Mr Jones: The “Old Media” Meets NetRoots – and Ouch

Because of my day job, I try to keep politics of out this blog as much as possible, but occasionally, there is a rare example of a time at which the two coincide – in telling fashion.

The most recent case is that of Van Jones, the now-ex White House environment adviser, or “Green Jobs Czar.”

For those of you who are thankfully non-political, Mr. Jones was appointed in February to a “czar” post (no Congressional vetting nor approval needed) – a job in which he would advise President Obama about environmental issues.  By the White House’s own admission, “He was not as thoroughly vetted as other administration officials,…It’s fair to say there were unknowns.”

Then — enter Washington hardball.  Without going into political specifics, suffice it to say that Mr. Jones, prior to his appointment, had some unkind things to say about Republicans as well as having signed a petition in a prior life accusing the prior administration of having known about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

That’s not what matters here – what is the watershed moment for me is that this may, in fact, be the first time that YouTube has undone a presidential adviser and provided the “smoking gun” when the “mainstream media” has remained mute.   I stress social media because, as conservative outlets have pointed out, while YouTube and the online political right screamed all last week, ABS, NBC, CBS and CNN remained largely mute on the controversy.  Nada.  Zippy.  Zilch.

Mr. Jones twisted in the political wind for a week last week, issuing two separate apologies.  The political right smelled blood in the water and the political left, for the most part,  largely ignored the controversy.

In the meantime, a quick search reveals that there are 231 different videos on YouTube if one searches for “Van Jones” + “republicans.”  On the other hand, Mr. Jones’ hometown major newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, only began mentioning the story on September 4th- last Friday.

My point is not political;  it is related to the power of social media.  I suppose the lesson for Mr. Jones is, even if you have a friendly audience, if there is one guy in the room with a video camera, assume that that video can end up on YouTube one day and bite you in the rear end the next.  If you sign a petition that is casually put in front of you, read it. The same goes for both ends of the political spectrum.

I am old enough to remember when the “Big Three” networks basically told us what to think.  Now, we are seeing the political divide and when the “Big Three” choose to largely ignore a story, you better do a Google search as well.  Oh – and by the way — the “duh” rule – if you are vetting a political candidate, you might want to Google the person as well.  All presidential appointees are required, as part of background checks,  to answer a simple question: “Have you done anything that could potentially embarrass the President?”


P.S. – the video is below.  Use the “earmuffs” rule if kids are within earshot.



  1. Moultrie Creek Says: September 7, 2009 at 5:28 am

    Enjoyed your article very much. You might enjoy reading Glenn Reynolds’ Army of Davids. His point is that technology has given each of us the ability to significantly impact our world. If you look back at the London bombings, one of the things that helped identify and capture some of those terrorists were people with camera phones that caught some of the “action”. In large disasters – like the tsunami – local bloggers described the devastation and organized survivor lists long before big news organizations could get there. It’s a very new information world and many of the legacy media still haven’t quite figured it out. Ignoring us may be their death knell.

  2. Mark Story Says: September 7, 2009 at 6:06 am


    Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’ll be sure to check out your recommendation.


  3. Raquel Fuentes Says: September 8, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Last night on CNN a democratic strategist was commenting on all the good work he’s done over the years. Unfortunately, it’s a sad wake up call, you could be really good but one bad (inexcusable) moment can bring it all down. The White House should have done a better job of vetting him.

  4. Such an interesting post and extremely important. This applies to anything, especially college kids. Those wild parties may be fun, but folks aren’t laughing if pictures/videos are taken of them in their drunken-stooper and posted for the world to see. That potential boss may find that behavior to be a deciding factor in a job offer.

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