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How Can You Laugh at a Time Like This?

Bruce Madison

No. 57

Is it real or is it fake?

February 12, 1996

That was the Big Question back in the early days of professional wrestling. "Is it real or is it fake?"

Back in those days, when Verne Gagne was the World Champion of the Seven County Mosquito Control District here in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/Saint Paul,.Minnesota, pro wrestling had just begun to peek over the TV horizon and was drawing big crowds (for those days) to the live events. I was a graduate student in those days and I have to tell you that it was considered declassé, to say the least, to be a fan of this sporting event. Not only did I attend the live events, often coaxing a reluctant friend or two to accompany me, but I even watched the much tamer (and lamer) TV presentation. You know how it went. Some local announcer would let a couple of wrestlers rant and rave about how they were going to demolish one another when they finally get to meet in the ring. Often, the performers spoke so loudly into the mike that you couldn't understand a word they said. This, however, was part of the charm. Nowadays, with Hulk Hogan and the WWF, pro wrestling has gone big time. Also, the question, "Is it r eal or is it fake?" appears to have been answered. Or has it?

I once saw Mr. T on a talk show where a member of the audience suggested that what Mr. T did in the ring was all fake, scripted and choreographed to the last hurrah. Mr. T promptly walked into the audience, picked the man up, did an airplane spin and then body slammed him onto the stage. "There!" he growled, "Did that feel fake to you?"

The point is well taken. Clearly, what pro wrestlers do in the ring, choreographed, scripted or whatever, is certainly not "fake" in every sense of the word. These guys are superb athletes in very, very good condition. The ring may be padded and sprung, but being thrown ten feet across the ring into the ropes, only to spring back into the air and onto your back...has GOT to hurt.

And pro wrestling introduced the "gimmick" into sports. Each performer had a cute name (especially the bad guys) and a mischievous ploy...a special throw, a sleeper hold, an especially hard somersault, even a way of speaking. All of this makes for good entertainment in the good old Roman gladiator sense.

So it goes with politics these days. With media proliferating like breeding rabbits, it is becoming increasingly costly and difficult for those bozos to get anyone's attention. So, they are resorting ever more to devices, tricks and capers. For example:

The Push Poll Ploy, used effectively by Bob Dole against Steve Forbes in yesterday's Iowa caucuses. That's where you call up your adversary's potential supporters, pretending to be conducting a poll. The questions go something like, "If I were to tell you that Steve Forbes is fond of fondling young children, would you be:
A --- More likely to vote for him or
B --- Less likely to vote for him or
C --- Not changed in your opinion?"

Then there is the venerable Put out the word that your opponent fucks pigs rumor, reputed to have been originated by the young Lyndon Johnson, on his way to the White House. No matter that the story is not true. "Make the sum-bitch deny it!" is the way Lyndon put it.

The positive advertising gambit is just beginning to come into its own. There has been so much negative advertising in politics these last few years (it works!), that one can now profit by saying things like, "Now, Sam (Donaldson), you will have noticed that I never once called any of those assholes actual assholes, even though they are indeed arguably assholes." and George (Will) nods in agreement.

Finally, we have to mention the stick to the issues maneuver. In this clever stratagem, you accuse your opponents of mud-slinging and other distractions, all the while maintaining that, "in this election, the main issue is the sorry record of my opponent, who doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground."

So, while professional wrestling has moved on to bigger and better things, the question "Is it real or is it fake?" has been co-opted by the politicians. Now they even have all the tools at their command that went into the making of the films The Terminator, The Shadow or Forest Gump. Instead of merely alleging that one's opponent performs this or that bestial act, you can produce hard copy to prove it! I can hardly wait.

So, the next time a candidate shouts (over the crowd in the background chanting his name in unison) to a local TV announcer about how he is going to "annihilate his adversary".or "get America moving again" or bring us all "hope, opportunity and growth," ask yourself. "Is it real or is it fake?" In the end, only you can say.

Talk to you later

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