Tuesday, February 2, 2016

David Brooks, Donald Trump, Professional Wrestling, and Me

Back in August I wrote a piece about Donald Trump and professional wrestling at Salon. I am not the only person to have made the connection between Trump and the theater and spectacle of the action inside the squared circle. But in the last few weeks, more folks, in even more prominent places, have been "borrowing" from my argument in some pretty direct ways. There are few truly original ideas. However, there are ideas that are more original than others.

Imitation is flattery. Yes. But am I overreacting and this is all just mere coincidence of like minds connecting through the ether?

David Brooks has a new editorial on Donald Trump. His narrative centers itself on professional wrestling. One of his observations:
This is an anxious and angry nation. Many people have lost faith in its leadership. Somewhere in his marketer’s brain Donald Trump intuited that manners are more important than laws and that if you want to assault the established powers you have to assault their manners first. 
By shifting the cultural language Trump initiated a new type of culture war, really a manners war. He seemed fresh, authentic and resonant to a lot of people who felt alienated from the way elites govern, talk and behave. 
Professional wrestling generates intense interest and drama through relentless confrontation. Everybody knows it’s fake at some level, but it is perceived as fake and real at the same time (sort of like politics). What matters is not so much who wins or loses, or whether you are good or evil, but the aggressiveness by which you wage each mano-a-mano confrontation. 
Trump brought this style onstage at the first Republican debate, and a thousand taboos were smashed all at once. He insulted people’s looks. He stereotyped vast groups of people — Mexicans and Muslims. He called members of the establishment morons, idiots and losers. 
Trump was unabashedly masculine, the lingua franca of pro wrestling. Every time he was challenged, he was compelled by his code to double down the confrontation and fire back. 
Social inequality is always felt more acutely than economic inequality. Trump rose up on behalf of people who felt looked down upon, made them feel vindicated and turned social conduct on its head. 
But in Iowa on Monday night we saw the limit of Trump’s appeal. Like any other piece of showbiz theatrics, Trump was more spectacle than substance.
You tell me. Is imitation the highest form of flattery? Or am I overreacting? It is good to know that one's arguments are circulating in the ether. However, it is also nice to receive acknowledgement as one of the wellsprings from with they flow.

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