I have been a fan of Joan Didion’s writings for a while now. I have a collection of some of them including her observations about politics. She has written about our press’ focus on candidate’s personality instead of on political policies. During her coverage of election politics, personality characterizations were positive fantasies about candidates, for example their idyllic family history or their business success. But in Political Fictions, she noticed the emptiness of press coverage (see reference below). She saw that political press coverage had moved into a space that lacked rationality or any discussion about choices. Election coverage failed to offer thoughtful analysis of political polices either at home or abroad. No one then (2001) could imagine what consequences our nation would face because of unintelligent considerations about politics. Political confabulations about personality and non-issues have now led us to the absurd news coverage we face whenever elections roll around. The only surprise is how political characterizations by the press have become negative in contrast to the idyllic past.
Today I stumbled upon the perfect word to describe our present-day political coverage. I found this word at Ann Barnhard’t’s website, www.barnhardt.biz/2016/10/08/post-american-politics-is-kayfabe-the-word-is-kayfabe/ And the word is “kayfabe.” The author of this site used wikipedia as a resource and explained kayfabe as follows:
“This comes from the world of… professional wrestling. Here is the definition from wiki…
KAYFABE: kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true,” specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature of any kind. Kayfabe has also evolved to become a code word of sorts for maintaining this “reality” within the direct or indirect presence of the general public.”
And that’s what I see in political coverage today. And maybe even worse than the make-believe world of kayfabe coverage which is phony, is that it’s a kind of pejorative information that makes us all feel bad. When we watch it we feel bad about the U.S. and about ourselves. It’s information that is more likely to discourage people than to inform them. It does this by showing them a kind of politics that is completely irredeemable by any potential to change anything for the better. The idea being put out there is that bad policies can’t change.
Let’s ignore this ugliness. Let’s recognize the disrespect this kind of coverage means for the potential of politics to do better in the United States. The U.S. can adopt better policies that aren’t corrupt and that don’t permit fraud. We can reform. And even though kayfabe coverage means something bad for all of us in America and for our American politics generally, its broadcast doesn’t mean that we can’t turn over a new leaf.
We can identify and abandon policies that are bad and we can adopt a better kind of politics that puts all of us and everything on a better footing to improve still more. Let’s try to see beyond the negative kayfabe coverage as we try to re-center ourselves on the political issues that concern us most and in the hope that our politics can improve as we move forward. Politics can offer a rebirth of opportunity. I’ll be voting in the hope that our mistakes can inform us and help us to choose more wisely as we move forward.
If you’d like to obtain quality information about how we got to our current political landscape, if you’d like to see the big landmarks that will help you to understand our American politics, buy a copy of Political Catsup with Economy Fries at Amazon.com.
Source: In addition to the above reference to Ann Barnhardt’s blog and to wikipedia’s “kayfabe” entry, see:
Joan Didion, We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live: Collected Non-Fiction, Political Fictions, Everyman’s Library, (Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 2001).