Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Yet another thing Thomas Friedman doesn't understand: pro wrestling

Friedman has a baffling complaint about current tensions between the US and Russia:
...this time it seems like the Cold War without the fun — that is, without James Bond, Smersh, “Get Smart” Agent 86’s shoe phone, Nikita Khrushchev’s shoe-banging, a race to the moon or a debate between American and Soviet leaders over whose country has the best kitchen appliances. And I don’t think we’re going to see President Obama in Kiev declaring, à la President Kennedy, “ich bin ein Ukrainian.” Also, the lingo of our day — “reset with Russia” or “pivot to Asia” — has none of the gravitas of — drum roll, please — “détente.” 
No, this post-post-Cold War has more of a W.W.E. — World Wrestling Entertainment — feel to it, and I don’t just mean President Vladimir Putin of Russia’s riding horses bare-chested, although that is an apt metaphor. It’s just a raw jostling for power for power’s sake — not a clash of influential ideas but rather of spheres of influence: “You cross that line, I punch your nose.” “Why?” “Because I said so.” “You got a problem with that?” “Yes, let me show you my drone. You got a problem with that?” “Not at all. My cyber guys stole the guidance system last week from Northrop Grumman.” “You got a problem with that?”
Grotesque trivialization of a horribly destructive international conflict aside, what does Friedman think professional wrestling is actually like?

He wants things to be more "fun", and his idea of fun: cartoonish gimmicks (the shoe phone), outrageous promos (Khrushev's shoe-banging), sensational storylines (the space race), and better catchphrases ("ich bin ein Berliner", "detente", etc). This is an argument that international politics should be more like the WWE, not less. Friedman imagines that pro-wrestling is just two guys saying stuff like "You cross that line, I punch your nose." This is what it's actually like:


This is an exact literal depiction of what Friedman wants. The entire point of professional wrestling is to take what would otherwise be a boring conflict and make it as entertaining as possible. The next time Thomas Friedman wants to pretend like he's in touch with the working class, maybe he can give the classist condescension towards its culture a rest and ask his taxi cab driver to explain to him why Rusev hates John Cena.