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March 10, 2005

Blogging and Pro-Wrestling

By Jim Dallas

From the frigid plains of Minnesota, Stone Cold Steve Perry takes on Preacher Hewitt:

What I'm talking about is evident in matters of idiom--the countless times, for example, that "liberal" is invoked as a taunting slur, roughly akin to the way "cheesehead" or "the fucking Yankees" might be tossed off on a sports-chat board. It's more than a matter of style; there's a worldview lurking beneath it, and what the worldview entails is summed up in the old Vince Lombardi maxim that winning isn't everything--it's the only thing. Now of course electoral politics has always been about winners and losers in a very important sense. But has there ever been a political moment so openly defined by swagger and triumphalism for their own sake--the will to humiliate the vanquished, grind them underfoot for the sheer pleasure of showing them who's boss? As a popular post-election sweatshirt hawked at the Drudge Report exulted, W is for Winner. Enough said.

What's at stake here in one sense is the difference between the moral universe of the citizen and that of the fan. For the fan, the only crucible that finally matters is being on the winning side. To ask whether what's being won is worth having, or in the public interest, or whether these victories may set the stage for future calamity, is about as interesting and sensible from the fan's point of view as suggesting that the Vikings really ought to think twice about playing the Packers this year (or, more nonsensically still, that bad things may befall them if they beat the Packers). As for the current censorial tenor of politics chat, the most rudimentary piece of fan etiquette is that the spoils and the bragging rights accrue to winners. Trash talk from losers is not endured in good humor. Failing to shut up after your side has been vanquished is an outrageous bit of bad manners--or, when it's politics we're talking about, an un-American activity.

The mindset expresses itself in a variety of ways. There's the reader who wrote to me shortly after the invasion of Iraq to ask, So what if Bush lied his way into war? It worked. The gleeful contempt with which the epithet "losers" was thrown around after the last election, as if it were the only word they could think of that was worse than "liberal." And the party the Power Line crew is throwing itself tonight at the Center of the American Experiment to mark Dan Rather's forced retirement. Will they rent Stuart Scott from ESPN to lead the room in his trademark winner's jeer, "BOO-Yaa!"? Whatever else you may say about Bush/Rove, they certainly didn't conjure this impulse into being.

You see this streak of end-over-means, in-your-face triumphalism playing itself out in the political alliances now coalescing on the right, where anti-tax, government-off-our-backs libertarians are seen to lie down with religious conservatives who want a government at least expansive enough to make sure no one out there is doing anything of which Jesus might disapprove. Or consider the right-wing blogs' dueling weapon of choice, a practice known as "fisking" that consists of reproducing whole stories from other media and yelling at them in hectoring, frequently disjointed asides until the fisk-er either reaches the end of the text or passes out from hyperventilating. It's a performance whose outcome is fixed with a wink from the start, like professional wrestling or, more exactly, like the version of pro wrestling Rush Limbaugh brought to the radio so long ago now: heroes-and-villains political entertainment made in a controlled setting, with lots of ranting rhetorical takedowns and no fretting over questions of equal time or accuracy. It's a show, folks.

A show... without spandex.

And of course, just like wrestling, blogging is totally tag-team. (See the full details here.)

Posted by Jim Dallas at March 10, 2005 12:21 PM | TrackBack

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