Attacking Van Jones: A Wise Essay on Political Racism

Tim Wise has an excellent post on the defamation of Van Jones that many in the media and DC have engaged in lately, which forced him out of a White House that seems unwilling to push back against this type of attack, an attack that has strong racist undertones.

He sums up the attacks thus:

Let’s be clear, this is about one thing only: namely, the attempt by the right to exploit white reactionary fears about black militancy. It is the same tactic they tried with Rev. Jeremiah Wright in 2008. They did not confront Wright’s narrative–the accuracy of which was far stronger than they would like to admit–nor do they actually grapple with Jones’s ideas (it is doubtful that Beck has even read Jones’s best-selling book, for instance). Rather, they present a caricature, a bogey man with black skin, an occasional scowl, and an attitude. Angry, confrontational, “uppity,” and too close to the President. Which means that Wright=Obama=Jones=Malcolm X. It’s a trope the right has banked on for years: using racial memes and symbols to scare Jim and Susie Suburb. Put the face of black anger out there and watch your devotees respond like Pavlov’s dog.

Even parts of the mainstream media have backed off and supported Jones. Clearly, this is one more part of the Republican Party and its friends in the media appealing to the overwhelming white base of that Party.

And Happy Labor Day!


  1. Darin Johnson

    As usual, Tim’s is a pretty tendentious reading of events. You don’t think the heat on Jones was because he suggested the US government might have been complicit in 9-11? Maybe? No, you’re right, it’s just because he’s black. That’s totally plausible. In fact, compared to some of the nonsense Jones seems to believe, it’s downright likely.
    I suggest that you are infantilizing blacks when you blindly defend any black against any attack — even one that seems to be deserved. You are implying that blacks can’t be held to account for their views and public statements. Why?
    Actually, I take that back. You don’t defend any black against any attach. I assume you did not defend either Clarence Thomas or Condaleeza Rice from the attacks that they faced. It’s really about politics for you guys. Isn’t it.

  2. I was watching Glen Beck today, as I do from time to time. Like the argument that:

    Wright=Obama=Jones=Malcolm X…

    Beck went further to suggest that Jones was interviewed by Mumia Abu-Jamal and the interview was positive. Since, Jones worked for Obama and Obama said that the police in the Gates case acted “stupidly”, and Jones has support of Jamal, that Obama also hates cops (and is a cop killer?)…. I don’t know. It gave me a headache.

  3. ellen says

    Living in a Culture of Cruelty: Democracy as Spectacle
    Wednesday 02 September 2009

    by: Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    A right-wing spin machine, influenced by haters like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Ann Coulter, endlessly spews out a toxic rhetoric in which: all Muslims are defined as jihadists; the homeless are not victims of misfortune but lazy; blacks are not terrorized by a racist criminal justice system, but the main architects of a culture of criminality; the epidemic of obesity has nothing to do with corporations, big agriculture and advertisers selling junk food, but rather the result of “big” government giving people food stamps; the public sphere is largely for white people, which is being threatened by immigrants and people of color, and so it goes. Glenn Beck, the alleged voice of the common man, appearing on the “Fox & Friends” morning show, calls President Obama a “racist” and then accuses him of “having a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” [2] Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh unapologetically states that James Early Ray, the confessed killer of Martin Luther King Jr., should be given a posthumous Medal of Honor, [3] while his counterpart in right-wing hate, talk radio host Michael Savage, states on his show, “You know, when I see a woman walking around with a burqa, I see a Nazi. That’s what I see – how do you like that? – a hateful Nazi who would like to cut your throat and kill your children.” [4] He also claims that Obama is “surrounded by terrorists” and is “raping America.” This is a variation of a crude theme established by Ann Coulter, who refers to Bill Clinton as a “very good rapist.” [5] Even worse, Obama is a “neo-Marxist fascist dictator in the making,” who plans to “force children into a paramilitary domestic army.” [6] And this is just a small sampling of the kind of hate talk that permeates right-wing media. This could be dismissed as loony right-wing political theater if it were not for the low levels of civic literacy displayed by so many Americans who choose to believe and invest in this type of hate talk. [7] On the contrary, while it may be idiocy, it reveals a powerful set of political, economic and educational forces at work in miseducating the American public while at the same time extending the culture of cruelty. One central task of any viable form of politics is to analyze the culture of cruelty and its overt and covert dimensions of violence, often parading as entertainment.

  4. ellen says

    Regarding one statement above:
    ” The blacks are not terrorized by a racist criminal justice system, but the main architects of a culture of criminality”.
    Even though I strongly support everything this article attests: I do Not believe Either of these Particular statements. I don’t believe blacks are ‘Terrorized’ by a racist criminal system. I do believe blacks are stopped more often by police however. Additionally, I also don’t believe that black citizens in general are the architects of a culture of criminality.
    I would like to comment that most of the violent crime committed in the city where I live {these are facts and statistics reported by newspapers each year} is black-on-black and concerns gangs fighting over drug-selling territory. This does not mean that black people are the “architects of a culture of criminality”. It means to me: poverty=drug abuse. White poverty produces drug abuse also. However, In Our City {qualifier} apparently whites don’t form gangs to sell drugs. They are ‘quieter’ about their drug abuse.
    Regarding drug abuse by poor black citizens: drug abuse Will Not end the cycle of poverty but rather propagate it. Continued drug abuse= Continued Poverty=Potential Early Death. Most heavy drug abusers do not live very long.

  5. MOM@Ellen

    On number (2) where you made the statement about Earl Jones should of been given a medal of honor? I’ve never heard of such an irrational statement, but then again, as mentioned before, and many times, I don’t listen to talk radio..There is a reason why I don’t like the news or the radio, and if Rush made that statement, and I’m not doubting that he did, then he should of been fired. Martin Luther King happens to be one of the only leaders, I would think, that was able to help “all” people of all race.. I’ve done a lot a research on MLK, and I have to say, that there are not too many people that can alter the course of history, but he did, and we as a nation have to look at what MLK was able to accomplish, and be grateful that WE were alive to watch the change in this country.. MLK was a man of God and was very concerned for all people that’s when he died. There also happens to be many theory’s about why he died. “Sad day for the many souls left to parish in the endless sea of hate.” Still waiting for some information about “Tea Party’s” Sounds like something out of England.. Anyway, just got pulled onto another case. Thanks, MOM:)

  6. MOM@ Ellen

    Tea Party’s! Never mind, I just looked it up. Dam! There is so much information on Tea Party’s. I will learn about them apologize for the request. This should be interesting, indeed!! Mom:)

  7. MOM@Ellen

    Tea Party’s! I just read some stuff regarding theses Tea Party’s.. Now, apparently, they are blaming the President for our deficit? OMG don’t these people know who put us into to this deficit? And, “you know” that all they say “you know” sounds like some lady I know “you know” LOL..Guess who? I am a little confused about this, but greatly concerned. Apparently, these people feel that the Obama Administration is taking control over the American people liberties, well news flash, to all those who are reading this post that has been done already…A lot of our liberties have been taking away, slowly, and not by the Obama Administration. We will be lucky to go to the bathroom without being watched. The Conservatives need another approach, regarding, this “Tea Party” because is forcing a lot of people into a state of hysteria. There will be no “good” coming from this no way, no how. Scary Times for the fate of our Nation. And, “you know” that’s why I shy away from political corruption of the minds of people. I like to make up my own mind. Thanks, MOM:)

  8. ellen says

    @ MOM:
    Hey Mom! I was working on the tea party question but got off on another tangent. Didn’t mean to ignore you! I will write about this after I get back from work though. Also, I have a headache! LOL. Later! 🙂

  9. ellen says

    For MOM: Hope this helps!

    A new grassroots phenomenon is sweeping the nation — Tax Day Tea Parties. One of the leading sponsoring organizations, the American Family Association (AFA), has announced on its website that AFA TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party Day rallies on April 15 are now scheduled in 1,837 cities. Meanwhile, the originators of the Tax Day Tea Party concept at list hundreds of Tea Parties scheduled for April 15.

    The political pundits are taking notice. For example, Peter Roff, former senior editor for United Press International, stated on April 3:

    The “Tea Parties” augur the beginnings of a new political movement, it is now clear, that may eventually exceed the power of and others of the new liberal pressure groups in their ability to influence the votes of politicians in Washington as well as state capitals in every region of the country.

    One reason for the rapid development of the Tea Party movement is the fiercely partisan nature of the Obama presidency. On April 2 the Pew Research Center published the results of their presidential job approval poll. They conclude: “For all of his hopes about bipartisanship, Barack Obama has the most polarized early job approval ratings of any president in the past four decades.”

    The Pew poll found a 61-point partisan gap in opinions about President Obama’s job performance — 88 percent job approval among Democrats and 27 percent job approval among Republicans. Consequently, even though many brave statements are issued by event organizers and supporters as to the nonpartisan nature of the Tea Parties, you can be sure that most of the attendees will be Republicans and Independents.

    The main organizing group behind the Tax Day Tea Party movement has been a grassroots coalition of Top Conservatives on Twitter (TCOT), Smart Girl Politics, and the DontGo Movement. As mentioned above, another main player in this movement is the American Family Association.
    The very new Glenn Beck 9-12 Project is also promoting the Tax Day Tea Parties on its website. Since the Beck organization already has over 400,000 members, this should help swell the numbers on April 15. Fox News will be featuring the Tax Day Tea Parties in a very high-profile way by positioning four of its key personalities, including Beck and Sean Hannity, at four major Tea Party celebrations around the nation and broadcasting their shows live from the events.

  10. ellen says

    Hey MOM!
    One of the problem anti-racists have with these Tea Parties is that many of the participants carry racist signs. Apparently, being against some of Obama’s policies gives people license to make some very Crude Racist remarks, posters? Totally uncalled for people! check out the following site Mom: one poster reads “Obama-Nomics: Monkey See, Monkey Spend”. And the sign is carried by a 12 year old kid!
    Reminiscent of the KKK. Sorry Tea-party goers, but this type of stuff gives you Zero Credibility.
    Also, anti-racists are asking: Why all the public demonstrations Now? Why not when Bush was in office? Probably cause we have a black President. That’s my guess. There are definitely racist undertones to this.
    In other words: “Let’s just manufacture stuff to b%#ch about. If we scream loud enough..the blacks will shirk from Ever running for higher offices again. They’ll see that if they do, the tremendous ridicule and pressure on them will be so intense that they’ll Van Jones did.”


    Ellen, these Tea Parties that they are having also indicate that if your a Democrat that you are a non-American, and if you are a Republican then you are an American.. I don’t think this will set to well with many, many, older Americans. . And, amusingly, enough, I had to take a look at these “Tea Party’s, and this is what I’m getting out of this craziness. Are these people that shameless? To accuse one party to be more of an American then the other is complete insanity..Why isn’t something said from the Democratic party in response to these accusations, which should be very alarming, to the Democratic party. Am I missing something here? Thanks, Mom:)

  12. Jenni M.

    @ellen – I would modify your formula above to poverty=drug dealing. Whites actually have significantly higher rates of drug abuse than blacks (hence the oft-told anecdotal story of suburban whites driving into the “hood” to get their drugs). Where the racist criminal justice system targets men of color, and partcularly black men, is not simply through dispproportionate stops – though you are totally right here – the research is indisputable on this count – but even more so through the ways in which drug law is written. The conservative “War on Drugs” led to staggering increases in incarceration in the U.S. generally, but particularly among black men. This occured not simply because of the obviously harsher sentences for drug crimes (despite the fact that most industrialized nations treat drug matters as public health issues), but also because of increased policing of minority communities where “open-air” selling predominates (research bears out your point here too – whites are just as involved in drug dealing, but tend to do their selling through homes, etc., rather than in open-air markets) – thus increasing black incarceration. And finally, the drug laws themselves are problematic. Crack vs cocaine penalties are a case in point. Despite being highly similar drugs there has been a long-standing disparity in federal sentencing – 100:1 – that is, a cocaine dealer needs 500 grams of cocaine to be charged for possession, while a crack dealer will be busted for as small an amount as 5 grams. Crack also comes with a mandatory sentence of 5 years for first possession – cocaine doesn’t. This disparity has had a profound impact on black incarceration and thus black communities. Research suggests as many as 60% of federal prisoners are there for drug-related offenses and 60-80% of those prisoners are black.

    Despite the fact that it is widely acknowledged that the War of Drugs has been a big, fat failure, no politician is willing to advocate for more reasoned drug policy for fear of being seen as “soft on crime.” This is true of the crack law I mention here as well, although there has been some movement to make changes and I understand Obama has called some attention to the racialized disparity of the law. We’ll see. The US, by the way, has the highest incarceration rate in the world – higher than even Russia – we are 5% of the world’s population and account for 20% of the incarcerated people of the world.

    Re: race and the criminal justice system, I guess I would just add that on pretty much every measure – likelihood of being arrested, charged, convicted, length of sentence, etc. – there is good evidence that blacks get the raw end of the stick – and that’s when controlling for key variables like education, prior crime, etc. (I’ve probably said enough here, so I’ll spare the research, but it’s very compelling). Finally, because of the way blacks and particularly black men have been criminalized since prior to the Civil War, there is a tendency to equate “criminal” with “black” in many people’s minds whether they are aware of it or not. (When I lecture on crime, before even mentioning race I always ask my students to imagine what a “criminal” looks like in their mind – they are vastly more likely to imagine a lower class man of color than they are a Ken Lay type). And, at the end of the day, and maybe even despite people’s best intentions, this can get a black man killed in this country – Amado Diallo, Oscar Grant, there is a sadly long list – when you hear about police “accidentally” killing someone, who is on that list? All the things I mention here are, unfortunately and unjustly, outcomes of a racialized criminal justice system.

  13. MOM@Ellen

    @Ellen, Believe me when I tell you this that I’ve watched drug dealers get sentenced more time in jail then White Child Molesters..A battle that I fought and lost over a year of my life, business, trust in humanity, and the American Judaical system. However, this person was able to take down one of those arrogant SOB’s that I always talk about, and have taken down another one of those SOB’s, since then, in a different way. Now, my focus has changed, and will be taking down a lot of those arrogant SOB’s all at once. Thanks, MOM:)


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