Wednesday, April 26, 2017

U.S. Politics is Professional Wrestling

Blogging has been slow because of tax time and start of work on a new book, but I've seen too much in the media not to share this piece from my personal Facebook page. Yes it's off topic, but it's all in good fun.

I can only conclude it's serendipity. The most influential newspaper in the U.S. is catching on to a theory I've held since before the 2000 election, and on a day I'd planned to craft a rant about: that the best way to think of U.S. politics is to compare it with WWE (formerly WWF) pro wrestling. 

This piece in the Times misses the mark entirely, trying to make Trump and Alex Jones understandable by buying into kayfabe. That is, to understand why some people think the world of these real-world cartoon characters is to understand the same emotional process that makes fans of pro wrestling suspend their disbelief. Horseshit.

I've got an easier way to think about it: U.S. politics is professional wrestling, minus the physicality. The politicians and media personalities play obvious parallel roles to popular Sports Entertainment figures and conventions. Need proof?

Watch a debate between "political strategists" (i.e. hacks) on CNN, then listen to the commentary on an old Saturday Night's Main Event broadcast on YouTube. As with the on-air banter between Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Vince McMahon, CNN debates pit a mean-spirited, lying spin doctor (the Republican) against a flustered and hapless babyface who seems miserably unprepared for a fight (the Democrat). Even if the wrestling was awful - and in the 1980s, it usually was - the verbal back-and-forth provided more than enough entertainment. It's why mindless bullshit like Crossfire never stays off the air very long.

As for late-night comics or talk radio/Fox news shows, they're like the regular promo segments some wrestlers earned by virtue of their exceptional mic skills. Bill Maher's show is a political Piper's Pit. Bill O'Reilly had a virtual Snake Pit before Jake "The Snake" Roberts turned babyface (given his recent sexual harassment woes, perhaps Brother Love is a better comparison).

As for Info Wars? If the ever-incoherent Ultimate Warrior weren't already dead, I'd swear without the face paint and steroids he was Alex Jones.

But the comparisons don't stop with the media. So much of U.S. politics is pure theatrics, you can draw easy parallels between the politicians and famous pro wrestlers. Bill Clinton is like Hulk Hogan: can still charm a crowd like the best of them, but wears out his welcome quickly and is decades past his prime.

Barack Obama? The Rock (for God's sake, he even used the catchphrase "Do you smell what Barack is cooking" on an episode of Raw): boundless charisma, thrust into the top spot before he was seasoned, with an added factor of cool.

Which brings me to Donald Trump, the only politician (though I use that term loosely) to see a change in his pro wrestling counterpart. In the primaries, he was clearly "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase: obnoxiously rich, endlessly arrogant, and doling out insults like the dollar bills DiBiase would taunt and bully the audience with. (You can't help but wonder if Trump himself wasn't the inspiration for the character.)

Since the election, however, Trump has become 100% the Honky Tonk Man: bumbling, ineffectual, seen as an unworthy lame duck from the word go, and almost universally despised.

These comparisons demand almost no mental effort to make, so confident I am in the validity of this theory. Like Mick Foley says on the cover of his second book, sometimes the real world is faker than wrestling.

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