Deconstructing the "Whup Ass"

New Communique from the Ministry of Truth

At one point, the Obama administration was bragging about bagging one Van Jones; Valerie Jarrett, in fact, even gushed that they had been scouting the erstwhile mostly unknown Jones for quite a while. The word czar was employed of his new responsibilities, and we were subsequently lectured that “over $80 million” in stimulus money was going to be under Jones’s control—given his innovative “green jobs” approach that married civil rights with radical environmentalism.

And now? The ministry has downgraded that now inoperative statement, and insisted that Jones, after all, was not really an unexamined czar, but rather a mere informal “advisor”.

Himself—or in the Stars?

Jones himself, without any introspection, alleged that some vicious "smear campaign” did him in, but did not elaborate on what he meant. Is it not one thing to invoke the bogeyman Glenn Beck, but quite another to list in detail the ways in which Jones had been defamed and lied about?

Had Jones not signed a Truther petition, asking to investigate George Bush’s supposed role in 9/11 (Re: on the one hand, we are supposed to believe that Jones was a brilliant Yale law graduate,* on the other that he did not understand the simple English wording of the petition?), he might have survived the other inanities.

One Act Too Many?

We can attribute his “Republicans are a—holes” remark to lecture theatrics. I don’t care whether he fashionably claims he was some sort of radicalized communist, or even worry much about all the other silly, melodramatic self-characterizations of his own would-be importance. But the racist slurs about white polluters of the ghetto, the white mass murderers in the schools, and George Bush the petroleum crack-head were the sort of things that usually get one fired or demoted (cf. Trent Lott’s remark).

Bill Carter Redux

What we are now seeing with Obama’s coterie is a sort of Billy Carterism—after a while what seems at first outlandish gradually becomes repugnant. Half of the country is now furious at Obama because they are starting to see that Ayers, Khalidi, Meeks, Pfleger, and Wright were representational, rather than aberrational; that is, the associates that for 30 years were the natural friends and role models of Obama proved hard to shake and appear buffoonish 24/7. And stranger still, Obama himself seems surprised that they keep reappearing, as if one so easily can throw under the bus decades of choices, attitudes, and second natures.

Ward Churchillism

What do I mean by “representational”?

There is a strange pseudo-culture in America, of which Obama is a perfect example. Millionaire Michael Moore announces, “Capitalism is evil” as he hypes promotion of his moneymaking new movie. Oliver Stones praises Chavez, as the dictator shuts down voices of dissent—yet Stone himself could not make a movie in Venezuela as he does here. So too the murderer Che becomes a popular T-shirt emblem among the college elite. Van Jones calls Bush a “crackhead” but then in self-important style flashes on his website, “As a tireless advocate for disadvantaged people and the environment, Van helped to pass America's first 'green job training' legislation: the Green Jobs Act, which George W. Bush signed into law as a part of the 2007 Energy Bill.” Bush is a crackhead in front of some audiences, compliant supporter to others?

Wise Moves

Otherwise quite content Americans, getting rich and famous in the free market under the aegis of U.S. freedom and security, have not only the luxury to play the court jester, but see it as a wise investment. Moore would never go to Cuba for brain surgery. Stone would never criticize the Bolivian government while he was living in Bolivia. No Harvard undergraduate would have liked to join occasionally murderous Che in the jungle.

So too it is with middle-class guys like Jones and Obama. Barack Obama, raised by white grandparents, sent to prep school, and educated at the Ivy League, realized that avenues are not so easily opened to the nerdy Barry Dunhams of the world.  Jones grasped that one Anthony Jones who was admitted to Yale Law School might actually have to study, compete for grades, and then go apprentice at a grinding law firm entry-level job.

"Hell-raising"

But as Jones relates, it was far easier to be a “hell raiser” at Yale. What that meant I think was that in lieu of studying (“Yale didn’t have any grades”), Jones knew that he could say and do almost anything he wished among rather wealthy (and to be honest, rather nerdy) white and Asian people, playing on both their guilt, and on their vicarious sense of adventure and cutting-age revolutionary romance—and do pretty well. And so he did.

Very quickly, as his subsequent career attests in a variety of “organizing” jobs, Jones discovered that he could tease and provoke white liberals by posing as some sort of wild (but actually quite safe) revolutionary figure who would call America an “apartheid” system, or dream of a “redistribution of wealth” or praise the advantages of social revolution through hip hop music ("I don’t believe the true power of the people can be confined to a ballot box…We need to be about the whup-ass. Somebody’s f***in up somewhere… They have names and job descriptions. You have to be creative about how you engage the enemy, because if you do it on his terms, the outcome is already known.")—all the while living a rather mundane bourgeois existence jetting around for princely lecture fees, hyping a book, trying to button-hole celebrities, and finally getting close to his exemplar Barack Obama—who likewise had parlayed Barry Dunham of a Honolulu prep school into Barack Obama, exotic avatar of revolutionary hope and change.