Half Past the Month: Pro Wrestling Is Real

May 17, 2016

IT IS COMMENCEMENT TIME and I want to share the single most profound piece of advice ever offered a college student. It wasn’t a graduation ceremony, actually. It was at the other end of the process. The speaker — he was the provost, I think — was addressing my daughter’s incoming freshman class. He seemed tired, deeply so.

“There is only one thing in the world that is exactly as it seems,” he told the fresh young faces before him. “And that is professional wrestling.”

My student is graduating next year so I’ve had time to think about that. The provost, if that is what he was, surely had it right. There’s no deception in professional wrestling. Or more exactly, it is all deception so there can be no actual deception. Brilliant.

This came to mind on reading the most recent Facebook brand ratings. Fox News Channel was number one with 206 million “likes,” “shares” and “comments.” Its closest cable competitor, CNN, wasn’t even close, ranking 29th. ABC News came in at 17th overall. MSNBC didn’t make the top 100.

So who did Fox News beat out for the top spot? The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) network with 203 million “likes,” “shares” and “comments.” WWE is expected to be on top this year.

At risk of miring the reader deeper in election-year cynicism than might already be the situation, the prediction is based on this: If the WWE is free of deception, or at least effective deception, Fox News is full of it.

First, a disclaimer: I belong to the traditional or “corruption story” school of journalism. That is, I believe news gathering must be organized to find truth, whether the reader wants it or not. As such, my particular school is based on trying to predict the affairs of man. The idea is to beat your competition by being more trustworthy in that way. It is an admittedly sketchy profession.

There is a second type, a nobler one, the “oppression story” journalist. He believes that man is naturally good but is enslaved by oppressive social systems. If man’s environment can be changed, man himself changes, and poverty, war, and so on, are no more. Graduates of this school view professional wrestling and every other topic with utter destain.

Finally, there is a third type, the broadcaster, which is no journalist at all. Those of Fox News and the lesser outlets, with exceptions that have more to do with the vagaries of human charm than with news philosophy, are driven by voices in their earpieces (producers) tuned to moment-by-moment ratings.

That is not criticism, merely observation. Given the choice between (a) uncovering the truth, (b) advocating a world-changing idea, or (c) an on-air shouting match, the typical producer will choose (c). It is empirically so.

As future voters and citizens, then, our students would be wise to differentiate between those three schools as they sift and sort the news of their day. Professional wrestling can take care of itself.

— Craig Ladwig


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