Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why politics is less UFC and more WWE

In my last post I described the importance charisma, presentation and psychology play in politics and punditry. There might be some confusion amongst some readers who may be unfamiliar with what I mean by 'wrestling'. There is a tendency to think that wrestling is just a soap opera where brutes fight each other. They may think the analogy with politics lies simply with the feuding and name-calling.

In fact wrestling, among many other things is a popularity contest. Wrestlers show off their wrestling ability, but they also need to display charisma in the way they execute their persona and engage with the audience and other wrestlers. A wrestler who connects with the audience will be rewarded. There merchandise sales will go up, the fans will demand them and soon they will command a larger stage. Often times in spite of poor wrestling ability.

There are fundamental differences in philosophy between liberal and conservative pundits and politicians. But often the debate isn't between these differences but rather the presentation of their proponents. We don't vote for politicians because we like their policies. We vote for them because they look good on TV, they seem tough, they look like fun to hang around and they show courage and conviction PLUS we like their policies. Conversely people have withdrawn votes because they didn't like a candidates' haircut or seeming "Frenchness".

In professional wrestling its the same. We rarely choose our favorite wrestlers based on their mat skills alone. We also factor in how well they present both in charisma and persona. In the UFC however we are more likely to admire the fighters based on athletic and technical skills alone.

When I say wrestling is like politics. I don't mean it like this:

Politics isn't like wrestling because they fight with each other and don't get along.

Politics isn't just about two opposite sides debating over how to run a government. Presentation is key as the ideological arguments need to be palatable to the people, you need engage with a story. There is psychology involved in trying to intimidate and paint the other side as being weak in the minds of the voter. There is charisma involved as the champion for the cause must be able to captivate the masses. It isn't just a fighting match, its theatre. It's not the UFC, it's the WWE.

If you'd like to see politics thats looks more like the UFC. Read this post from Washington Post blogger Emil Steiner, Top 5 political fights.

If you'd like to read previous posts on how similar punditry is to wrestling, kindly read these archived posts:

- Two of the best 'heels' in the business, Bill Kristol and Ann Coulter
- Shoot Fights, when wrestling doesn't go according to plan
- Wrestling is real, and Bill O'Reilly is an independent
- Aura, Part 1 and Part 2

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