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Kayfabe

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“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase

Senators have returned Thursday for a second day of questions to House managers and President Donald Trump’s legal team in his impeachment trial as attempts by Democrats to rally votes for new witnesses appear to have stalled.

After more than 90 questions and 8 hours of debate on Wednesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated to Republican senators he believes he now has the votes to defeat any Democratic motion that the Senate consider new witnesses when the Senate decides that question on Friday, according to two GOP sources. That would allow him to skip to the final stages of the trial, the sources said.

I confess I haven’t been following that closely after Prof. Dershowitz proved by geometric logic that the Constitution says the president can do anything he wants and it won’t be an impeachable offense as long as he’s a Republican, but the Senate hasn’t heard any witnesses at all, right? So “new witnesses” seems like a peculiar locution under the circumstances.

Anyway, I’ve been reading about kayfabe lately, which is a cant term from the wonderful world of professional wrestling.

Kayfabe is the code word used traditionally by people in the wrestling business to describe those elements of the business that are presented to the audience as if they spontaneous rather than scripted.  Such elements include the conceit that the matches themselves are real athletic competitions, that the stage personas of the performers – their “gimmicks” – are something other than elaborate fictions, that the feuds, alliances, and romances between various performers in the ring and off stage are genuine, and so forth.

In our increasingly post-truth world, kayfabe can serve as a convenient shorthand for the whole genre of what in the broader entertainment business has become known as “scripted reality” – that is, scripted dramas that present themselves not as mimetic representations of life, like a play or a film, but as real-life events. 

Professional wrestling is fake, but represents itself to its audience as if it were real. This creates a complex mental state in much of the audience, that hovers somewhere between, on the one hand, the willing suspension of disbelief involved in watching what is presented to the audience as a dramatic fiction, and, on the other, the perception of what we take to be unscripted real-life events. (People in the wrestling business refer to those taken in by any aspect of kayfabe as “marks.”  Fans who fully acknowledge that wrestling is nothing but kayfabe, yet who still revel in the drama as if it were real, call themselves “smart marks” or “smarks.”)

If you hold out any hope for our political system, watch this, it should cure you right quick:

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