I have to say I am thoroughly disgusted by the efforts of Glenn Beck to tar Obama's advisers, especially Van Jones. The right wants to go back to the era of Tailgunner Joe McCarthy, and it is fucking outrageous.
To be reminded of how bad McCarthy was, and how this zeppelin of hatred was exploded, look over this tape from the hearing with Joseph Welch, with the famous line 4:16 in the clip
Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
More on the parallels to Van Jones below the fold.
Welch was hitting back at McCarthy for his attacks on Fred Fisher, a talented young lawyer from Harvard Law who admitted to Welch on joining his firm that he was a member of the Lawyer's Guild while at Harvard Law, an alleged communist front organization then, but really a progressive force to this day. Welch kept Fisher, but took him off the case representing the Army before McCarthy.
Welch hid nothing at the meeting, but excoriated McCarthy for his attacks on Fisher. Together with Ed Murrow's blistering interview of McCarthy, the Welch pushback helped bring down McCarthy.
Fast forward 55 years. Van Jones is a youngish and very brilliant lawyer who has poured his energies into many things, most recently, after being inspired by Julia Butterfly Hill, green jobs. He is of course Obama's adviser on this issue. He grew up in Tennessee, went to Yale Law, and moved to California in the mid nineties. There is an excellent profile of Jones in the New Yorker
The right has seized on a 2005 article in the East Bay Express profiling Jones where he freely and openly admits that the Rodney King riots in 92 radicalized him:
Jones had planned to move to Washington, DC, and had already landed a job and an apartment there. But in jail, he said, "I met all these young radical people of color -- I mean really radical, communists and anarchists. And it was, like, 'This is what I need to be a part of.'" Although he already had a plane ticket, he decided to stay in San Francisco. "I spent the next ten years of my life working with a lot of those people I met in jail, trying to be a revolutionary." In the months that followed, he let go of any lingering thoughts that he might fit in with the status quo. "I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28th, and then the verdicts came down on April 29th," he said. "By August, I was a communist."
In 1994, the young activists formed a socialist collective, Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement, or STORM, which held study groups on the theories of Marx and Lenin and dreamed of a multiracial socialist utopia. They protested police brutality and got arrested for crashing through police barricades.
I don't see this as a surprise. Jones wanted to change the lives of young African Americans for the better, and the existing culture offered up little hope. But he abandoned the radical chic several years later (from the same EB Express article):
Jones began transforming his politics and work in the aftermath of a crisis that coincided with the primary election in March 2000. He was campaigning hard against California Proposition 21, a ballot initiative that increased the penalties for a variety of violent crimes and required more juvenile offenders to be tried as adults. Several activist groups united to organize young people into sit-downs, rallies, and protests. But Jones said the coalition ultimately imploded "in the nastiest way you can ever imagine."
"I saw our little movement destroyed over a lot of shit-talking and bullshit," he said. "It just seemed like an ongoing train crash that was calling itself a political movement. It was much more destructive internally than anyone was talking about, and much less impactful externally than anyone was willing to admit."
Jones' fixation on solidarity dates from this experience. He took an objective look at the movement's effectiveness and decided that the changes he was seeking were actually getting farther away. Not only did the left need to be more unified, he decided, it might also benefit from a fundamental shift in tactics. "I realized that there are a lot of people who are capitalists -- shudder, shudder -- who are really committed to fairly significant change in the economy, and were having bigger impacts than me and a lot of my friends with our protest signs," he said.
First, he discarded the hostility and antagonism with which he had previously greeted the world, which he said was part of the ego-driven romance of being seen as a revolutionary. "Before, we would fight anybody, any time," he said. "No concession was good enough; we never said 'Thank you.' Now, I put the issues and constituencies first. I'll work with anybody, I'll fight anybody if it will push our issues forward. ... I'm willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends."
His new philosophy emphasizes effectiveness, which he believes is inextricably tied to unity. He still considers himself a revolutionary, just a more effective one, who has realized that the progressive left's insistence on remaining a counterculture destroys its potential as a political movement. "One of my big heroes is Malcolm X, not because I agree with Malcolm, but because he wasn't afraid to change in public," he said.
Devising a new strategy for the left went hand-in-hand with finding a new approach in his personal life and relationships. Jones said he arrived at that by harking back to his roots. Although he had spent many childhood summers in "sweaty black churches," and in college had discovered the black liberation theology that reinterprets the Christ story as an anticolonial struggle, he had pulled away from spirituality during his communist days. During his 2000 crisis, he looked for answers in Buddhism, the philosophy known as deep ecology, and at open-minded institutions such as the East Bay Church of Religious Science.
The last step was learning to ignore critics from within the movement who didn't appreciate his new philosophy and allies. "I'm confused half the time about what I'm doing, but none of the things that leftists use to discipline each other into marginality have any power over me anymore," he said. "It's like, 'Oh, you're working with white people.' Or 'Who are you accountable to?' A lot of the things that we say to each other to keep anybody from getting too uppity, too effective, I just don't listen to anymore. I care about the progressive movements as they are, but I mainly care about all of our movements becoming a lot bigger and a lot stronger."
I see this as an abandonment of his radicalism nine years ago.
This is backed up by his former boss in a post on Huffington Post:
But I have to take on the worst one: Beck repeatedly and mistakenly asserts that Van is presently a communist.
Once again, this charge is easily refuted - most obviously by the pro-business, market-based ideas Van has promoted for years, including in his best-selling book, The Green Collar Economy. Van's book is a veritable song of praise to capitalism, especially the socially responsible and eco-friendly kind.
Yes, for a while, Van and his student-aged friends ran around spouting 1960s rhetoric and romanticizing revolutionary icons. But that was years ago. Way back then, I counseled him to rethink his tactics and to work for change in wiser ways.
In time, he jettisoned his youthful notions and moved on to seek more effective and attainable solutions.
Fortunately for all of us, it looks like he has found some. Over the past several years, Van has emerged as the perhaps the nation's chief proponent of using business-based solutions to create jobs and clean up the environment. In his book and his speeches, he highlights the key role of entrepreneurship in solving our nation's problems.
I have to also say I don't give a flying fuck if Jones is communist now. He is an effective advocate for green jobs and business based solutions to environmental problems. Whether he was or is a communist has absolutely no bearing on his performance in this job. There is NOTHING illegal about being a communist, and even in his more radical days he translated his ideas into legal actions that helped organize communities, not into seditious actions against the US.
But it doesn't matter for Beck who wants to
- Fear monger for his right wing audience
- Lash out at the effectiveness of Color for Change, co-founded by Jones, in their boycott against him for his absurd claim that Obama is racist
Think about the parallel - idealistic young lawyer tacks left goes back mainstream - Tailgunner Joe tries to take him down. Idealistic young lawyer tacks left, returns to the mainstream, Glenn Beck and his horde want to use the same fucking ridiculous guilt by association to take him down.
There is of course something which blunts the effectiveness of this strategy - the red scare is DEAD, went down with the death of Mao, the collapse of the soviet empire, etc. The resonance with this asshattery is only for the older generation of wingnuts (unfortunately including my mother and stepfather) and the I Am The Mob crowd who may be younger but wanna live in the wayback when before income taxes and the New Deal savaged America.
I got into a big exchange on Twitter with one of these guys, a lawyer and Paul-ite - I have deleted his name here (call him JM for short, in honor of Tailgunner Joe) but you get the flavor-redbaiting:
JM: Would you object if the President hired an avowed Communist to advise him? #p2 #tlot #topprog #hc09 #democrats
JM: U didn't answer my question.
ME: Would you object if a POTUS kept someone in who outed an undercover US spy? http://bit.ly/... #tcot #iamthemob @GlennBeck
JM: Again, would you object if the President hired an avowed Communist to advise him? #p2 #tlot #topprog #hc09 #democrats
ME: He is not an avowed communist. I did. He WAS a communist. People change. @GlennBeck was once catholic.
ME: I am very comfortable having Van Jones advise Obama on green jobs. He is very knowledgeable about the subject.
JM: Leave Jones out of it.
JM: Would you object if the President hired ANY avowed Communist to advise him? #p2 #tlot #topprog #hc09 #democrats
ME: There is nothing illegal about communism and this is not the McCarthy era. If Obama - or W - felt a commie had good advice, fine
[NOTE - AT THIS POINT I FELT I ANSWERED HIS QUESTION]
ME: Oh, name names Sen. McCarthy, name names. If not Jones, who do you have in mind?
ME: You want to leave Jones out, if this is not an abstract question, who do you have in mind? And tell me why in the hell it matters?
ME: I was far more worried about end-of-times fundies in W's administration than I am about past or present communists in Obama's
JM: R u OK w/radical Marxists & communists in the fed'l gov't? Should be easy to answer.
ME: So, is there any legal principle forbidding a POTUS to appoint a communist, or is it just 1950s guilt by association you favor?
ME: Your answer to my question Atty.?
ME: So, did you like the McCarthy era, its tactics? Do you like the way 'UnAmerican' was bandied about in 2002 for those (cont)
ME: (cont) who argued that the invasion of Iraq was unjustified and unwise? Where do you stand Atty.?
ME: I answered your question for all the tweeple - you have the courage to answer mine.
ME: I am not OK with anyone who would overthrow the US GOvt. But freedom of speech etc allows for a wide range of views in pub. life.
JM: Why won't u answer a question about principles? R u OK w/communists in the fed'l gov't or not?
ME: I already did answer you. Read my tweets. Now you answer me. Was the McCarthy era good? Is guilt by association good?
ME: Is questioning someone's patriotism because they question a war that was rammed down our throats good? Answer.
ME: And why won't you name the name if you say forget Jones? Who do you have in mind Atty.?
JM: Folks, @dlcox1958 won't say if he'd object to communists in the fed'l gov't. He spins. What should we conclude?
ME: I told you Atty. I don't object to them. Read my tweets. I told you. YOu won't answer me. Do you like Joe McCarthy?
ME: RT There is nothing illegal about communism and this is not the McCarthy era. If Obama - or W - felt a commie had good advice, fine.
RETWEETED MY EARLIER REPLY HERE
JM: @dlcox1958 does not object to communists & Marxists in the fed'l gov't. Who else agrees w/him? #p2 #tlot #topprog #hc09 #Democrats
That last tweet is an effort to tarnish me by my statements on not giving a fuck in general about marxists or communists if they are good at what they do and not against the government or people. [ TLOT = top liberals on twitter, topprog = top proggressives, hc09 = health care 09. This reveals something about our different wing's styles in general - the conservatives really do mob up on twitter, but I only look at things by subject - of those threads I only read hc09 on twitter. ]
I say we all play Joseph Welch to this absurdity and call out these red scaremongers. If we hit back associating them with Tailgunner Joe, it should just shut them up. We do so in person, on twitter, on DKos, on calling in, letters to the editors. And Beck? Keep after the boycott and run his ass off Fox.