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?

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.

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“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

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