This article first appeared on Alternet.
If you thought the targeting of Van Jones for vilification by the right was about his race, his youthful flirtation with socialism, or a petition he signed about the 9/11 attacks, you'd only be a little bit right. And if you think it was about the Color of Change campaign against Glenn Beck's show on FOX NewsChannel, you'd really miss the mark.
The racism and red-baiting suffered by Jones at the hands of Beck and his admirers are simply key elements in a marketing strategy designed to serve Very Big Business — the oil and other business interests that support the astroturfing group Americans for Prosperity. The strategy is simple: prey upon the worst fears of the right-wing folks who live next door in order to get them to organize against their own interests.
When word of Van Jones' resignation from his White House post hit the airwaves, Americans for Prosperity's Phil Kerpen, the group's policy director, wasted no time in taking personal credit. In his column on FOXNews.com, Kerpen wrote, "The Van Jones affair…is one of the most significant things I've ever had the honor of being involved in."
Progressives first became familiar with Americans for Prosperity because of its role, along with Glenn Beck's 912 Project, in organizing the disruption of town-hall meetings across the country at which members of Congress were scheduled to discuss pending health-care reform legislation with their constituents. Many assumed the AFP astroturfers, who are not required to disclose their funding sources, were aligned specifically with health-care interests — and indeed they may be aligned with some. Look a little closer, though, and you'll find at the top of their agenda the derailment of energy reform, especially the cap-and-trade formula for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Naming defeat of clean-energy legislation his "number one legislative priority," Kerpen, in his FOX News column, details his role in demonizing Jones in the right-wing echo-chamber from which Jones, as an Obama aide, could not escape.
By his own account, Kerpen's quest to fell Van Jones began on July 9 — weeks before Color of Change began to organize against Beck — when he was asked to appear on FOX & Friends to explain "what green jobs are"; and to discuss Obama's green-jobs "czar," Van Jones. A little research revealed Jones' involvement, early in his activist career, with a group that embraced socialist values. From there, Kerpen extrapolated, "the ‘green jobs' concept was merely a new face on the old ideology of central economic planning and control, an alternative and a threat to free market capitalism."
The month before, Kerpen explains, he and Beck had dubbed the cap-and-trade energy reform legislation embraced by the Obama as "a watermelon" — "green on the outside but Communist red to the core." (No racist intent in that characterization, of course.) Cap-and-trade is a mechanism through which industrial plants are given permits to produce X amount of pollution. After they've used up their allotment, they can only pollute more by buying the unused permits of other permit-holders. This creates incentives for certain businesses to limit their greenhouse gas emissions for the monetary payoff of selling their permits.
In Kerpen's August 28 appearance on Beck's show, he broadened his attack to include the Apollo Alliance, on whose board Jones once sat. The Apollo Alliance seeks to build public-private partnerships on green jobs, working with business, labor unions, government officials and activists. After that, Kerpen brays, Beck "began pounding away" on Jones.
Americans for Prosperity, FOX News and the Murdoch Agenda
Americans for Prosperity, as AlterNet reported, works closely with the personalities of FOX News, and has long received substantial funding by the oil money of David Koch, who serves as chairman of the board of directors of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. But even that fun fact offers too narrow a view of the agenda advanced by Americans for Prosperity with the mighty assistance of Glenn Beck's uber-boss, Rupert Murdoch, owner of FOX and the Wall Street Journal, and chairman of the colossal News Corporation. Together, these two entities oppose any form of regulation that would disturb the status quo for Very Big Business — conglomerates that range in sector from nuclear power to the for-profit prison industry.
To these entrenched interests, Van Jones is a very dangerous man, indeed — even as a mid-level White House aide. (Now that he is "liberated" by his White House resignation, as AlterNet Executive Editor Don Hazen writes, they may soon rue the day they sought to turn Jones out of the government.)
As inspirational speakers go, it's hard to find an equal to Jones, who has already helped to broaden the clean-energy and environmental movements far beyond their white, crunchy-granola base. Adept at building coalitions and finding interdisciplinary approaches, Jones is just the person to sell an abstract concept like cap-and-trade to regular, cash-strapped Americans.
Jones' approach includes the greening of American cities, the development of green jobs for inner-city citizens — and especially for repatriating ex-convicts into civil society — as well as wonky remedies like cap-and-trade. It's a fully integrated vision. As Jones told me in an interview last year, "If you ... have to break up with oil and coal, you may as well break up with poverty and a bunch of other stuff."
Actually, in his FOX News column, Kerpen gets the Jones agenda pretty well: