a newly invigorated conservative site with staffing from the Weekly Standard.
“It’s the fuddy-duddy neocon set just grasping for the last thing that they can get,” says Kassam.