MSNBC’s Ratigan Goes Way Off the Deep End

Discussing violent revolution as if it's just another policy option

MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan not only decided it was a good idea to have on far-left cartoonist Ted Rall to discuss his new book The Anti-American Manifesto, which calls for the left to consider violent revolution if its aims aren’t met, but Ratigan overtly endorsed revolution and implicitly endorsed considering violence.

If this were on Fox News, the media would be blowing a fuse. It better get working on this one. If it’s suspension-worthy for an obiously left-wing host to give campaign donations to politicians, what is it when one quasi-endorses considering overthrowing the government via the gun?

Here’s Ratigan introducing his segment (via NewsBusters’ transcript):

RATIGAN: Welcome back. We are here with a very disconcerting question. Are things in our country so bad that it might be time for a revolution? The answer obviously is yes, the only question is how to do it. From the wrongful wars to the corrupt economy to the special interests and the six industries that control every politician in this country, the political system itself, gerrymandering, 75% of all districts weren’t even up for grabs last week. You call that a competitive market?

To clear our dire problems may require even more drastic solutions. And our next guest, cartoonist and author Ted Rall, targets the day-to-day absurdities in Washington through political cartoons printed in newspapers across the country, but now he’s tackling something bigger. The need for real change and real action, perhaps even through violence, or at least the threat thereof. It’s the subject of his new book, the “Anti American Manifesto”. Ted, nice to see you. What do you mean with that title?

Yeah, good to see you, Ted. Here are some softballs for you.

Fox News’s insane Glenn Bleck, while he’s gone way, way overboard with violent imagery and rhetoric, at least hasn’t gotten quite that explicit.

Leaving aside the dubious wisdom of even inviting on your program somebody advocating considering violence, if you’re going to do so, you at least need to go adversarial with them (I’m thinking old-school Phil Donahue show-how-they’re-nuts style). But this is as friendly as interviews get (emphasis mine):

RATIGAN: If you were to look at the way government changes, political process being the most preferable, although sometimes totally ineffective or destructive, the bond and financial markets, certainly an opportunity for those to intervene in this country, and force meaningful reformation, passive resistance and the end game being violence, why do you go to your book to the category 4, if you will, government change, which is violence?

RALL: In the “Anti-American Manifesto”, I argue that violence is the last case scenario. It’s the worst case, nobody wants it. It’s easier to go other routes. Obviously going through the political system is best. But we’ve seen for the last 2 years, since the economy melted down, that neither the Democrats nor Republicans nor any possible third party is poised to step in. We know that the financial markets are getting increasingly monopolized, and they’re in bed with the duopoly. As you showed at the opening of the hour, with the 1% of the country owning 24% of the income and it’s just getting worse. That process is going to accelerate. In terms of passive resistance, the american left has been very peaceful since the early ’70s, since the Kent State shootings, And where has it gotten us? Millions of people marched against the war in Iraq. What did it do?

See, there’s a fundamental problem with advocating violent revolution in the United States of America. I can’t believe I have to spell this out to newsmen affiliated with the National Broadcasting Corporation.

Where once Americans were subjugated by their countrymen across the pond and not given the right to freely choose their own government—we have that right now and have had it for more than two centuries. You can talk about the pernicious influence that corporations have on elections and on elected politicians, but ultimately Americans—if they want to—can rise up and throw these people out of office. 50.01 percent wins elections. If you lose, suck it up, hone your arguments, and fight (metaphorically, of course) harder. It is not acceptable to have a journalist on a major network talking to nutjobs talking about violence, even qualifying it as a “last resort,” as if this is a legitimate option.

If Americans think there are wrongful wars, they can elect people to end them. They elected Obama to end Iraq, but he campaigned on winning Afghanistan. That’s what he’s done—or tried to, anyway. The people voted for it, dude, however much you don’t like it. But when you’re rhetoric is as—to borrow a word—corrupted as Ratigan’s is that you can say with a straight face on national television that “six industries… control every politician in this country,” that betrays a basic faith in the people, one that implies that it’s acceptable for a minority to revolt to institute what they think everybody ought to think.

Look, I think the system sucks, but I’m enough a democrat to think that the people can fix it if they want to. They’ve put in transformational figures like Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Ronald Reagan at key moments in history. Obama had his chance and flubbed most of it. When the system goes too far to one side or gets too captured, the people will overturn it at the ballot box.

Ratigan’s and Rall’s warped thinking is the same sort of logical fallacy made by lots of folks in the Tea Party (which by the way, is a prime example of how the people can still turn things upside down when they get ticked off). Taxes or health care, say, are not tyrannical if they’re enacted by democratically elected representatives. If you don’t accept this, you don’t accept the basic concept of democracy.

If I were tyrannical ruler of journalism, some folks would be gone from MSNBC. Good thing I’m not. But the very few of you who watch MSNBC can vote with your clicker and journalists in the NBC family can refuse to go on Ratigan’s show. They ought to unless something drastically changes over there.

The political system in this country is sick. People are pissed off (though the vast majority have enough good sense not to be this pissed off). Good journalism is about finding ways to explain this to people and showing them how to fix things through persuasion. Talking to kooks about resorting to violence, much less at a minimum giving the impression that you agree with them, is way, way out of bounds.

Journalism, to a fault, always seems to play between the 40 yard lines.

But MSNBC just got a safety, and it ought to be lights out on some folks over there. Else it’s time lock them away in Glenn Beck’s doom bunker.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,