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Ron Radosh

Liberals and Van Jones: Why Are They Defending Him?

September 9th, 2009 - 4:14 pm

By now we all know most of what there is to be said about Van Jones. What is most interesting, however, is how so many representatives of mainstream liberalism have no compunction at all about honoring Jones as one of their own, and of condemning Barack Obama for casting him to the wind, as if the administration had no good reason to do so.

First, as one might suspect, is Arianna Huffington. She writes with anger about what she calls the “vile and vicious smear campaign” against Jones waged by Fox News star Glenn Beck. Not one word about what Jones believes and who he is, aside from her claim that he is “a thoughtful leader who knows how to use words to move people to action.” A leader? Perhaps.  But thoughtful?  Maybe she means words like these, spoken by Jones in January of 2008:
“The environmental justice community that said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, you know, you’re regulating, but you’re not regulating equally.’ And the white polluters and the white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people-of-color communities, because they don’t have a racial justice frame.”

Of course Arianna is a “good friend” of Jones, so she either overlooks what he believes, or agrees with his unreconstructed radicalism. Reading Huffington, one gets the impression that all he is doing is trying to purse “a clean energy future for America,” and building coalitions on its behalf.  So although she was his friend at the time, she somehow misses his candid description of his own proclaimed strategy, spoken in April of 2008:

Right after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat if the civil rights leaders had jumped out and said, ‘OK now we want reparations for slavery, we want redistribution of all the wealth, and we want to legalize mixed marriages.’ If we’d come out with a maximum program the very next day, they’d been laughed at. Instead they came out with a very minimum. ‘We just want to integrate these buses.’

But, inside that minimum demand was a very radical kernel that eventually meant that from 1964 to 1968 complete revolution was on the table for this country. And, I think that this green movement has to pursue those same steps and stages. Right now we say we want to move from suicidal gray capitalism to something eco-capitalism where at least we’re not fast-tracking the destruction of the whole planet. Will that be enough? No, it won’t be enough. We want to go beyond the systems of exploitation and oppression altogether. But, that’s a process and I think that’s what’s great about the movement that is beginning to emerge is that the crisis is so severe in terms of joblessness, violence and now ecological threats that people are willing to be both pragmatic and visionary. So the green economy will start off as a small subset and we are going to push it and push it and push it until it becomes the engine for transforming the whole society.

The above is a frank admission of Jones’ prescription for a stealth radicalism—making a minimum demand that others will agree with, all for the purpose of achieving the real demand of revolution.  And of course, one does this by never revealing the real goal at the start. Well, at least Huffington doesn’t pretend that he did not sign the 9/11 truther petition, only rationalizing that we shouldn’t let that mistake “define him.” Yes, no one is “foible-free,” as she writes. But Jones is all foible and no merit.

On the same site, the CEO of CREDO Mobile, Michael Kieschnick, calls for “progressives” to understand that the real issue is “how the right wing media echo machine works.” In other words, ignore what Jones stands for. Beck has forced him out; let’s make that the issue.  And let us not let Obama get off the hook for canning Jones. Jones is to be commended for “using strong language in tough times.” Not one word in his blog what that language is. The Right, he argues, denounces “progressives and Democrats with demonstrably false and outrageous claims.” But of course, they were not false; and it was Jones’ statements that are outrageous. Rather than explain what Jones means, he and others simply attack Jones’ critics without letting readers know what he thinks. And we are supposed to believe that it is only the right-wing that is dishonest.

Most surprising, however- and sadly- is the defense of Jones by the usually brilliant writer John McWhorter, who from his perch at the conservative Manhattan Institute, has been for some time now written off by many as a “black conservative.”  McWhorter actually writes “The Republican smears against Obama of late are nonsense, pure and simple.” But instead of trying to prove this, he attacks (rightfully) the ignorance of those conservatives who attacked Obama for his speech to public school children on the first day of school. What, pray tell, does that have to do with any criticism of Jones?

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