Friday, August 31, 2007

Promoting Dean Barnett

If you'd like to promote Dean Barnett's introduction as an APF wrestler. You may use this image to feature on your blog. If you'd like the code for the Animation as seen in the post previous, kindly email me at pundit.fight(a)

Dean Barnett heel
'Mean Dean' Barnett

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dean Barnett: The newest APF member

Dean Barnett

We have some exciting news APF fans, Dean Barnett has been announced as the latest member of the American Pundit Fighting roster. Dean's profile** is well underway and now i'm calling on the APF audience to determine his vital stats.

What is Dean's orientation? Is he a 'heel' or 'face'. A heel is a villain, someone you love to hate. A face is a heroic figure, someone you look up to and root for to win. Whilst a pundit's orientation is determined by the audience, it is actually manufactured by the pundit's chosen persona and delivery style. Ann Coulter is a good example of someone hated by the pundit's own design.

What is Dean's special move?
What specialty manouver would Dean use. Make sure you come up with a catchy name.

What is Dean's Pop rating? A 'pop' is the amount of love a pundit gets. The gushing praise and cheer that greets their entrance. This is the amount of positive blog postings and exposure Dean would get from the blogosphere. It might be the ratings hike that occurs when he fills in for APF partner Hugh Hewitt on the Radio.

What is Dean's Heat Rating? How much animosity is directed towards Dean. Does he get much negative exposure on the blogosphere. Does he get a lot of hate mail? Does he get dissed by other pundits.

What is Dean's Charm rating? How charming is the man?

Remember whilst a 'pop' is positive, it is not necessarily just reserved for 'faces'. Nor is 'heat' simply reserved for 'heels'. Take Rush Limbaugh as an example, Rush is adored by millions of conservatives and he is widely considered the most influential pundit of all time. But consider that he is also passionately demonised and despised by the left. His ability to engender such hatred with one community whilst being revered by another makes him a successful pundit. He is talked about and he is listened to. He is known. Charm plays a big factor in this.

Cast your votes by emailing me at pundit.fight(at)
or simply comment below

For more information on APF terminology click here.
To reference other pundit profiles click here.
See the complete list of profiles on our myspace page.

If you're not familiar with Dean Barnett:
Find his old blog here
Find his new blog on TownHall here
Trawl through the Townhall archives to find Dean filling in for Hugh on the Radio

**Its been brought to my attention that Dean prefers a low profile as evidenced by the lack of photos on google/images. The only picture i could find was a deliberate wide shot. Fingers crossed my pundit bears some likeness.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

When pundits meet the President: Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Colbert

A standard measure that you've "made it" in your chosen field is an invitation to meet the president. In punditry it has different implications. In punditry there is a cache placed in being a maverick, an outspoken no holds barred personality. There is an 'outsider' aesthetic that a pundit must project. They achieve this by deriding and distancing themselves from the MSM (Mainstream Media), which they will contemptuously describe as being 'elite' and 'corporate'. They also reject Washington. By using oppositional terms such as 'inside the beltway' to describe establishment types, it cements the impression that they are the ones in touch with the common man. In the past APF pundit Rush Limbaugh has made a point of telling his audience that he is loathe to stay in Washington overnight, implying the beltway influence is all-consuming.

Meeting the President poses a bit of a quandary. On the one hand it is a personal milestone and the highest honor on a professional level. On the other hand it disturbs the illusion that the pundit is an everyman not seduced by power. There is a danger that the pundit may no longer be viewed as being impartial or maybe cowed into being less critical of the administration in the future. The remedy for this is simple - overcompensation and bravado.

Its a two step process: show humility by praising the President's admirable qualities and appreciating the honor of meeting an esteemed world figure. Then show strength and independence by assuring their audience that they spoke candidly with the President and "they had their disagreements". This allows the pundit to preserve their 'straight talker' status.

meeting president mark levin laura ingraham hugh hewittRecently 10 conservative pundits were invited to meet the President in the White House. This included APF pundits: Hugh Hewitt, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham.

Listen to the Hugh recount his encounter with the POTUS
Listen to what Mark Levin thought of the meeting

The most influential conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh wasn't included in this meeting of 10. Instead he was granted a more personal encounter
CALLER: My topic this morning is, I have heard the accounts of many of your colleagues meeting with the president Wednesday morning --
RUSH: Mmm-hmm?
CALLER: -- and I was wondering why the man who is running America, "you know it and I know it," was not there.
RUSH: Because I went yesterday afternoon and last night.
CALLER: So that was your super-secret meeting?...
CALLER: What a privilege for you, I'm sure.
RUSH: Well, it was a privilege for them.
CALLER: (Laughing.)
RUSH: You know, people have been asking me, "Well, what did the president tell you last night?" That's not it. "What did I tell the president?" is the correct question.
CALLER: (Laughing.) So he also recognizes that you're the man running the country?
RUSH: Well, who doesn't? I mean there are certain things that don't need to be said. Now, I'll just tell you this. Well, this is nothing new. I tell people this every time that I have been with him. He is the most confident man. He is a barrel of laughs. He is at ease. He is unfazed by any of the criticism that he gets. He doesn't care about it...
Read Rush' entire transcript here

Of course its easy for pundits to go the 'Macho' route when meetings are off-the-record. Its harder to project resistance during a televised encounter however as its in the best interest of the pundit to not upset the President if they intend to preserve access. There is a certain level of decorum expected, a respect for the office of the President as well as the privilege granted. These interviews when handled by like-minded pundits are often folksy, empathetic and littered with softball questions.

Neil Cavuto chooses the softball approach.
Watch APF pundit Jon Stewart, skewer Neil's performance with Bush.

Bill O'Reilly chooses the empathetic approach.
Watch Bill spending time with the president

In the early stages of the video (Talking Points), Bill reiterates the points made in this post, "interviewing a President is very different. You can be direct but you can't be disrespectful".

See more Bill O'Reilly with President here: Part Two and Part Three.
See Bill at his macho best. Also take note of how he positions himself as the second most hated person in America behind the President.

But as always there is an exception to the rule. What if a pundit doesn't want to preserve access? Stephen Colbert was a rising star in (comedic) punditry in 2006 when he was invited to roast the President for the White House Correspondence dinner. Stephen mercilessly mocked the President like any good roaster but it was controversial as many believed he went too far. Richard Cohen in an op-ed for the Washington Post wrote at the time, "The sort of stuff that would get you punched in a bar can be said on a dais with impunity. This is why Colbert was more than rude. He was a bully". Read the entire op-ed here.

See Colbert's speech and judge for yourself

This balancing act also occurs in the world of wrestling. Whilst wrestlers are the masters of their domain and larger than life characters, relative to other entertainers they are still considered niche and outsider. The wrestling world often welcomes "mainstream" names into their universe, usually to boost exposure from the wider audience. Celebrities like Kevin Federline, David Arquette and Donald Trump have entered the wrestling ring in the past. The former two having won Championship belts. For the Celebrities they also have an interest in promoting themselves to a certain demographic that wrestling has unique access to. These visitors bring with them an established persona and backstory based on their real identities. These celebrity personas will compete with the manufactured personas of the wrestlers. As with any effective drama, the conflict needs to be evenhanded. The trick is in negotiating between making the celebrity visitor have their victories so their reputations are not compromised. More importantly, they must achieve these victories in a fashion that does not diminish the wrestler's aura.

A pundit has little to gain from upstaging the President. The President conversely must ensure the pundit's reputation is intact as their authentic endorsement is in the POTUS' best interest. The meeting of Pundit and President, not unlike the meeting of Wrestler and Celebrity is all about mutual advantage. Its a crossover that allows both parties to benefit from each other's reputation and pulling power. The trick is making sure it doesn't backfire.
Watch APF pundit Jon Stewart, skewer Neil Cavuto for his gushing questioning of George W Bush.
Listen to the Hugh recount his encounter with the POTUS
Listen to what Mark Levin thought of the meeting
Watch Bill O'Reilly with the President here: Part One, Part Two and Part Three.
Watch Colbert mercilessly roast the President at the White House Correspondent's dinner
Read Rush' account of his meeting with the President here

Friday, August 24, 2007

Politics and Wrestling together at last!

Its been good day for 'American Pundit Fighting'. Dean Barnett who I mentioned in an earlier post, was gracious enough to mention the APF and the 'wrestling analogy' on the air and in his blog. It was interesting audio as Hugh Hewitt and his regulars (Mark Steyn and Bill Kristol) clumsily handled wrestling references and attempts at being hip. There was even a mixing of villain metaphors as Bill Kristol was being put over as "Gangsta" after a piece from the New Republic. Or maybe its just a gimmick change?

But most of the credit goes to an associate of Kristol's on The Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last. In the third segment he really brought the wrestling analogy home with his knowledge of the terms and psychology. Dean and Jonathan chatted about and expanded on some of the points i've made on this blog. Dean called on Jonathan's expertise by asking which wrestlers best reflect certain pundits.

Listen and Download Dean Barnett talking wrestling and politics
Read Dean's endorsement of the wrestling analogy on his blog
Oooh Yeah! Chowdah Madness is Running Wild!!
A reader called this terrific blog post to my attention.  In it, the unidentified author noted how Bill Kristol has become punditry’s equivalent of a wrestling “heel”, antagonizing the left like a latter day Nikolai Volkoff insulting a crowd of 1980’s wrestling fans.  I was flattered by the fact that the author noticed that I played the “Mean Gene Okerlund” role while interviewing Kristol, allowing Bill to more effectively antagonize any liberals who happened to be listening.

To learn more about the link between politics and wrestling, follow the links below to acquaint yourself with the APF and its jargon:
- An introductory guide
- Glossary of terms
- APF pundit profiles
- APF Resources
- Where you can listen/watch your favorite pundits
- About the blog

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why it is a wrestling match?

I've persisted with the analogy of wrestling when looking at politics and the media that covers it. As I've said before, the business of politics is serious and has very real implications on our way of life. From domestic issues ranging from Infrastructure to the Economy and International issues such as Security and Trade. Politics is vital to human society.

But it's not as dull as it sounds. For those who aren't political junkies, who don't read political blogs and watch cable news all day. For those who say "Politics is boring" and worry about more fun things like 'going out' or 'watching movies'. Politics can be summed up simpler- It's a popularity contest!

What is lost in all the policy debates and partisan rancor is the very real hurdle that you need to be well liked to actually get things done. So the game isn't so much "who has the best ideas to move the country forward". Rather its "who do we like most to put their ideas forward". That's what approval and disapproval ratings are essentially.

APF pundit Sam Seder has described this the 'horse race quality' of politics. I prefer to call it the 'Pro-wrestling quality' of politics. Firstly its all theater. The portrayal of archetypes, whether its when a politician defines themselves or when they are being characterized by their opponents. The manly man, the 'dark prince', the compassionate candidate, the flip-flopper. These may not reflect the person's policies or previous governing history but once the people are convinced of these archetype superficially, it is very difficult to remove.

In wrestling as in all of life, appearance counts for a lot. If a candidate does not have that 'star quality' from the beginning, there is little hope of them acquiring it down the line. A wrestler can have all the talent in the world, but if they are 5 foot 6 and not photogenic they can only go so far. The people will not 'buy' someone with an unconvincing stature as a credible champion. That is not to discount the possibility that a good dose of charisma may propel them in the top tier. Though it would be a tall order.

If you look at the top three candidates from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, it is clear that each represents a particular archetype and all have a certain visual appeal.

In punditry, it's not so fickle. Pundits come in all shapes and sizes, not all are telegenic or even pleasant sounding. All pundits however fit into, not so much an archetype, but you could say a particular caricature. Pundits almost need to have a distinct embellishment and distinct personality style to be effective- just like any good wrestler. The intellectual, the cynical, the comedic, the outrageous, the outraged, the dumb and confident, the blissfully unaware, the populist, the people's champion etc... There are too many archetypes to mention. But they all must have one thing to be successful - showmanship.

Apart from the archetypes each politician and pundit play, another key component is orientation. Are you a hero or are you a villain? It doesn't really matter which one you are, its negligible. It just means you are in the public consciousness. If you are not known as a hero or villain, it probably means you are not known at all. You're probably a serious (read: dull) pundit or a an efficient legislator (maybe that's too cynical)? Being known has plenty of benefits, even if you're a villain. Exposure can be converted into book sales, TV analyst roles, thinktank and lobbyist positions. As long as you stay out of jail of course and even then that hasn't stopped people in the past.

We all know wrestling is fake. But in actual fact its more real than anything else, it's hyperreal. A wrestler who is an alcoholic in real life, may use this characteristic to inform his 'stage persona'. So when he is playing an 'alcoholic wrestler' on camera, its actually masking and making light of his very real problems with the bottle. As a viewer we are no longer able to distinguish between what is genuine to what is theater. They are actually intertwined. This can also affect the wrestler's self identity, he may start believing he is the character that he plays on stage. In politics when do we know when its genuine passion and concern, or when its gamesmanship and grandstanding. When a politician or a pundit overcompensates for their insecurity, perceived bias or hypocrisy and acts counter to their beliefs. Which is fake and which is real?

Its lamentable that politics is the way it is. But it is necessary to be pragmatic about it and see it for what it is. We need to be savvy about what we watch and believe of our politicians and pundits. We need to be aware of the emotional devices and mind games they use to make their constituents do things, often times against their better interests. We need to be aware of the self-delusion, ours and theirs. Just like wrestling, there might be a tendency to enjoy the fireworks but think its all fake. In fact we must do the opposite. Rather than being cynical and dismissive we should explore further into our politicians and pundits and look through the persona to find the real person behind it.

Read hyperreality in action, as conservatives refute the meme that "(presidential hopeful) Fred Thompson is just an actor"

Update (Part 2):
I think I may be updating this Ad nauseam but here is another find on HyperReality. Stephen Colbert talking about Wikipedia, the Wiki-scanner and the art of self-inventon. Watch and download the video here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

William 'Bill' Kristol - Top wrestling heel (villain)

An important archetype in wrestling is the 'heel'. They are the villains who relish being despised and take great pleasure in aggravating their detractors. When I last spoke about Heels, I cited Ann Coulter as the top Heel in the Pundit business. Whilst Ann is an obvious choice for this title because of her bombast, there is one villain who is slowly garnering the reputation of 'pundit you love to hate'. He is Bill Kristol.

William Kristol is the editor-in-chief of the Weekly Standard, contributor to Fox News and Time magazine. What makes Bill an effective Heel is his reputation and influence. Unlike Ann Coulter who is notable for her purposely outrageous statements as an author and TV commentator, she does not command attention from those in power. She has been known to introduce politicians at fundraisers and her regular appearances on elite media could be viewed as tacit acceptance of her views. Ultimately however she does not influence public policy and her reputation makes her easily marginalized.

Bill Kristol is another animal all together. His influence is felt in the corridors of the White House as well as on our media landscape. Bill is a frequent contributor on Fox News panels, a regular columnist on Time Magazine and even a welcome sparring partner for (APF pundit) Jon Stewart of 'The Daily Show'.

Kristol was recently on the Hugh Hewitt show where he is a regular guest. Dean Barnett, filling in for Hugh played up Bill's reputation as heel very efficiently. Here is a partial transcript:
Dean: ...the left wing has coined you 'America's most dangerous columnist'. Are you honored by that title?
Bill: Well its an honor, but columnists aren't very dangerous... its almost like being called the most ferocious red robin in the forest or something
Dean: (laughs)
Dean: The most lethal guppy in the pond
Bill: I am a little insulted by that I guess, but look I'll take whatever I can get. Anything I do that makes left-wingers sleep worse at night makes me happy basically
It continues with Bill using a classic Heel tactic of playing up a stereotype. Just like a heel foreign wrestler infuriating the native crowd by calling them fat and lazy. Bill taunts his liberal detractors in saying
I like the thought of all these big shot liberals in Georgetown reading their Washington Post over coffee and their croissant at 9 o'clock Sunday morning and spitting up their coffee... at the headline "Bush will leave office as a winner"
Though that quote was actually a recounting of an email sent by a friend (funnily enough, Dean Barnett), its straight from the Heel playbook. Unapologetically embracing disdain which in turn encourages more antipathy for the heel to feed off.

Kristol can't take all the credit for his performance as a heel in this interview as Dean Barnett did most of the setting up in putting Kristol over as a villain. Make sure you pay attention to their exchange after the first ad break as Dean jokes with Kristol on having a musical theme to announce his entrances "just like some wrestlers..."
Listen to Dean Barnet's chat with Bill Kristol here.

The main reason that Kristol makes for a good heel is his acceptance on credible institutions like Time Magazine. But most telling is how welcomed he is on arguably the most popular political program, The Daily Show. Kristol is a favorite guest (read: Target) of Jon Stewart partly because Jon relishes in eviscerating the prominent Neo-conservative.

Although Dean Barnett as a likeminded supporter was effective in inflating Kristol's villain status. The quickest way for a Heel to raise their stature is through dueling with a hero, known a as a 'Face'. Nothing cements the reputations of heroes and villains better than a heavyweight matchup. In fact it says a lot about Kristol's character that he would appear on a show to effectively get ridiculed and criticized by the host. He most likely didn't have many friends in the audience either. To his credit, Bill always manages to get out his talking points and is often disarming in how he handles Jon with humor and self deprecating wit.

- Watch and Download Jon using Bill as a punching bag.
- Read what conservatives thought about the exchange.
- Watch and Download Bill Kristol being a bit more apprehensive than usual. Note Jon Stewart's wrestling reference midway through the interview.
Jon Stewart interviewing Bill Kristol
--crowd laughing at a preposterous Kristol statement--
BILL KRISTOL: It's nice to see all you Bush supporters here really
--crowd animated--
JON STEWART:... Boy the audience, I don't know when they started thinking this was pro-wrestling. It's the strangest thing -- they literally boo and hiss and cheer like you're the Rock and I'm - you know - The Undertaker.
Watch Heavyweight duel Number 3: "Two Jews Disagreeing". Download it here.

VIDEO: Bill Kristol on 'The Daily Show'
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c

Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Listen and Download Dean Barnett's chat with Bill Kristol here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Choosing your opponents - Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Thom Hartmann

Every APF pundit has a staple of moves they bring to each debate, especially when its on their turf. Sean Hannity's go-to move involves reading a litany of controversial quotes from like minds of the opponent, then asking them to defend the indefensable. Bill O'Reilly's arsenal includes 'cutting the mic' and 'raising his voice'. These type of tactics are deliberately theatrical and more often than not provide entertainment rather than intelligent discussion.

The guests are booked so they can be pounced on. These guests will often be highly partisan or asked to defend something that is highly partisan. It makes for a riveting slugfest or as Bill O'Reilly calls it, "a shootout".

One of the more interesting debaters is honorary APF pundit, Thom Hartmann. While most pundits book opponents that are the easiest targets or make for the best fireworks (i.e ratings). Thom Hartman will go for for partisans of a different sort. Thom debates with thinktank representatives and other ideological opposites and attempts to invalidate the whole premise of their beliefs. Conversational in tone, often enlightening and usually not an inch given by either side. As Thom says in a buzzflash interview:
Thom Hartmann -- Air America's Renaissance Man Talk Show Host
The arguments that are put forth by the conservatives on my program are the arguments that progressives encounter constantly out there in the world.

So it's not so much that I'm beating this guy up on your behalf. It's rather that he and I are having a discussion so that the extremes of the issue and the depth of the issue can be illuminated, so that for every one of his talking points, or every dimension of his perspective, I can provide the alternative dimension or the alternative talking point. My listeners then have a better tool kit for interacting with the conservatives in their lives ... At the end of the day, you still work in the cubicle next to the guy, or he's still your brother-in-law, or in my case, was my late Dad.

-- Air America Radio Host Thom Hartmann

The Ayn Rand Institute is one of Thom's favorite sparring partners. The Ayn Rand website states in its introduction that the ARI
seeks to spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today's culture.

For the liberal Thom Hartmann this is a great starting point to sink his teeth into. Debating issues as far ranging as Health Care, Income inequality and Indian patents. Be sure to check out all their debates on the Ayn Rand website.

View the Thom Hartmann Vs Ayn Rand Institute archives
Listen to Thom and 'The ARI' debating CEO pay
Listen to Thom and 'The ARI' debating the Free Market
Listen to Thom and 'The ARI' debating the rights of corporations

Read the BuzzFlash Thom Hartmann interview
Visit the Thom Hartmann website
Visit the Ayn Rand Institute website

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Miller Vs Chris Dodd

APF perennial favorite Bill O'Reilly was in a heated debate with Senator Chris Dodd recently. Bill of late has been criticizing the popular liberal political site Its largely personal, as Bill has had an open vendetta against liberal websites and persons which smear him. Along with the DailyKos, other sites he considers 'hate sites' include and

Senator Chris Dodd was recently on The O'Reilly Factor to defend his scheduled appearance on the annual DailyKos gathering, the YearlyKos. The Senator kept on point and Bill was his usual passionate self. What is fascinating about the exchange, but not surprising is that each side of the political spectrum believes they're representative came off best. Depending on which side you're on Chris Dodd either 'got shredded by' or 'smacked down' Bill O'Reilly.

Another element of the debate was Bill O'Reilly's chat afterwards with conservative comedian and Bill O'Reilly ally, Dennis Miller. Dennis was effective in dismantling Chris Dodd. He was his usual huckster self in ripping apart the Senator, whilst Bill was playing 'good cop' in soft defense on behalf of Chris.

Watch the videos and judge for yourself. Feel free to read through the posts provided like the one below:
That Lieberman picture was disrespectful, but it was clearly in-bounds. It was a bit much, but it was making a clear political point. Satire is often supposed to be disrespectful.

I am aware of the “conceptual conversation” O’Rielly had regarding San Francisco. I even agree that San Francisco was being ridiculous. But what O’Reilly said was beyond the pale:

We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

If a liberal said that, this website would explode with (rightful) outrage. O’Reilly was saying he would be happy if terrorists attacked a city where the voters disagreed with him. Even if it’s a matter of artlessness, it’s still pretty terrible. It’s just as bad as Kos’s comment regarding military contractors where he said he didn’t care about their casualties (using naughty language; something not available to Mr. O’Reilly). “We don’t agree so I don’t care if something bad happens” is not an acceptable argument from the left or the right.
Rusty from Michelle Malkin's blog

Watch the Video below. Its in 2 parts
1) O'Reilly Vs Dodd
2) Dennis Miller rips on Chris Dodd while comforting Bill

Read the discussions on Michelle Malkin's blog
Read the discussions on Crooks and Liars
Read this discussions on the HotAir blog

Read the transcript of Bill's showdown with Senator Chris Dodd
Read the transcript of Dennis Miller's promo on Dodd

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Mark Levin baiting Democratic Congressman Hinchey

In wrestling one of the oldest and most effective ways to start a feud is to call out another wrestler. In involves one wrestler baiting another into battle, usually through shame and bullying. It can result in one of three ways:
1) The challenger doesn't take the bait and gets gets ridiculed for their cowardice.
2) The challenger takes the bait and gets squashed
3) The challenger accepts the bait and beats the taunter, to humiliating effect. The third option should be the least likely as the taunter would only challenge someone who they feel they could easily manhandle.

I've spoken previously about a challenge that took place through baiting. It was a post on the showdown between progressive mayor Rocky Anderson VS APF pundit Sean Hannity.

Recently conservative radio host Mark Levin orchestrated a challenge to Democratic congressman Maurice Hinchey
after his recent calls to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and to censure and impeach the President. Mark Levin aggressively tried to talk with Hinchey and when unable to urged his audience to harass his office. A Communications Director made contact with Mark and assured Mark that the Congressman would speak with him soon. Mark was convinced Hinchey was just running scared.
Amazingly Hinchey did speak to Mark. It was an entertaining sequence, Hinchey did his best to diffuse the initial animosity through his demeanor and timing. You can judge for yourself how effective it was.

Listen to:
Mark calling out the congressman
Mark takes on the proxy (Hinchey's Communications director)
Mark receives backup from conservative congressman Pete King
Mark continues to pile it on Hinchey

Listen to the much hyped showdown between Mark Levin and Maurice Hinchey
Read the transcript here.