Listen to the fist

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Another take on the dynamics of political rhetoric (starting around 6:10):

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When you think about, it's kind of surprising that there haven't been more politicians who learned their trade as professional wrestlers.


  1. Sili said,

    March 16, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

    I wonder if Pelosi's disfluency when saying "repulsive" is due to "Republ(ic)an" interfering.

  2. Cecily said,

    March 17, 2010 @ 5:00 am

    Here in England, I see "Sorry, Videos are not available in your country".

    Can you post another link or explain what non-Americans are missing.


  3. Jason F. Siegel said,

    March 17, 2010 @ 6:41 am

    Bob Backlund, a former world champion, was a recent Connecticut senate (or was it the House) candidate for the Republicans. Linda McMahon, who was the CEO of the WWE and whose husband owns it together with her, is a current contender for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination. Antonio Inoki, best known in the mainstream for his bout with Muhammad Ali (sp?), was a politician in Japan. Jerry Lawler, a WWE Hall of Famer, has been candidate for mayor of Memphis a couple of times.Nikolai Volkoff, a former WWF tag-team champion, has run for state office in Maryland, also as a Republican. What set Jesse Ventura apart from other wrestlers (apart from the fact that he did not run as a Republican) is that the man was ridiculously bright and had a really stellar record behind him. He was a Navy SEAL, was the first wrestler to have an agent to negotiate his contracts, the first to push for unionization among wrestlers, and mayor for several years of Brooklyn Park in Minnesota. Not to overstate his success; he only won against his two opponents by winning a plurality, not a majority.

    And it shouldn't be all that surprising that more politicians didn't learn their trade as pro wrestlers. Despite their gift for rhetoric (and the truly great wrestlers really do have a knack for how to energize and entertain their base with their words), wrestlers are thought to be dumb, but not in the folksy Palinesque kind of way. Jesse Ventura faced that problem and the burden of proof was put on him to show otherwise. Somehow going out in tights and putting your body on the line to entertain fans is seen as unseemly.

    As a side note, I split my day between following linguistics (most of my time), U.S. politics, and pro wrestling. Language Log, you've made my day!

  4. Graeme said,

    March 17, 2010 @ 7:58 am

    There's always Roland Barthes on pro wrestling…

  5. Cecily said,

    March 17, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

    @Jason: Thanks for elaborating, though knowing nothing about wrestling an very little about domestic American politics, I'm only slightly the wiser. (Also, I found "it shouldn't be all that surprising that more politicians didn't learn their trade" somewhat challenging to parse at the first attempt.)

  6. Andrew F said,

    March 17, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    Cecily, you might be able to watch the clip directly on the site.—fatcats

    As a Briton, I'm not very familiar with pro-wrestling either, but it has to do with the trash talk and "kayfabe" (a soap-like storyline – that surrounds the matches.

  7. Steve said,

    March 17, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

    If you're in the UK:

    Channel 4 show the daily show a day after it's on in the States, and it's excellent viewing.

  8. Assistant Village Idiot said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 8:19 am

    "Pencil-neck geek" and "will of the people" are overused, but "pissant" doesn't get used often enough. And I rather like "Reconcile this."

    If we consider that wrestling trades on archetypes, both American and universal, and wrestlers succeed by embodying same – which is why Warhol was a fan – then politics isn't that far removed. We consider theater more elevated, but as a former actor, I suggest that it is only slightly so. It's the same thing in a different culture. And in most eras, from the Mystery plays through the Elizabethans and Restoration, and on to AMT, the overlap between those types of entertainment was more pronounced.

  9. Adrian Mander said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

    Cecily: Daily Show links served via Comedy Central are on embargo here in the UK and in Canada, my home. To get around it, you can install a program called (in Pig Latin) "otspot-Hay ield-Shay" that connects you to a proxy server in New Jersey.

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