After resigning from the White House Council on Environmental Quality almost two years ago in the face of a malicious campaign by some top conservatives, Van Jones has returned to the public eye.
On Monday, Jones emerged from the woodwork with plans to take legal action against Fox News. In a cease and desist letter sent to Fox executive vice president for legal & business affairs, Dianne Brandi, Jones’ attorney cited the “demonstrably, unequivocally and absolutely false” statements that many commentators on the network have made about Jones since 2009 — including that he supported 9/11, encouraged violence against police officers and had spent time in jail.
It turns out that letter was only the tip of the iceberg.
On Thursday night, book-ended by a Shepard Fairey DJ set (who knew?) and a raucous live performance by the Roots, Jones officially announced the birth of a new, national movement he’s calling “Rebuild the Dream,” aimed primarily at the thousands of middle class workers who have lost their jobs, their homes, and their livelihoods in the past few years.
Standing before a packed house at the austere midtown Manhattan performance venue, Town Hall, Jones delivered an hour-long speech, complete with charts, diagrams, videos and graphics. The American people have been “robbed,” he said, and we must restore the American Dream to this country.
“We are being lied to,” Jones repeated often throughout the evening. “We are not broke. We’re the richest country in the history of the world.”
If the country were actually broke, he said, how come only some of us are truly suffering? Jones delivered the fact that 83 percent of U.S. stocks belong to the top 1 percent of Americans, while 21 percent of American children are living below the poverty line.
“There used to be an iron link between pay and productivity,” he said, adding a challenge to the rich: “If you do well in America, you should do well by America.”
Throughout Jones’ speech, many references were also made to the Tea Party movement, as Jones essentially framed “Rebuild the Dream” as a less partisan attempt to organize progressive thinkers into a similar collective.
“We are not fighting against our opponents, we’re fighting for them, too,” he said. “This is a moral movement.”
Jones broke down his presentation into four lies that he believes have permeated the current American conversation, lies that are prevalent, he said, because they have been repeated so often by politicians and the media.
The first lie: we’re broke. The second: Asking the super rich to pay taxes hurts America’s economy. Third: Hating on America’s government, wrecking America’s infrastructure — is patriotic. The fourth: We’re helpless against Wall Street.
“We are not helpless,” Jones said. “They just want us to shut up, sit down, and suffer.”
Starting July 5, he’s asking Americans to submit any and all ideas for how we can rebuild the American dream.
He cited prominent ideas he believes hold weight — among them a “gambling” tax on traders, which would take one-tenth of a penny from the 1,000 “lighting trades” per second currently being made on Wall Street.
Jones also addressed his own detractors in the media, saying he never lived in a “militant” household growing up — in fact, he added, his father was a police officer for the U.S. military.
“Some of you know me from the work I’ve done,” Jones said. “And some of you might know me from the nonsense Fox TV has been putting out.”
Jones, who was once known as one of the country’s leading environmental activists, appears to be moving in a broader political direction with “Rebuild the Dream.” Environmental issues were barely even discussed throughout the course of the night.
“This is about a very small number of very greedy people against the United States of America,” he said. “America itself is at risk. It is time to come together and fight.”