How to Create a Progressive Hero

It appears that among the examples of heroism, progressives want to include organizing those hopeless, down trodden individuals, who were seduced by the American dream of owning their own homes, into a collective group of deadbeats.  At least, that is the latest takeaway from an interview conducted by Dylan Ratigan with Stephen Lerner.  Ratigan later posted snippets of the interview at the Huffington Post with this bold question in the post’s title, “Collective Bargaining for Homeowners: Heroism or Terrorism?”  Mr. Ratigan and Mr. Lerner should know it’s not heroic to take advantage of homeowners who are under financial stress for the purpose of making a social statement, let alone to create an even greater financial mess than what we are facing already.  Furthermore, both Lerner and Ratigan are disingenuous about the nature of comments made by Lerner, which led to this aggrandizing interview.

Lerner, as described in his bio on the Huffington post, is a union organizer and director of the SEIU’s banking and finance campaign.  However, recent audio tape of a presentation given by him at this year’s Left Forum has elevated Lerner to a nominee for the role of a progressive hero.  Though to get there, Mr. Lerner’s speech had to first come to the attention of theblaze.com and Glenn Beck.

A reasonable assessment of Mr. Lerner’s speech is that it described a couple of different action plans intended to “literally cause a new financial crisis” and, “to sort of inspire a much bigger movement about redistributing wealth and power in the country.”  One of these action plans is to organize a massive number of homeowners who are underwater on their current mortgage into a group who will refuse to pay on their loans.  Another of Lerner’s plan includes directly targeting J.P. Morgan/Chase through civil disobedience and shutting down its shareholder meetings with the goal of destabilizing Wall Street and the U.S. financial system. To Glenn Beck and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), these plans resemble a conspiracy to commit some form of economic terrorism, but to Ratigan, and a good number of people on the left (judging from the number of positive comments from posters at Huffington Post), Lerner is heroic.

This shouldn’t be too surprising; in a genuine, Marxist way Lerner is calling for a social movement; for a class of the supposed oppressed to rally against financial institutions and by proxy, against the government that has supported those institutions, with the result being a breakdown of the system where real “change” can be adopted.  But, to say that out loud would probably scare the average U.S. citizen and sway public opinion against such an idea all too quickly.  So, to make Lerner into not only a hero to the far left but to the average independent voter, in comes Dylan Ratigan and a chorus of supporters at the Huffington Post. 

Huffington Post published Ratigan’s post regarding his interview with Lerner on Saturday.  The post was little more than a transcript of Lerner lecturing at the prompting of Ratigan’s enabling questions.  Instead of addressing the controversy or the actual comments made by Lerner at Left Forum, Ratigan’s interview generally set up a platform for Lerner to reframe the debate from – Isn’t it Unlawful to Conspire to Crash the United States Financial System – to – Are Glenn Back and All Those Tea Partiers Shills for Wall Street? 

Through the creative use of bold fonts, Ratigan highlights Lerner’s statements that, people like Beck are only referring to Lerner’s call for action as terrorism in an attempt to stifle speech; that we shouldn’t be paying back the banks because they got their money by stealing; and, why yes, Beck and the Tea Parties are shills for wall street.  By doing so, Ratigan turns Lerner’s absurd call for a disruption of the U.S. financial system into a seemingly rational call for action against these supposed shills, thieves, and suppressers of free speech.   Mr. Ratigan’s interview is not what most would call journalism.  It is dissembling.  And, Mr. Lerner’s call for a disruption of this country’s financial system, though perhaps not technically a call for terrorism, at the least resembles a conspiracy to conduct criminal mischief.  Regardless, it is definitely not heroic.

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