Saturday, April 28, 2007

Aura: How pundits and politicians preserve their image (part 1 of 2)

One of the key components of wrestling is 'Aura'. A wrestler's value hinges on gaining and preserving Aura. Aura is earned through the caliber of competition the wrestler defeats. One quick way to earn aura is to purposely challenge and vanquish weaker opponents, known as "jobbers".

As wrestlers trade off each other's aura, you will rarely see a wrestler go undefeated. This is especially true once wrestlers of equal and higher caliber start facing off. When a wrestler must stage a loss, the trick is in managing that defeat in a way that allows the wrestler to preserve their aura. There are many ways of doing this:
1) A wrestler who is being soundly beaten can disqualify themselves i.e a teammate running in or use of an illegal foreign object. Whilst the wrestler has been humiliated they have at least robbed their opponent and the audience of an official victory. This disqualifying action will most likely get 'heel heat'.
2) If a wrestler has been officially defeated by their opponent. The vanquished wrestler can win favor with the crowd by congratulating their victorious opponent. They can do this by shaking hands after the match, raising their opponent's hands or graciously passing on their surrendered title belt. This gesture should get the wrestler a 'face pop'.

In punditry, Aura also plays a big part. The pundit must always seem to be in control and more knowledgeable than their audience. That is after all why we listen to them. Callers are quick to challenge pundits if they are being disingenuous or purposely misleading. Pundits can manage this by screening their calls and only allowing those who agree and reinforce their viewpoint. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are known for this. Pundits like Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved and Sam Seder support a format where they specifically invite callers of different viewpoints. Al Franken has a more novel approach, he doesn't accept callers. But sometimes callers will slip through the cracks.

Listen to Rush Limbaugh handle a contrarian caller, as recounted by Sam Seder
Sam Seder on Rush Limbaugh's handling of a contrarian caller
SAM SEDER: Alright I promise I'll get to your phone calls... but we're in the middle of a class right now. This is an intermediate class on 'How to be a right-wing talker'. Again to qualify for this class you have already had to have taken a large dose of hillbilly heroin to get to this to this juncture. We are talking about Rush Limbaugh... he has received a phone call from a Republican... nervous about the "Iran thing"... and Limbaugh doesn't know how to answer this so he's gonna have to buy a little time
Sometimes contrarian callers are allowed on the air for very different reasons. Call screeners may detect that a caller is weak on the issues, or in character (i.e timid, has a lisp). They become unwitting jobbers. It allows the pundit to slap down talking points through this surrogate, to represent the opposing view through a weak spokesperson. These callers often become favorite sparring partners for the pundit and gain cult status with the audience. Inevitably they become show regulars.
Listen to Sam Seder talk to a frequent conservative caller, Dewey.
Sam Seder speaks to conservative caller 'Dewey'
SAM SEDER: So you're suggesting our military is weak because they've been feminised in some way?
CALLER DEWEY: I think we're headed in that direction Sam
SEDER: Really Dewey and what gives you an indication of that?
DEWEY: Well when you see people like Dick Durban apologising on the floor of our congress, crying and wearing pink ties. I mean they're laughing in Tehran at that
SEDER: (giggling) Wait a second -- So you don't like the fact Dick Durban is wearing pink ties. You're saying we're losing to our enemies because Dick Durban is wearing a pink tie...
These unwitting jobbers can also be handled using the bully pulpit. As the pundit controls the microphones he can terminate debates prematurely and have the final word. Mark Levin is a master of this method, it allows him to feed his aura of power and advances his 'take no crap' persona to his supporters.

Listen Mark in action here, here and here. Find more at MarkLevinFan.

continued in Aura part 2

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Sam is the last person to bully a caller. I've always heard well-reasoned, intelligent arguments from him. He's no Rush Limbaugh in that respect.