Monday, February 25, 2013

How Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger's Promo on Glenn Beck is a Damning Indictment of American Politics

Politics is professional wrestling. Professional wrestling is politics. As I wrote here, Glenn Beck's "feud" with the Tea Party GOP inspired heel characters Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger is not priceless per se--all parties involved would have a nice payday if the angle moves forward--but the show is a great example of how professional wrestling is a more honest spectacle than what counts as "politics" in the 24/7 news cycle.

There are rare moments when the veil is pulled down and the fourth wall is broken. Colter and Swagger's newest promo against Glenn Beck, where they quite literally erase the boundaries between the business of professional wrestling and politics, is one such instance.

Using simple language, Colter explains that he and his fellow workers are performers. They are not "real people." But, as most professional wrestling fans know, the ability to adopt a dramatic persona and to sell it to the public through physical storytelling is what separates the greats from the also rans.

When the green screen background is dropped, the promo ends, and Swagger and Colter speak as their "real" selves to the viewer, they are indicting a public which believes in the "truth-telling" prowess of political entertainers such as Glenn Beck, talk radio, the talking heads on the TV, or engage in hero worship of elected officials such as President Barack Obama.

Professional wrestling fans, we who are "smart marks" especially, are in many ways more sophisticated than the political junkies who populate political blogs and web sites (what are really fan boy and fan girl mark hangouts) like the Free Republic or The Daily Kos.

They know that professional wrestling is a work and a game.

Do the Obamabots, Tea Party zealots, and true believers on either the Right or the Left realize that politics is much the same thing?

In reality, American politics is fought over issues that occupy a very narrow issue space. While a radicalized Tea Party GOP is willing to destroy the post World War 2 consensus model of governance in the service of hyper-conservatism, both the Republicans and Democrats as institutionalized political parties, by definition, agree on most basic issues.

Because there is so much agreement, our opinion leaders have to turn the volume way up in order to highlight their differences from one another. In professional wrestling, the goal is to put butts in the seats. Politics and the news media work by the same logic.  The former is just much more honest about that fact.

Thus, I have a few questions.

What would American politics look like if our elected officials and members of the commentariat class broke "kayfabe" like Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter? Would the American people be able to accept this reality? What if Obama (or any other President) dropped their character and talked truthfully and directly to the American people?

Glenn Beck is a master showman and carnival barker. His audience believes his shtick. Beck does not. Beck even admitted this fact to Forbes magazine when he told them:
With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: "I could give a flying crap about the political process." Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. "We're an entertainment company," Beck says.
Could Glenn Beck's "fight" with the WWE be a "worked shoot?" Are all parties simply playing along to make a buck? He certainly does not have Andy Kaufman's intelligence or artistic genius, but I would love to see Beck work an angle where he finds out this fake real wrestling stuff is far more real than he would like to admit.

In total, and once more, professional wrestling and politics are more alike than different. And we, the American people, are all participants in the big show.


Dave said...

"What if Obama (or any other President) dropped their character and talked truthfully and directly to the American people?"

That would be a side step out of this theater of the absurd. I wonder if all stakeholders have the guts for such "innovation".

chauncey devega said...

It would be beautiful to see...until they disconnected the satellite feed. We can dream though...I wonder if the American people are at all ready for the truth.

Synonymous said...

I wonder if their leaders are.

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train_star said...

I think the American people are ready. It is the politicians who are not.

Medical said...

This is the "third-way" fallacy. It's lazy and disingenuous to claim that "both sides are just the same." They aren't. They are very different.

Whyawannaknow said...

Sorry, at the national level and most definitely on foreign policy, the 2 US parties are identical.

Caleb50 said...

Don't agree. They are certainly rhetorically different. But on the very big issues, they are the same. Take foreign policy--there is absolutely no difference at all---zilch. But even on economic issues---BOTH PARTIES ARE TELLING US THAT SOCIAL ENTITLEMENTS NEED TO BE CUT BACK. Oh sure, they spend months arguing about whether somebody making more than 200K vs somebody making more than 400K should have their taxes raised---but that quibble is insignificant. On the bigger issue----like access to Medicare or SS, they are the same. There is not, at present, a grand and distinct philosophical difference on the most important issues---there are just heated arguments over narrow differences about how to best screw us all over.