Van Jones: Good riddance
This weekend, Van Jones, the “green jobs adviser” for the Obama administration, resigned as a result of the controversy surrounding his past.
Jones previously referred to all Republicans as “assholes”, which is hardly the sort of bipartisan spirit Obama promised. We’re also never going to convince people that our side is right by insulting them. However, while irritating, this isn’t the big deal with Van Jones.
One of the major issues that critics had with Jones was his affiliation with the 9/11 Truth Movement. I refuse to link to their website, but for those of you who haven’t heard of them, the 9/11 Truth Movement is a group of nutjobs who believe that the September 11th attacks were carried out not by Al Qaeda terrorists, but by members of our own government. There are some who believe that Dick Cheney not only was peripherally involved in planning the attacks, but also was actually running the operation as it happened. Little things like “evidence” don’t mean much to these people- indeed, a lack of any kind of evidence is seen not as proof but they’re wrong, but proof that they’re onto a vast conspiracy.
Though Van Jones claims he doesn’t agree with the ridiculous, offensive, and outlandish claims of the 9/11 Truth Movement, this didn’t stop him from signing one of their petitions. I don’t know about y’all, but I personally don’t sign petitions unless I agree with everything in them (see the petition surrounding the “Shark Week” controversy- I didn’t sign their petition even though I wish that Shark Week had more of a conservation focus). His claim that he didn’t read the petition carefully seems more than a little silly, it’s not like the 9/11 Truth Movement isn’t well publicized.
The environmental movement is better off without this clown. The 9/11 Truthers represent everything that scientists should be against- they focus on preconceived beliefs and ignore evidence. This would be bad enough without the extra controversy associated with discussing a recent national tragedy in such a crazy way.
In a world where many people don’t “believe in” global warming, we need our public messengers of this important science to be beyond rebuke. It is so easy for Obama’s political opponents to “shoot the messenger” instead of arguing the message- they could just say “this guy that you have saying that global warming is a problem also believes that Dick Cheney was involved with 9/11, how can we trust anything that he says?”. This argument, right or wrong, will reach people.
Maybe the messenger shouldn’t matter if the message is important enough, but it DOES. This is the same reason why so many conservationists dislike Sea Shepherd even though we’re against whaling of endangered species and shark finning- the messenger MATTERS. If people begin to associate the message with crazy people, be they fanatical zealots like Sea Shepherd or just plain crazy people like 9/11 Truthers, then the message won’t reach people.
Conservation and environmentalism MATTER. We owe it to ourselves as a movement, as well as to all the people that would benefit from adopting our viewpoints, to make sure that we are presenting the best information in the best way possible. We won’t do that by insulting people who disagree with us, and we won’t do it by affiliating ourselves with controversial lunatics.
As if Van Jones couldn’t get any more ridiculous, he is claiming that he was “brought down” by opponents of health care reform. This argument would make sense if health care reform composed ANY PART WHATSOEVER of his job description in the Obama administration, but it didn’t. He was the green jobs adviser on the Council on Environmental Quality. You screwed up and you screwed up HUGE, stop blaming it on other people. If you had never affiliated with whackos, then political opponents couldn’t point out that you had affiliated with whackos.
I’d like to think that Southern Fried Science’s readership includes some current (and future) leaders of the environmental movement. Please pay attention to what happened here. Who you affiliate with, even if you affiliate with them only a little bit, even if you haven’t affiliated with them in YEARS before you apply for a position of leadership, MATTERS. Please, please, please take care to make sure that you don’t harm your own career, or the environmental movement as a whole, by pulling a Van Jones.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.