Dylan Goes Eclectic: As ‘An Advocate Who Hosts a Show,’ Can MSNBC’s Ratigan Broadcast Nuance to the Masses?

Cable loudmouth Dylan Ratigan is ditching anger for Deepak, paddleboarding, and compassion (even for bankers). Has the stark raving madman found enlightenment, or gone off the deep end?

greedy bastards high res 682x1024 Dylan Goes Eclectic: As An Advocate Who Hosts a Show, Can MSNBCs Ratigan Broadcast Nuance to the Masses?Despite viewing Mr. Bloomberg as a mentor, Mr. Ratigan took issue with the mayor’s handling of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which Mr. Ratigan supported and visited on several occasions with an MSNBC camera crew. Though Mr. Ratigan identifies himself as a conservative, and stands more than a few notches to the right of some of his MSNBC colleagues, he seems to have an instinctive sympathy for the underdog. “I’ve spent a lot of my career dealing with the wealthiest, most powerful 1 percent as a reporter by covering them and interacting with them,” he pointed out, “and as a social worker my mother has spent the bulk of her career dealing with some of the most impoverished 1 percent.”

The Bloomberg administration’s approach to the protests, Mr. Ratigan said, “was disappointing for me.” He pointed out the unique opportunity the mayor has to address issues like wealth inequality. “Mike is in a position to do that, and I think to do that in a way a few people could,” he said, quickly adding a note of optimism: “Listen, I’m still hopeful that he may do that, although there is certainly not any indication.”

While Mr. Ratigan’s career as a talking head seems to be speeding along a well-traveled route—hopping from one network to another amid a spasm of leaked news reports; moving from straight reporting to loudly articulated opinion; unleashing a made-for-YouTube tirade; publishing a book—he insists it’s all been a reaction to circumstances. Primarily, he cites the financial meltdown, and what he sees as the financial press’s failure to prevent it, see it coming, or at minimum explain it to viewers.

“It’s negligent,” Mr. Ratigan said, “to be in the national media covering a national unemployment crisis, covering a national housing crisis, covering a national education crisis, covering a national poverty crisis,” and not be communicating the basic underlying principles to your audience.

For instance, the idea that credit derivatives are not backed by actual assets, he said, “is utterly insulting beyond all comprehension. It’s one of those things where the more you learn about it, the more horrifying it becomes.”

And the Obama administration hasn’t helped matters, he said. “We’ve seen no change. We’ve seen the Obama administration and [Treasury Secretary Timothy] Geithner actually codify and advance” the broken system. “Instead of blaming George Bush or Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, you realize that they’re all doing it!”

As for financial journalism’s role in the economic meltdown, he said, “It’s grossly disappointing.” He laughed. “What do you want me to tell you? It’s embarrassing.”

Mr. Ratigan left CNBC in April 2009. “I’m happy to not be a journalist,” he said, noting that the constraints of the profession had made it impossible to see the big picture. “My old style was, ‘Well, this is a sport [in which] we try and figure out what’s the best idea to put money into,'” he said. In his new role, he can step back and impart a larger point, namely: “This is a fundamentally corrupt global system that people don’t understand.”

Righteous though he can sound, Mr. Ratigan is not altogether unimpeachable. In December 2010, MSNBC announced that steel company Nucor would be sponsoring The Dylan Ratigan Show‘s “Steel on Wheels” tour of the country. At the time, Mr. Ratigan told TVNewser’s Gail Shister: “I won’t talk about Nucor on the air, absolutely not,” in light of the potential conflicts. But in a February 2011 episode, he toured a Nucor factory in Seattle.

When The Observer asked him about the discrepancy, Mr. Ratigan exhaled loudly. “That’s an absolutely fair criticism,” he said finally. “I recognize that was a mistake,” he added, explaining that he should never have promised not to cover Nucor in the first place.

That might not satisfy a professor of journalistic ethics, but it’s more of a mea culpa than one might expect. “Your ego is a huge liability to your judgment, and when you get into these jobs, your ego only gets bigger,” Mr. Ratigan said. “How can I go on TV and blather about integrity and all this nonsense and then not exhibit it? I’d be a real asshole.”


  1. Arf Fartlander says:

    Criminals always remain calm and use the passion of those being swindled to question their character. That’s what they mean by the banality of evil. Crook are simple and stupid and disorganized, but calm so you can’t see them for what they are.  

    Meanwhile they rob you blind with zero emotion about it.  Thugs always believe that they are going to screw someone else before they get screwed because they know how scummy and dishonest they are and assume everyone else is a punk like them.  Reminds me of Los Angeles where It’s OK t quietly steal, but to yell that you’ve been robbed is considered pushy and unstable. It is a way of dismissing the victim.  You don’t fool me Foster. a fact is a fact. it doesn’t become less true because someone is angry about it.So your argument is that your surprise that someone who gets emotional about facts could ever be taken seriously. That’s a good raquet you got gong their.  It reminds me of the Palestinians firing rockets at villages and then playing victims when they get hit back.Dylan owns you and your shallow simple mind.

    1. Foster Kamer says:

      Mr. Fartlander – 

      Your input is appreciated.


      – Foster.

    2. Bob Jacobson says:

       …And your point is?

  2. Bob Jacobson says:

    I remember Dylan’s outburst.  I turned to my partner and said to her, “My god, for once someone on commercial TV said something sane, something meaningful and actionable.”   It was a moment to be remembered and savored.

    Dylan’s analyses are more often accurate than not, even though he may blur the details a little  and leave some edges unsanded.  He can tell a good story and make the morale stick.  I can’t say the same for his guests who are often cookie-cutter pundit dough.  Get some real radicals on, people who are in the same camp as, or to the left of, say, Paul Krugman and George Stiglitz … that would catch fire!

    Whether the TV medium suits Dylan’s expository methods is a another question, however.  Perhaps if he imported those swell whiteboard cartoon animations that describe complex phenomena in one-minute expositions.  Use TV to advantage, rather than futility trying with ephemeral words and static charts to overcome the viewers’ disposition to seek visual novelty. 

    A real media designer could do wonders with this show, as would some sly humor.  It would quickly move from afternoon delight to counter-convention mainstay, the news equivalent of the Smothers Brothers Show when it was on or That Was The Week That Was. 

    Dylan’s got the stuff.  Now can he strut it?

  3. Droid says:

    Zing from Arf fartlander. I didn’t think the author was too taken aback by the anger, but rather that he was merely following Dylan’s trial by fire process of dealing with the madness, the humanity, the horror. We all need some compassion, anger was so 2011. (ha).

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dylan can get rid of his weight and need for instant downers (cigaret = nicotine/carbon monoxide) if he eats only live food(no extra shelf-life) to maintain connection with life itself. The residual animal-world bacteria input gets going in places they only find out in autopsies. During this process he can read and practice “Self-Remembering” (Robert Earl Burton, 1995) and connect all points of his important life with the empathy his mother awakened in his soul.
    Transform that useful as-a- signal-only anger into quiet determination. John Bonifaz of freespeechforpeopledotorg has already done the heavy lifting.
    With the corporations marked as hostile tigers, life is good.

  5. Troy says:

    I like Ratigan. I just wish he would understand that we can’t fix these problems right away, he is way too tough on Obama. That being said, most voters don’t handle nuance, and I’m glad there is a show out there like Ratigan that doesn’t care.

  6. BurgersBytes says:

    I ALMOST felt sorry for Susan that day, but hey, she’s a Republican… Despite that fact I think Dylan is winning her over… let’s hope so anyway.

  7. And if MSNBC doesn’t like it, there is always Current TV!