Edward Snowden

Pro Wrestling: Vladimir Putin vs. Edward Snowden

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Miguel Discart, CC BY

Professional wrestling, with its monstrous egos, blowhard rhetoric, and bad solutions (use the chair!), is kind of like politics except that it's got better acting. And, you can actually use wrestling as a sort of barometer for the average person's views, instead of the government's, on hot-button issues. This past Sunday World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) showed us how Americans perceive Russian President Vladimir Putin and whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

At a pay-per-view event in New Jersey, C.J. "Lana The Ravishing Russian" Perry riled up fans for a fight featuring Miroslav "Alexander Rusev" Barnyashev, by dedicating his performance to Putin. Perry announced in her best fake accent:

I am proud to be Russian. I am proud to come from a country with the most dominant and powerful president in the world, Vladimir Putin. He makes fools out of every one of you. You are merely pawns in his game of global dominance.

The jumbotron displayed Putin's mug. The crowd started booing and chanting U-S-A so loudly, you could feel the Cold War rekindling. The negative response to Putin was expected, since the WWE knows its marketing. It is, after all, a billion dollar business with 15 million weekly viewers. Unlike other sports that occasionally stumble into American's ongoing debates on race or drugs or sexuality, pro wrestling's scripted game explicitly relies on popular culture outside the sport and the ability to reflect them in a way the audience wants.

Still, the fact that the WWE is reviving nationalistic gimmicks not seen since Hulk Hogan spat on the Soviet flag, Rocky clocked Drago, and the Wolverines valiantly battled the Red Army, shows just how bad the perception of America's foreign relations have gotten lately. And it's not because there's a threat to American lives any more real than pro wrestling itself. Rather, it boils down to the fact that the Obama and Putin administrations have dropped the ball on two decades worth of relationship repairing the U.S. and Russia did after the Cold War ended.

But, that's not even where The Ravishing Russian's speech ended. Her final blow was supposed to be that Putin "welcomes with open arms the patriot Edward Snowden" in his quest for power.

The Washington Free Beacon, whose editors have collectively stated their dislike for Snowden and Russia, saw the match and reported "audible ire from the audience" for Snowden. You can judge for yourself, but that's not what I heard. The response from the crowd sounded conspicuously muted to me. The fans were worked up into a lather by the Putin bit but the Snowden insult, which was supposed to be the final straw, just fell flat.

mlcastle cc by

It fell flat in the same way big government advocates and apologists like President Obama, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) do every time they try to unambiguously paint Snowden as a traitor who deserves time in prison for drawing attention to the massive surveillance state that continues to violate virtually every American's privacy.

Wrestling and politics both rely on framing issues as dualities: red versus blue, face versus heel, with us or against us. But neither of these groups can elicit outrage about Snowden, because his personal legacy is too mixed. In a recent YouGov poll that asked if Snowden did "the right thing" by exposing government surveillance, an almost equal number of people said yes as said no, and slightly more said they weren't sure.

And, far less ambiguous are the feelings for government snoops that Snowden awakened in the public. Exposing the National Security Administration (NSA) immediately and dramatically shifted Americans' concerns from terrorism to civil liberty violations as one poll shows. Another survey demonstrates that a record number of Americans see big government as the greatest threat to the future of America. Reason-Rupe poll data indicates that only 18 percent of Americans trust the NSA with their personal information and that many people think the agency is violating their privacy.

The WWE is savvy. It pays attention to how fans feel and responds quickly and accordingly. The Russophobia will continue as long as the international political showboating does, but I bet they'll stop lumping Snowden in the bad guy camp after this goof. Public servants who value their own popularity should take note.

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  1. How foreigners view America:

    We can playeing any song of ever have to have been writ, you did know that?

    We can play your Jon Arcade songs, we can play Dett Boweings, we can play Shark Liquids, we can play Truck, we can play Ricky Martaints, we can play anything you want.

    1. Another way foreigners view America:

      I get a kick out of this song every time.

  2. So when is Nikolai Volkoff coming out of retirement?

  3. The Macho Man wouldn’t have made a villain misstep like that. OOOOHHH YEAH

    Bonus.

    1. R.I.P. Randy Savage

      1. Indeed. Did you know that Leapin’ Lanny Poffo (later The Genius) was the Macho Man’s brother? I’m surprised by how many people don’t.

        1. I never knew.

    2. Psh, Macho Man had nothing on The Ultimate Warrior and his (libertarianish leaning by the looks of it) Interpretations of Social Theories .

  4. Let’s get ready to rumble.

    1. Isn’t that Heavy Weight Boxing?

      1. Cut him some slack, Josh, he’s Canadian. He only knows about Roddy Piper.

        1. Only? You take that back, and, er, put on these glasses.

      2. He’s done wrestling.

  5. It’s an odd editorial choice by the WWE. My understanding is that their audience tilts heavily right (largely due to being more southern in nature) and that the right has been a bit more forgiving (if not outright embracing) of Putin at times because he is deemed as more manly and assertive than Obama.

    1. Nah. The paleo right, sure, but by and large you still have a lot of anti-Russia animus and a lot of dislike of Russia’s attacks on what are perceived of as free societies (Ukraine and Georgia), esp among Eastern Euro-descended Americans like Polish-Americans. I think libertarians’ image of the right is slightly distorted by their interactions with the paleo wing of the right, which is a rather small annex compared to the mainstream.

    2. They’re not forgiving of Putin, they just recognize that someone who is willing to do dirty things in pursuit of their foreign policy goals is not going to be stopped by what Obama and crew laughably calls soft power.

      Power is power. Iron, cold iron, is master of them all, in the end.

    3. I can’t comment on the political make-up of the audience, but they debuted the Putin thing at the PPV on Sunday and repeated it last night. Both times the Putin picture drew insta-heat from the crowd. I doubt the thinking goes much deeper than that. It was almost like an immediate visceral reaction, and I applaud WWE for going there. They’ve struggled to break in these brute-force heels lately (Tensai – everyone pretty much laughed at him; Ryback – he comes out and everyone chants “Goldberg!”), so it’s good to see one finally break through (in the sense of getting that sort of reaction from the crowd).

    4. Huh? Are you getting it confused with NASCAR?

      The company’s main base of operations was NYC/Boston/PA for many, many years. And it has always used xenophobia to put suckers in seats.

      1. Their headquarters is now in Stamford, CT. The fan base for wrestling has always spanned all kinds of regions, economic levels, ages, and whatnot.

        As absurd entertainment goes it’s pretty epic. I still remember watching Wrestlemania III.

    5. because he is deemed as more manly and assertive than Obama.

      Richard Simmons is deemed more manly and assertive than Obama.

    6. How is the right forgiving of Putin? Isn’t the current rightwing talking point that Obama is basically Neville Chamberlain for refusing to start a war over the Ukraine?

    7. The show was in Albany NY, so they didn’t have a southern crowd at all.

    8. Totally the opposite, actually.

      http://thepolitikalblog.files……ts_900.gif

  6. The fans were worked up into a lather by the Putin bit but the Snowden insult, which was supposed to be the final straw, just fell flat.

    Goddammit. If we can’t rely on the WWE to expertly weave the thread of public opinion whilst educating the general public, who can we trust?

    1. Goddammit. If we can’t rely on the WWE to expertly weave the thread of public opinion whilst educating the general public, who can we trust?

      John Stewart?

      1. I’m pretty sure a Green Lantern has more important things to do, jesse.

        1. This joke was brought to you by the letter “h”.

    2. Shoot, I forget too. Is Snowden the one who is now a chick?

  7. Still, the fact that the WWE is reviving nationalistic gimmicks not seen since Hulk Hogan spat on the Soviet flag, Rocky clocked Drago, and the Wolverines valiantly battled the Red Army, shows just how bad the perception of America’s foreign relations have gotten lately.

    I watched wrestling back in middle school, which would have been around 2003. There were scary Muslim villains who talked about Jihad and comical French villains who always surrendered and only won through cheating.

    I don’t think there has ever been a time that wrestling didn’t rely on strangely racist depictions of America’s current enemy.

    1. That goes as far back as the Iron Sheik during the Iran Hostage Crisis (before my time).

      I was fortunate insofar as my wrestling fandom pretty much fell in the Cold War. Those fucking Russians were so easy to demonize.

    2. Referee: Presenting Bender the Offender!

      Bender: I’m just an ex-con trying to go straight and get my kids back.
      [The crowd cheers.]

      Referee: Versus: The Foreigner! [The stereotypical Spanish robot turns to the crowd.]

      Foreigner: I’m not from here! I have my own customs! Look at my crazy passport!

    3. Russian heels aren’t racist, they’re jingoist. We don’t hate them because of their Slavic ethnic heritage.

  8. We’re talking about them, so well done Vince.

  9. We had “The Sheik” back in the late 60’s/early 70’s. Turned out he was from Charlotte, MI.

    My favorite was Bobo Brazil (finishing move: “The Coco Butt” headbutt). Tex McKenzie, Pampero Firpo (“The Eighth Wonder of the World”). There was a Russian guy later, but I don’t remember his name. And “The Big O”. who wore a black onesie and a mask (therefore – Bad Guy). We pretended my dad was “The Big O”. It was all very entertaining. And racist.

  10. This is always relevant.

  11. Fucking Russian thief – he’s doing the Stiener recliner.

  12. I would forward to my wife but she would have a seizure over how bad that accent is.

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