‘Kayfabe’ is a professional wrestling term which means acting like what you are doing is real, although it isn’t. The professional wrestlers have since abandoned kayfabe, choosing now to present themselves as sports entertainment instead of as serious competitors. This essay asks: should our mainstream media follow suit?
In the early days of professional wrestling, people took things a lot more seriously than they do nowadays. Life was much more brutal a century ago, and people were far less given to flights of fancy. As such, the vast majority of people wanted to watch real wrestling matches between two fit, determined men out to triumph over the other. Although professional wrestling was fake, this couldn’t be admitted.
By the 1990s, when life had become easy, people had come to take things less seriously. It no longer seemed important to pretend that the matches were real and that the outcomes were not fixed. The definitive moment came in 1996 when superstars Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Shaun Michaels and Triple H all embraced in the middle of the ring after a match, when, according to the WWF coverage, they all hated each other (see image above).
In professional wrestling, where the wrestlers are playing characters, the actual wrestlers are usually great friends. After all, they have to trust each other very closely in performing their dangerous physical stunts, and this combined with the inherent danger of the job leads to a strong sense of camaraderie. Their feuding and battling is just an act, one that is now admitted to. Kayfabe has now been abandoned.
A convincing argument can be made that it’s time for the mainstream media to follow suit, and to admit that what they say does not reflect reality. Should they come out and admit that the product they sell is not information, but dramatic entertainment portrayed as political conflict? Is it time for the mainstream media to abandon kayfabe?
In professional wrestling, it’s understood by all that Vince McMahon runs the company, and his primary interest is making money by producing a quality entertainment product. So no-one pretends the matches are real anymore, they just go along with it as if it were pantomime. The sporting media reports on it as if it were entertainment, and it’s understood as such.
When two politicians clash, however, the mainstream media portrays it as if they genuinely hated each other. Election debates are presented to the populace as if they were heavyweight title fights, with two sides going head-to-head for an accolade that only one of them can possess. The television journalists describe mere insults as if politicians were ripping into each other like pit fighting dogs.
The story we’re sold is that all sides are ready to beat each other’s brains out. In reality, every single politician has a mutual interest in keeping the gravy train going, and this sentiment is shared with the owners of the mainstream media. For the political class, it’s very much them against the people whose taxes keep them in luxury. They will choose to put each other first before the plebs, anywhere and always.
Evidence for this assertion comes from how closely members of the political class interact with each other when the cameras aren’t rolling. They populate think tanks together, they party with each other, they marry each other. Politicians might ostensibly represent interests that are implacably opposed to each other, but the reality is that almost all of them come from the ruling class, and represent the interests of that class above any other.
This is why New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, of the Labour Party, can have a cousin named Shane Ardern, who is a Member of Parliament for the National Party. It’s no contradiction that one family can produce MPs for both sides of the fence, because Parliament is a ruling class institution, and the Arderns are a ruling class family.
The average man in the street had figured out 20 years ago that professional wrestling was fake, but is only just figuring out today that the mainstream media is equally as fake. Yes, the mainstream media is just as scripted, dishonest and utterly unreal as any professional wrestling show. Now that this is widely recognised, it’s time to admit it.
It should be openly accepted by the mainstream media that they are the employees of their owners, the international finance and banking interests. As such, they are presenting a program that serves the interests of those owners. Their product is drama, in particular drama between different political actors and/or factions. They aren’t selling objective information, or an objective overview of what’s going on in the nation and in the world.
The WWF, its acronym redolent of the Olympic wrestling federations, rebranded as the WWE and started calling itself “sports entertainment”. It’s time for our mainstream media to do something similar – to stop pretending that their role is to inform or to hold power to account, and to start calling itself “journalistic entertainment”.
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