The Right-Wing Take-Down of Van Jones

The forced resignation of Green Jobs czar Van Jones over Labor Day weekend was orchestrated by an angry talk show host who twisted half-truths to turn one of the environmental movement’s greatest heroes into a radical communist.

The smear campaign began on July 23 when Glenn Beck, conservative talk radio host and founder of one of the most successful programs on Fox News, called Jones a “self-avowed communist.”

Beck based his attack on a 2005 profile of Jones in the East Bay Express where Jones spoke of his feelings after being arrested while protesting the acquittal of police officers accused of beating Rodney King. Jones said his experience in jail turned him into a communist.

What Beck neglects to mention is that later on in the article, it is explained that Jones decided to abandon his anti-capitalist ways in favor of a “fundamental shift in tactics.” In fact, Jones’s entire book, The Green Collar Economy, stresses the importance of jobs, jobs that work within the system of our capitalistic society.

As Jones writes on page 86, “the reality is that we are entering an era during which our very survival will demand invention and innovation on a scale never before seen in the history of human civilization. Only the business community has the requisite skills, experience, and capital to meet that need.”

Beck also ignores the address Jones gave before the Center for American Progress on Nov. 19 when he said, “Everything that is good for the environment, everything that’s needed to beat global warming, is a job. And the challenge is, how do we get the government to be a smart, and limited, catalyst in getting the private sector to take on this challenge?”

Perhaps Beck fails to understand the meaning of the label communist, someone who espouses an egalitarian, stateless society based on common ownership. If “communist” means someone who envisions an inclusive green economy where jobs in the environmental sector serve as pathways out of poverty to Americans who need it the most, then well, Van Jones is a communist.

The type of environmentalism Jones espouses is far from radical. As a special adviser to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Jones spent his time writing grants, appealing to city councils and working with legislators on green-jobs bills.

So why then did Beck pick on Jones, a mid-level adviser, when there are plenty of higher-level White House staffers he could target?

Perhaps the answer might lie in a comment Beck made on July 28 during a Fox and Friends program when he called President Obama a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.”

Immediately after that comment, ColorOfChange.org, a group Jones helped launch in 2005, led a successful advertising boycott that led to Wal-Mart, Mercedes-Benz and HSBC leaving Beck’s show.

This led the group DefendGlenn.com to circulate a speech in which Jones calls Senate Republicans assholes for the way they had used their majority to push legislation. Rather than using “asshole” as a negative terminology, Jones said it in admiration, making the point that Democrats need to be tougher to get legislation passed.

Beck continued his revenge against Jones, mentioning him frequently as an anarchist, communist and “radical who wants to fundamentally change America.”

The final blow came on Sept. 3 when the conservative blog Gateway Pundit reported that Jones signed a 2004 petition that called for investigation into whether the Bush administration had purposefully allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur. Jones responded that he had not read the petition carefully before signing it and that it does not in any way reflect his views.

However, mainstream media began picking up the story and Republicans began calling for hearings to probe Jones. This prompted Jones to resign in order not to “distract from the administration’s agenda.”

The success of the attack prompted Beck to tweet his viewers to find dirt on other special advisers. It is clear that truth no longer plays a role in the vicious attacks employed by the conservative movement to derail this administration’s work towards change.