Jane Velez-Mitchell is happiest in the service of humanity and the animal kingdom. Right now it means warning Americans that we are addicted to stuff, porn, violence, crime, celebrity, putting people in jail, junk food, all kinds of drugs, alcohol and the Internet — even cleanliness — reminding us that extremes are not good for individuals or the planet as a whole.
Velez-Mitchell hosts the advocacy show “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell” on CNN’s HLN. A crime reporter and “issues” person since her youth, she covered the Michael Jackson trial like a blanket.
Her new book, “Addict Nation: An Intervention for America,” is not theoretical. She has faced her own demons — serious addictions and other issues — and came out of her journey happier and emotionally stable. Working with co-author Sandra Mohr, her newest book is a guide that forces us to take a close look at ourselves, and offers sage and practical advice. But don’t expect her to be gentle. She is brutally honest and offers tough love.
“Almost everything being presented to us as a free choice is being designed, packaged and sold in a way to get us hooked so we keep coming back for more,” she writes. “Our addictions have robbed us of our freedom of choice … Corporations, government, and the media are creating the illusion that the more we have, the better we are. … Americans are being seduced into self-destructive behavior on a mass scale. It’s time to take our power back.” This consumer epidemic, she explains, affects every aspect of our lives, including the economy, our health and our environment.
In a recent phone conversation, Velez-Mitchell told MNN that she got into journalism because she loved to read, and greatly enjoyed writing and politics. Her mom was a conservative Republican who leaned a little to the left while her dad was still alive, but is more liberal now. The family was plagued by alcoholism, so when the family sat down to dinner, table talk revolved around current affairs instead of family matters as it was a less emotionally charged topic.
Velez-Mitchell wanted to be a syndicated columnist, but when she first saw herself in a clip on TV she thought, “Wow! I can do that!” and went on to major in broadcast journalism at NYU.
Her entry into environmentalism came from “evolution, not revolution. My dad had environmental inklings. Mother was a pescatarian — she ate fish. No meat. I was leaning in that direction myself, and as I explored more about how food gets on our plates, and I took the leap and went vegan. I use no tested products. I enjoy animals as fellow creatures. By the way, if you Google ‘meat production’ you’ll discover that it’s the worst contributor to global warming that there is. To me, it’s more environmentally sound to be a vegan in a Hummer than it is to be a meat-eater in a Prius. Animals are not ours to eat,” she said. VegNews gave her the Media Maven Award in 2010, and she won the Celebrity Animal Activist Award at the Animal Rights Conference in 2009.
When asked about journalism today compared to the days of Walter Cronkite, the seasoned pro gives it some thought and says, “The landscape today is different. There are so many places to get news on the Internet. I stopped watching TV regularly except for some programs … instead I find myself going to clips on the Net. What people are looking for on TV is analysis and in-depth information, which is why ‘60 Minutes’ still works — they dig up information that no one else has.”
Velez-Mitchell also believes that advocacy journalism works. One of her issues is women’s rights and safety. According to crime stats, a woman in the U.S. is assaulted every two minutes.
“There’s a war on women,” she says. “Why should I be terrified and need to carry my cell when I walk my dog? This issue clicks with people. In my book I discuss how women are objectified, abused, poisoned by our cleaning products and even our cosmetics. But the real issue is intimate partner violence. It does have a gender component to it, since men commit murder much more than women do. It is an aberration for women to commit murders.”
Says Velez-Mitchell, “We need to make changes, but women only make up 17 percent of Congress and that is not enough. We need 30 percent. I believe we women need to get started again, to open a new phase of post-feminism. Women cannot simply care about their own careers. We need to expand our circle of compassion and get involved. We are facing rollbacks in health care, freedom of choice, in the workplace and at home. We have to be activists. We can’t be complacent and assume that things will take care of themselves. Women have to get involved on campus, in politics, in running for office.”
Velez-Mitchell is an activist and uses her platforms to her best advantage. “My opinion can be heard and I give my opinion. I refuse to wear a psychological burka! We are 50 percent of the electorate and we want to be safe here in our country, so we have to do something about it.”