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?

110706 ratigan answerthis msnbc 328 e1325641187802 Dylan Goes Eclectic: As An Advocate Who Hosts a Show, Can MSNBCs Ratigan Broadcast Nuance to the Masses?It’s another reason he doesn’t necessarily consider himself a journalist. “I’m an advocate who hosts a show, let’s be honest,” he said. The advocacy Mr. Ratigan is referring to is his Get Money Out! movement, which aims to introduce a new Constitutional amendment banning corporate campaign contributions. Mr. Ratigan said the group is the largest nonprofit in the world pushing for corporate political finance reform, “by dollars, by people, by staff, and by signatures.” While he said he has ruled out running for office (at least until his amendment passes), he intends to keep pushing the issue.

“I will do as much as possible to address what I see as the structural misaligned interests in America,” he declared. “I’m hoping that we’ll be able to enlist tens of millions of people.” And to those who question the propriety of such an effort by a newsman, he said, “To the extent to which I am able to acquire and amass and advocate resources around an agenda that is transparent, and people know what I’m doing, it’s what I’m going to do. I’ll start a circus. Are you kidding me? We have to do this. Who cares if Dylan Ratigan is a journalist?”

GREEDY BASTARDS!, Mr. Ratigan said, was conceived as a response to the economic decline of the last three years. It was written with a team of five researchers, a ghostwriter, and a close college friend—a PhD in stem-cell biology—to help “logic-proof” the 245-page text.

That title notwithstanding, the book doesn’t actually go after the bastards themselves, but instead takes aim at a cultural tendency, what the author calls “greedy bastardism,” which can be adopted or discarded at will.

The antidote to greedy bastardism, Mr. Ratigan writes, is a systemic set of values he dubs V.I.C.I. (or vici, Latin for ‘I Overcame’), which translates into Visibility, Integrity, Choice and Interests.

That formula might not be quite vehement enough for some of Mr. Ratigan’s fans, who presumably expect a bit more red meat with their reading. “I’m sure they’ll be taken aback,” he admitted. “They might be a little confused. But I’ll be able to reveal my own process of self-discovery, because my reaction to all of this has been fury and frustration, and what I’ve learned is that it’s not constructive.”

Indeed, the rage-aholic outbursts that have fueled Mr. Ratigan’s rise—leading The Daily Beast to dub him “The Angriest Man in Cable”—seem to be abating, and not a moment too soon. “Over the past year,” he said, “I’ve gained 25 pounds. I’ve started smoking again. It has made me miserable.”

Mr. Ratigan, who lives in Tribeca, is indulging a softer side. He has been known to get on stage with one of his favorite bands, Fountains of Wayne, and play the gourd at their concerts. He has taken up paddleboarding. “It forces you into the present tense, you know?” he said. And he recently sought out Deepak Chopra personally to get the guru’s advice on chilling out.

“I’d like to lose some weight and I’d like to be happy,” said the broadcaster, who has been engaged twice but is currently single. “I still want to do this job, you know, and I have to find a way to do that, and the only way to do it is to have some compassion.”

He stops, and then adds: “Including compassion, by the way, for the bankers. And the politicians.”

How will that play on cable, we ask him, where everyone knows anger is what sells?

“We’re going to find out if compassion sells.”

fkamer@observer.com | @weareyourfek


  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!