Green jobs guru Van Jones spent a short time in 2009 as the White House Special Advisor for Green Jobs. He had been a long-time green jobs advocate and was now able to take his passion for green jobs and share it in a more official capacity. Unfortunately a bit of unfounded controversy led to Jones’ sudden resignation from office. Last week, Shirley Sherrod suddenly resigned from her position in the Agriculture Department amidst more unfounded controversy. Jones discusses the similarities between their two situations in an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times.
Here are a few clips from Jones’ piece, Shirley Sherrod and Me:
“I understand how Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official who was forced to resign last week, must have felt.”
“But the way we were treated is strikingly similar, and it reveals a lot about the venal nature of Washington politics in the Internet era. In my case, the media rushed to judgment so quickly that I was never able to make clear that the group put my name on its Web site without my permission. The group finally admitted that it never had my signature, but by then it was too late.”
“The victims aren’t just government employees — the public as well is hurt. The imperative to immediately and constantly churn out news on even the most minor bit of controversy leads news organizations, and partisans posing as news organizations, to cross the line from responsible reporting to dangerous rumor-mongering.”
Yes, Jones and Sherrod are two victims in this debacle but so to are you and I, Americans who rely on the service that these two individuals offered to Americans. While Jones’ green jobs advocacy continues, we will never know how much of a boost the green jobs movement could have received if Jones stayed on his path in a more official capacity.
However, in this era of Twitter, Facebook, and Google cache everything we say and do is out there and that leaves everyone at risk of misinterpretation and misrepresentation. Jones’ closes out his piece with a suggestion on handling politics in this on-demand digital age:
“We have to understand that no one can be defined by a single photograph, open-mike gaffe or sound bite. Not even our greatest leaders could have survived if they had to be taken to task for every poorly conceived utterance or youthful demonstration of immature political views. When it comes to politics in the age of Facebook, the killer app to stop the “gotcha” bullies won’t be a technological one — it will be a wiser, more forgiving culture.”