Ed Driscoll

Van Jones' Evolving Worldview

As James Pierson notes in 2007’s Camelot and the Cultural Revolution,  immediately upon being told that Lee Harvey Oswald had been arrested for assassinating her husband, Jackie Kennedy replied, “He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights. It had to be some silly little Communist. It even robs his death of any meaning.”

Conspiracy theories typically begin forming when world events cannot otherwise be processed, or require an impossibly large change in an individual’s worldview. Even Jackie Kennedy couldn’t take her initial assessment to its natural conclusion — that her husband was the most visible casualty of the Cold War. For many liberals, the implications, so quickly after the Cuban Missile Crisis of the prior year may have been too difficult to process. So almost immediately after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, amongst most of his fellow liberals, Oswald quickly morphed from being a communist to a racist rightwinger. (Despite his previously attempting to shoot retired Army Maj. Gen. Edwin Walker, himself a segregationist John Bircher.) By the time of Oliver Stone’s JFK in 1991, Stone portrayed reached the apogee of these conspiracy theories: he portrayed Oswald as the only innocent party in the midst of an enormous government cabal involving everyone from LBJ to the CIA to the joint chiefs of staff.

Similarly, when Islamic terrorists toppled the World Trade Center eight years ago, it made sense (and I use the term extremely loosely) to many on the left that it was not Islamic terrorists (again, like the communists of the 1960s, a preferred victim class by many on the far left), but an enormous cabal involving everyone in government from President Bush on down.

To understand why Van Jones was one of the seminal “truthers” — apparently as early as 2002, prior to our toppling of Saddam Hussein, the event which would cause the pressure cooker to burst on the far left, and cause “trutherism” to be eventually publicly espoused by such keen intellectuals  as Rosie O’Donnell and (for a time) Charlie Sheen, it helps to know whom Jones was reflexively rooting for in the 1990s, in the classic “enemy of my enemy is my friend” fashion, even before the words “al Qaeda” entered the collective American consciousness.

The Full Metal Patriot blog finds a remarkable San Francisco Chronicle article from 11 years ago (bolding and embedded Wikipedia link below via FMP):

Hundreds of protesters turned out yesterday at simultaneous demonstrations in four Bay Area cities against the U.S. missile strike at reported terrorist bases in Sudan and Afghanistan.

Each demonstration had its own character, reflecting the city in which it was held, but all included a large dose of cynicism about President Clinton’s motives for ordering the cruise missile attacks at a reputed chemical weapons manufacturing facility in Sudan and what was described as a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

“This is using dead Third World bodies to cover up his own unzipped pants,” declared Van Jones, director of Bay Area PoliceWatch, an organization that until now has focused on alleged misconduct by law enforcement officers. Jones spoke at a demonstration at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco that drew 400 people, according to police estimates.

The theme that Clinton took military action to distract public attention from the Monica Lewinsky affair was highlighted in a protester’s sign in Palo Alto that read, “Don’t let a wartime incursion be Clinton’s diversion.”

In San Francisco, the rally had a left-wing flavor with speakers praising socialism and Cuba, in addition to criticizing U.S. defense policy.

There was scant mention in any of the demonstrations about the events that precipitated Clinton’s action: the terrorist bombs that exploded at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7 that killed 251 Africans and 12 Americans.

As Full Metal Patriot concludes, “If one desires to align themselves against the United States, why not simply side with al Qaeda terrorists? That’s precisely what Van Jones did back in 1998.”

It took a while for Jones’ worldview to coalesce to the point where he’d blame 9/11 on President Bush, however. Scott Johnson of Power Line writes:

When Obama administration green jobs commissar Van Jones signed on to the Truther statement in 2004, he was concerned that 9/11 might have an inside job perpetrated by the Bush administration. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, on September 13, 2001,however, Jones had a different explanation. On September 13, 2001, Jones said: “The bombs the government drops in Iraq are the bombs that blew up in New York City. The US cannot bomb its way out of this one. Safety at home requires justice abroad.”

That’s what Jones had to say while the ruins were still smoldering and bodies were still buried in the rubble. Consistent with Paul Mirengoff’s comments below, before Jones went Truther, Jones’s first take on 9/11 was on all fours with Jeremiah Wright’s. What a crew.

In the immediate aftermath of September 11th, Reason magazine’s Charles Paul Freund wrote that it took a terrorist act as enormous as 9/11 to put al Qaeda at the top of America’s consciousness. Prior to that, as Mark Steyn noted back in September of 2004, the terrorism that occurred in the 1990s just seemed like random, isolated incidents:

Before 9/11, an Australian embassy bombing would have been big locally, but in Paris and London and Washington it would have been one of those garbled international headlines you hear at the end of the news bulletin as you’re sitting in traffic waiting for the Lite Rock Favourites Of The ’80s to resume. Somebody bombed an embassy somewhere. Some terrorist group you’ve never heard of. The Jemal Tigers? Something like that. Oh, well. Lotta crazy people out there.

9/11 gave these events a unifying narrative. We understand now that Jakarta and Madrid and Istanbul and Beslan and lower Manhattan are all part of the same story. The terrorists act locally, and we think
globally.

It’s not Bushworld, but binworld, a world in which whenever you hear some hitherto goofy can’t-make-head-or-tail-of-it scenario chances are it turns out to be, yet again, the Islamist ideology promoted by Osama bin Laden co-opting whatever materials to hand – traditionally tolerant Muslims in Indonesia, a deranged host regime in Afghanistan, opportunist secular dictatorships in Iraq and Syria, rogue princes in the House of Saud, separatists in Chechnya, unassimilated Muslim immigrants in Europe, disaffected black Muslims in British and American jails – and, one day, Kim Jong-Il’s nuclear bargain basement in North Korea.

I’m not sure if it’s fair to say that Jones in the 1990s was siding with al Qaeda as we know them today. But it speaks volumes both to his speed at siding with anti-American terrorists, and why he signed onboard with “trutherism” so quickly after 9/11.

After all, bin Laden was just some silly little terrorist.

Update: Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit notes that “Van Jones not only helped start up the Far Left anti-American publication” called War Times, he sat on its board from December 2002 through at least June of 2003.

What’s War Times? Jim describes it as:

…a poisonous anti-American, pro-jihadi hate-filled far left monthly paper that began publishing in January 2002. Van Jones was instrumental in the creation of this publication and sat on its board for at least the first year and a half of its existence.

As Paul Mirengoff of Power Line writes, Jones’ worldview very much makes him “Jeremiah Wright behind a White House desk.”