SXSW Panel: The Messy Truth With Van Jones

CNN commentator takes on our new reality television society

With a Southern preacher’s vigor and his renowned diplomacy, CNN host and commentator Van Jones reinvigorated his passionate call to “decode Trump” and his supporters, while continuing his walking back of his much-criticized praise of President Trump’s first address to Congress.

Van Jones at SXSW 2017 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Very flatly, Jones called Trump “even worse than he feared,” and that Trump is the president of our age, noting the incumbent’s understanding of new “rules,” and its inherent conditioning. “Everything he did conformed to the rules of social media and reality television,” explained Jones. “In reality television, the villain is always the star. Being the bad guy works on reality television. Saying crazy stuff on Twitter doesn’t lose followers; it gets you more, and he knew that.”

Never leaving the dais, Jones starkly spoke, with both wit and urgency, on what he’s learned producing CNN’s The Messy Truth, where he traveled to conservative-leaning states to discover where he believed the country’s political disconnection with working-class white voters begins. Saying he talked with “some of the most beautiful people [he’d] ever met,” he broke down the realities of disintegrating (or nonexistent) economic environments and backlash to liberals’ vocal “disdain” for rural America’s penchant for voting against economic interests. Said Jones, about liberals eschewing their role in Trump’s ascendency: “Democrats have to confess: The politics of accusation is easy.”

In closing, Jones, who said that he doesn’t envision Trump being impeached, called for a shedding of sociopolitical tribalism, conveying that parties must work together for solutions, that justice and liberty must conjoin. He asked both sides, “Can you call people up, instead of calling people out?”


The Messy Truth With Van Jones

Friday, March 10, Austin Convention Center

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw.

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SXSW 2017, SXSW Interactive 2017, Van Jones, The Messy Truth, SXSW Panel

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