Decoding Seth Godin: A Response to his recent "Wrestling" Post

Seth Godin?

Before I start this, I want to make two things clear:

1) I have great admiration for Seth Godin. I read his blog digest every day and have been a subscriber to his feed for years. He is a wise man, and usually very thoughtful.

2) I do not support Donald J. Trump. Everyone has a right to support who they support, I will only be making ONE political point about DJT. This is not a response to Seth's politics (which I mostly agree with).

That said, let's talk about Seth and Wrestling.

Is Wrestling Like CNN?


Seth Godin said this on his blog earlier today:

"Professional wrestling is fake. The blood is fake, the lack of physics is fake, the arguing with the ref is fake, the rivalries are fake... it might be professional, but it's not real. This willful disregard for reality is at the heart of pro wrestling. It's a juvenile fantasy, come to life. An opportunity to make up the rules, ignore authority, and exert bullying force on others, merely because you can."

One of the main reasons that I do not support Donald J. Trump is because he often makes "the truth" a hostage of his political agenda. Godin in this piece is trying to make the point that the danger of politics right now is  that the fans of politics (voters) are becoming marks like many wrestling fans.

He continued:

"It turns out that modern media is a perfect match for the pro-wrestling approach. You can put on a show, with your own media, as often as you like. And that show is, to many, remarkable, and so it spreads. And there lies the danger, the opportunity for pro-wrestling thinking to corrupt our society: When the fans, or worse, the participants, don't realize that it's fake. In real life, the laws of physics actually work. In real life, blood feuds rarely end well. In real life, accepting the ref's decisions is the only way to have civilization."

My problem is not with his larger agenda. He is trying to get  the media to stop playing "Real Housewives of DC" with politics. I could not agree more with this agenda. But how does it further the agenda to make wild (and mostly untrue) generalizations about an activity you really seem to know very little about.

My problem is with Seth Godin using the easy target of wrestling and wrestling fans and massive misunderstanding of professional wrestling to further his own agenda. 

Wrestling is Fake (Sigh)


I have a Masters Degree in International Relations, I worked in Higher Education for 20 years, and I care deeply about the truth. I can have a fairly deep discussion with Seth, or anyone else, about US policy in the Middle East, critical theory, or even theoretical physics. Despite this, I am also a lifelong professional wrestling fan (a group Mr. Godin appears to put in near his own personal "basket of deplorables"). 

Sadly, Mr. Godin doesn't seem to know very much about Professional Wrestling (and did not take the time to make sure that he knew what he was talking about before publishing his piece).

First, and maybe most importantly, his piece does a massive disservice to Professional Wrestlers. Most of the time, the blood is not fake, it is real, and what Godin calls "the lack of physics" is usually accomplished by an incredible athlete doing something that is truly astounding.

Unless you have any idea what these people go through to perform on a weekly basis (often several times a week) it is really dismissive to make a casual "fact-free" statement about what they do. 

Also pretty important, professional wrestling is "scripted" not fake.

Let me give you some other insider information (I am being intentionally sarcastic here):

Don Draper doesn't exist, he is played by a guy named Jon Hamm who, as far as I know is not an alcoholic womanizer in real life. The script of his show, Mad Men, often called for him to do and say some incredibly awful things but often in the service of drawing attention to social inequity and entrenched privilege.

Perhaps more to the point, Coach Eric Taylor doesn't really exist, he was played (on Friday Night Lights) by an actor named Kyle Chandler who, as far as I know, never coached football and certainly never coached the Dylan Panthers in real life.

Your mistake, beyond assuming that professional wrestling inhabits some special category beyond other fictional drama, is assuming that the writer's are pushing the agenda of "heel" characters or that when a Professional wrestler saying something sexist it is materially different than it was when Don Draper said something sexist.

The point of having a bad guy, or an anti-hero, on a television show is the same as having a bad-guy, or an anti-hero, on a Professional Wrestling program.

Yes, sometimes, people vicariously live through bad characters but again, that is true whether you are watching Archie Bunker or Kevin Owens.

The impressive part, these athletes, in order to become beloved, have to both master the athletic ballet and the performance ballet.

For that, they deserve even more respect, not additional scorn.

But the Violence...What About the Violence?


I will fully agree if you respond, that two wrongs do not make a right, but where is your scorn for the NFL, Professional Boxing, MMA, or the other so-called sports where the actual intent is solving problems through violence?

I mostly agree that Wrestling responds to that ancient part of us that thinks that our personal problems and disputes are best resolved through fighting. The thing you are missing, however, is that you seem to think that modern wrestling fans think that Professional Wrestling is "real."

It has been over 20 years since I met one fan who thinks Professional Wrestling is real.

Most fans appreciate the craft, appreciate the performance, and enjoy the spectacle. But we are all fully aware of what is going on and we know what we are watching. I feel like, if anything, your argument is really about gullibility and a kind of low regard for the intelligence of the wrestling fan (that you think will soon be indicative of the entire electorate).

The disdain you show here is insulting and (given the high regard that I hold you in) is also very disappointing. Frankly, this is the exact same kind of casual generalization that you are arguing against and you are treading very close to the old school "masses are asses" positions that historically made Senate seats a "by appointment only" enterprise.

We professional wrestling fans don't generally believe that Pro Wrestling is real or that we should settle our fights while wearing tights in a squared-circle. The point of wrestling feuds is rarely that "might makes right" (it is entertainment, usually the heel, even when they win, cheats to win and the babyface gets revenge later in the feud).

Your argument here is reductive, insulting, and not particularly accurate.

Irony in Action


Mr. Godin, I do respect you and I have found your writing to be very helpful to me over the years, but you have to appreciate the irony here.

CNN and other networks do indeed play fast and loose  with convention in the service of ratings, people are becoming increasingly willing to make wild and fact-free statements on air or in the press and run with them.

I do get your point about the importance of rules and referees. We should recommit to agreed upon and commonly accepted rules for our elections.

How about we do that without relying on easy but inaccurate stereotypes.

What did you think of Mr. Godin's blog post?

What did I get wrong? Was my criticism of him unfair?

Let me know what you think, leave  a comment!