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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Trump and Fox: Kayfabe or shooting?

Donald Trump, petulantly peeved by the participation of moderator Megyn Kelly (with whom he has feuded in the past), will not appear at the upcoming Fox-Google Republican debate.

His website carries a remarkable statement justifying this decision -- a statement obviously written by Trump himself, even though he refers to himself in the third person. One rarely sees such concentrated levels of vulgarity, bombast, narcissism and idiocy.
As someone who wrote one of the best-selling business books of all time, The Art of the Deal, who has built an incredible company, including some of the most valuable and iconic assets in the world, and as someone who has a personal net worth of many billions of dollars, Mr. Trump knows a bad deal when he sees one. FOX News is making tens of millions of dollars on debates, and setting ratings records (the highest in history), where as in previous years they were low-rated afterthoughts.

Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away. Roger Ailes and FOX News think they can toy with him, but Mr. Trump doesn’t play games. There have already been six debates, and according to all online debate polls including Drudge, Slate, Time Magazine, and many others, Mr. Trump has won all of them, in particular the last one. Whereas he has always been a job creator and not a debater, he nevertheless truly enjoys the debating process - and it has been very good for him, both in polls and popularity.

He will not be participating in the FOX News debate and will instead host an event in Iowa to raise money for the Veterans and Wounded Warriors, who have been treated so horribly by our all talk, no action politicians. Like running for office as an extremely successful person, this takes guts and it is the kind of mentality our country needs in order to Make America Great Again.
This isn't presidential politics. This is professional wrestling. 

Trump has often appeared at WWE events -- and not fleetingly: He has played a key role in elaborate narratives, including one bout in which the prize was, literally, Trump's hair. In fact, Trump was inducted into the WWE's hall of fame. You should watch the video at the other end of that link -- it will plunge you into an alien world. Also see here. (Fun fact: Trump dabbled in legitimate wrestling during his college days.)

On the other hand...

Wrestling is scripted. Trump's snit seems genuine. Mother Jones reports that Trump refuses to take calls from Roger Ailes, insisting on dealing with Rupert Murdoch directly. 
Fox's written statement is suitably firm: "Capitulating to politicians’ ultimatums about a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards, as do threats, including the one leveled by Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski toward Megyn Kelly."
Fox...invoking "journalistic standards"? Oh god. Pauly Shore would still have a career if he could make an audience laugh half as hard as I laughed when I read that.

On the OTHER other hand...

Let's expand upon the professional wrestling metaphor. In wrestling, there is a phenomenon called "the shoot" -- a old carny term which derives from the gun sights used in arcade games. (The sights are usually altered, but a few guns are "straight shooters.") Wrestlers "shoot" when they allow the real world to intrude into the script -- as when, for example, one wrestler (in an interview) refers to another by his birth name, not by his stage name.

A shoot breaks kayfabe. "Kayfabe" is a wrestling term of art referring to the suspension of disbelief. Whenever the public is watching, kayfabe dictates that the actors must always pretend that the script is real. The origin of the term is a matter of debate.

(The concepts of kayfabe and shooting may help us judge all political events, particularly those involving covert actions and foreign policy. These days, mainstream news coverage of Vladimir Putin is largely a matter of kayfabe. Don't be surprised if you see the word kayfabe appear in this humble blog long after the current election is over.)

Here's where it gets tricky: Wrestling occasionally includes the "worked shoot" -- an incident or statement which appears to be real-world, but which is actually a cleverly-disguised piece of kayfabe.

So here's your poser for the day: The Trump/Fox tiff -- shoot or kayfabe?

I go back and forth on that one myself.

But I do know this: We're talking about the presidency. We're talking about the person who will control the nuclear launch codes. The Bomb is The Ultimate Shoot.

Yet here we are, forced to use the language of professional wrestling.

What other language can we use? Trump's puerile approach to politics makes the metaphor inescapable. Hell, it barely even qualifies as metaphor.

By the way: If Trump really did write that piece, I can only presume that he skipped his remedial English class in favor of extra wrestling time.
FOX News is making tens of millions of dollars on debates, and setting ratings records (the highest in history), where as in previous years they were low-rated afterthoughts.
The pronoun usually refers to the preceding noun. Trump is saying that "ratings records" were "low-rated afterthoughts." Also, "where as" should be "whereas," a word he uses correctly elsewhere.
I'll give Trump this, he knows how to work our current "culture" (shallow, simplistic, endless recycling of past greatness). I would be impressed if it wasn't so horrifying. The professional wrestling metaphor is hard to ignore.

Basically, Trump does whatever will get the most media exposure. That's why it would be a surprise if the whole thing with the Fox host wasn't just an act, or Kayfabe as you say.
So, is he a heel?

Trump is a very charitable man. He funded a special free screening of Bay's Benghazi movie.
Pro wrestling is exactly the right lens through which to view Trump. He's a heel that wants to be a face. And kayfabe is exactly the right lens through which to view electoral politics -- and it's the kayfabe that nobody breaks.
I think we saw this one coming; Trump is going to pull an independent run, further fracturing the Republican party - likely on script as in pro wrestling.

Here's my take on Trump's Mafia connections:
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