Mr. Ratigan was down at Zuccotti Park most of last weekend, interviewing participants and chatting them up about his new crusade on behalf of campaign finance reform. Late last month, Mr. Ratigan established a foundation called Get Money Out with the goal of amending the Constitution to forbid private campaign contributions. Since September 27, he’s racked up more than 170,000 signatures.
“Some love it, some hate it,” he told Off the Record of the protesters.
But he’s not asking them to organize around his cause, or any other one, for that matter.
“The desire to create a list of demands is a function of those who are threatened, trying to put them in a box,” Mr. Ratigan explained.
By contrast, he’s been asking demonstrators about the various personal reasons that inspired their involvement. He’s compiled their answers for an entry on his Huffington Post blog and submitted it to the Occupied Wall Street Journal, though he is unsure whether or not they will publish it.
Just because the movement’s scattershot doesn’t mean there’s no solidarity, he noted.
“We’re asking, ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘What am I doing?’” he said, of the protesters. “That energy seeks to harmonize with itself,” he went on, building up some momentum. “It’s a million points of light, that’s a digital matrix of identity. It’s harder to digest the subject-object relationship. Simply one group of Us, this one gigantic group of Us.”
Mr. Ratigan’s recommends activists focus on principles and goals—what he calls an “open source” movement—rather than the existing mechanisms of change and power.
“We want to release our own egos from ideas and affiliations,” he said, “but we should probably exhibit a bit more compassion for the legacy systems—Mr. Business, Mr. Government, Mr. Media—the people who are threatened because they’re afraid they’re going to lose all that money,” he explained.
Like, say, cable news anchors?
“Yes!” he said. “That’s why I’m doing everything I can to define my voice, and get out of the business of going on television and reading information to people, which was the job I came into ten years ago.”
MSNBC has been slowly drifting out of that business, he elaborated, and looking instead for journalists who are also advocates. Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow are advocates, he pointed out.
He was eager to note that the two-party system served us well through the 19th century.
“We need to honor and thank those systems,” he said…before we supplant them with the open-source movement.
But this is a revolution! Shouldn’t we burning something?
“To burn yourself in the town square is an indulgence of your own ego,” Mr. Ratigan told us. “Harness the anger to the threshold to burn yourself, organize it into a principled force of change. For me that’s what this amendment is, a positive channel for our frustration. And it’s a positive tool to begin a positive conversation.”