Politics

The Union of Politics and Professional Wrestling

"To be the man you gotta beat the man."

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ROCKY: "Why'd you get so crazy on me out there?"

HULK HOGAN (THUNDERLIPS): "That's the name of the game."

— Rocky III

How fitting it is that professional wrestling is turning to partisan politics at the same time partisan politics has descended to professional wrestling.

Last week attention focused on Daniel Harnsberger, a Richmond real-estate agent who wrestles as The Progressive Liberal. It's a great schtick, and Harnsberger has fun with it. "I know how you stupid Trump voters think," he says in one video. "Allow me to illustrate: 'Dur-dur-dur, I love coal. Dur-dur-dur, I love mountains.'"

This makes Harnsberger a natural "heel," as they say in the business: the bad guy in a match, who squares off against the good guy, known as the "face." Generalizations are dangerous, but it's probably fair to say a Venn diagram of the pro-wrestling-fan demographic and the progressive-liberal demographic shows little overlap.

Thing is, Harnsberger really is a progressive liberal. When he says Bernie Sanders would make a great secretary of state and Donald Trump is a con man, he means it.

Hence Harnsberger is acting out a role, but not entirely. He is an entertainer, but he is also making a point.

The same holds true for a lot of people. It certainly holds true of cable news networks, which mimic the pro-wrestling format by having, or at least strongly implying, a good side and a bad side. On Fox, Trump is the face and liberals are the heel. On MSNBC, the roles are reversed. But the script reads much the same.

The same goes for entertainers such as Samantha Bee and Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Bill O'Reilly and Tucker Carlson. And the guests who appear on their shows. Sometimes the guest is the heel. Sometimes he or she is another face, brought on to tag-team the other side. Either way, the straw men always get the stuffing beat out of them.

The personalities are playing roles, but the roles are not entirely imaginary; they are simply made-for-TV exaggerations, and when one of the characters makes a point, he or she is also stating an actual belief—albeit one that might be stripped of all nuance and doubt for the sake of audience loyalty.

Political campaigns increasingly resemble pro wrestling, too: The rivalries are theatrically exaggerated, the rhetoric over-the-top. Every candidate is always "the most extreme" liberal or conservative ever to run for the office, according to his or her opponent. Every election is always "the most important" in our lifetime, according to all sides. Everything is hyped almost to the point of parody.

In this world, then, perhaps we should not be surprised that Donald Trump has done so well. Nor should we be surprised that he has refused to inhabit the role of president in the manner of previous presidents, by assuming a mantle of gravitas and greatness. He already is playing a role that works quite well for him.

Trump's antics look absurd in the traditional political realm, but they fit the world of pro wrestling perfectly. His ridiculously bombastic boasts about his own greatness are a standard part of the pro-wrestling repertoire. The puerile, high-volume insults he hurls at his chosen targets also are a regular element of any WWE show. His frequent falsehoods are perfectly natural in a medium where everything is fake to begin with.

On Sunday his act reached its apotheosis: Trump tweeted an old video of himself at a pro-wrestling match pummeling someone. In the new version, a CNN logo is superimposed on the victim's face. Many in the media were predictably, and probably theatrically, outraged by what they saw, or claimed to see, as an incitement to violence. But Trump's fans think his offensive tweets are hilarious.

In 1989, to avoid the regulations imposed on boxing, professional wrestling admitted it was all just a big act: not real wrestling, but merely a scripted show. A few fans might think the fights are real, but just about everybody is in on the joke.

The worrisome thing about Trump's schtick, by contrast, is that he might actually believe it.

This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

NEXT: Citizen Trump, the 'nothing burger' and impeachment

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  1. Fun reading the tweet responses. As usual, the partisans see the worst in their enemy and only pure unicorn farts on their own side. The self-awareness, it sparkles in its absence.

    1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

      This is what I do… http://www.onlinecareer10.com

    2. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

      This is what I do… http://www.onlinecareer10.com

  2. When he says Bernie Sanders would make a great secretary of state… he means it.

    One too many blows to the head.

  3. Anyone remember the ca.2000 wrestling team called Right to Censor?

    They would walk into the arena with white button-down shirts and ties.

    (Beyond their name and look, they were forgettable but my non-wrestling fan friends got a kick out of them)

  4. CNN said it wouldn’t out the meme maker, but already they are saying, in response to claims the maker was 15 yrs old, that he is (a) a man, and (b) “middle-aged.” I give it 72 hrs before we all know the guy’s name and address.

    1. so this guy never did anything actually illegal, and they are trying to ruin his life. Meanwhile they publish fake stories from ‘anonymous’ sources with classified information, which is illegal.

      Fuck CNN. I hope this guy sues them for every penny

      1. I suspect the name of the Reddit user will become public sometime this week, even if not from CNN. And no, he probably wouldn’t have a cause of action against CNN as it is generally neither illegal nor actionable for the media to report someone’s name.

      2. Didn’t the feds arrest the guy who made the film, supposedly that started the Benghazi raid, for a weekend?

        1. I believe he was arrested for a parole violation, but yes he want on to be imprisoned and destroyed by the govt for this minor infraction in order to appease angry muslims.

          Everyone complains about how embarrassing Trump is to have as president but damn the last one was pathetic.

          1. I didn’t vote for Trump. I considered him the second worst possible choice for president. But if you wipe away the offal and dreck that comprise most Trump-related “news” reports, it turns out he’s not doing a bad job… and is certainly an order of magnitude better than Obozo.

  5. “partisan politics has descended to professional wrestling”

    Shouldn’t this be “ascended”? And, I think politics still has a long way to go before I give it as much credit as professional wrestling.

    1. ^THIS.

      Professional wrestlers have far more integrity than politicians, and WWE rivalries are every bit as authentic as that between Team Red and Team Blue.

      1. Professional wrestlers have far more integrity than politicians, and WWE rivalries are every bit as authentic as that between Team Red and Team Blue.

        Ironically, WWE has two brands.

        Their colors are red and blue also.

  6. On Sunday his act reached its apotheosis…

    Doubtful.

  7. “Trump’s fans think his offensive tweets are hilarious.”

    One need not be a fan to think they are hilarious. I loath Trump every bit as much as his targets on Twitter, but I find the whole thing entertaining. You can either laugh or cry, and I prefer the former.

    1. >>>I find the whole thing entertaining

      yep. in a ludicrously tragic way.

    2. Yep.

      Hardly offensive.

      Super dopey.

    3. Really, the only thing I find likable about President Trump is the reaction he gets. (And that he’s not Hillary Clinton.) Who knew that toxic codependency could be so amusing to witness?

    4. By the actions of his enemies, he seems to bring to the presidency the proper level of dignity.
      He’s got ’em screaming, shouting, pointing, jumping up and down, pulling their hair; in short staying busy enough to avoid those actions which cause me harm.
      When the spittle shorts Tony’s keyboard he screams “TREASON!!!!!!!!!!”, you know he’s doing something right.

    5. This is so damn funny that no one can even come with anything funny to say about it. Truth is far more funny than fiction.

      If we are going down in flames, I’d rather watch a hilarious shit show than that cunt on a blame train scapegoating every American until the collapse brings the gestapo to our door.

    6. I was never a Trump fan. That may be changing. Anything that can make libtards weep and tear out their hair cannot be all bad.

  8. I really hope Trump actually is undermining the whole office and damaging the cult of the presidency, just like the left said all week long. But somehow I doubt that the left won’t want another God Emperor who makes them feel good about themselves

    1. I wish he was, but he isn’t. He doesn’t have the traditional “cult of the presidency” following from the political class, but he has his own cult-like following and I suspect that he may actually enhance the cult-like following of his successor. If it’s a Democrat, they will play up how responsible and presidential they are in comparison their predecessor. If it’s a Republican who isn’t a Trump clone the establishment wing will breathe a sigh of relief and talk about “strong leadership” etc. I expect little thought will be put into the power we give to presidents and the pedestal they’re put on, rather than lamentation about how we just had the wrong guy the last x number of years.

      1. I wish he was, but he isn’t. He doesn’t have the traditional “cult of the presidency” following from the political class, but he has his own cult-like following and I suspect that he may actually enhance the cult-like following of his successor. If it’s a Democrat, they will play up how responsible and presidential they are in comparison their predecessor. If it’s a Republican who isn’t a Trump clone the establishment wing will breathe a sigh of relief and talk about “strong leadership” etc.

        Unfortunately, the masses are too stupid to get the joke. I had hoped “The Joe Schmoe Show” would have killed the “reality TV” genre, but obviously it didn’t.

  9. Well, someone just watched GLOW…

  10. *clotheslines Fist then climbs top rope and hoots and howls*

    1. Do you cook what I’m smelling?

  11. It’d still be nice to be able to get the decision overturned in WWF vs WWF that forced the WWF to rename and rebrand as WWE.

  12. Taking the USA as a whole, wrestling fans are majority liberal. There was actually a study done.

    Lots of blacks and latinos and also heavy followings in urban areas like Chicago, Philly and NYC.

    Of course there’s a huge geographic split and the traditional strongholds of wrestling in Texas, FL, Georgia etc remain conservative.

  13. I watched that ‘Trump beats up CNN guy” vid several times and then screen-grabbed one of the last frames.
    It was quite clear to ME that the guy pounding the CNN logo-head was an actor who looked quite a bit like Trump but was not Donald Trump.

    The Tweeters never seemed to stick around until the end or look closely at the face…

    I don’t watch professional wrestling because it’s not my kind of entertainment. Once I broke up with a gal after her son wouldn’t believe me that it was all acting and scripting. Sad. She was fun, but the kid was scary.

  14. http://takimag.com/images/gallery/sailergraph.jpg

    Wrestling fans skew extremely left.

    Your intuition on this one was pretty bad.

  15. From wrestling to politics, great journey.But still, Barak Obama is the best president ever.yahoo support

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