Linda McMahon and How Everything Sucks

Courtesy NBC News (and I think we all feel like the woman on the right does)

On October 7, I published a piece on this website examining the relationship between Donald Trump, the confidence artist, and his relationship with the WWE.

On December 7, Donald Trump nominated Linda McMahon to head to Small Business Administration.

Obviously, a lot happened between that first post and this one. And lord knows Rick and I - and a lot of people - have had a hard time processing these events. Over the past few weeks, he and I have exchanged a number of tweets, messages, and emails expressing our bewilderment at the state of American politics. I've also had to console family members, friends, and students to a extent I could not have imagined.

Since election night, the absurdity of all of this has not subsided. Alt-Right Nazis feel emboldened to voice their perspectives; newspapers and other media outlets dedicate a lot of space to detailing readers how to spot erroneous news; and, in addition, Ben Carson was selected to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The McMahon nomination is insulting on a number of levels. In one sense, there's the aura of blatant cronyism with this news that is reflected by other Trump nominations: hell, as an educator, I'm not nearly as angry at the McMahon news as I am about Betsy Devos being named to lead the Department of Education. And in that vein, of course the McMahon family would be - possibly - represented in the Trump administration given their sizable contributions to his campaign and their business dealings that stretch back to the 1980s.

But as a wrestling fan, I find this news really disconcerting. For starters, what sense does it make - again from a logical standpoint, but apparently logic no longer has a place in the United States - to appoint someone who was involved (or at least partially involved) in following to head an administration dedicated to assisting small businesses:

The destruction of the territory system in pro wrestling: after taking over control of the WWF/ E, the McMahon family started an aggressive expansion of their corporation into regional territories, such as the Midwest and South, and raiding the talent of those territories. Perhaps the WWE's worst talent-raid was that of the American Wrestling Association, as the McMahon family lured figures like Hulk Hogan, Gene Okerlund, and Bobby Heenan away from the Minnesota-based company (the talent-raid was so aggressive that even the WWE-produced documentary on the AWA cannot shy away from acknowledging it).

To be clear, she helped to make the WWE a de facto monopoly in the professional wrestling world by helping to destroy smaller organizations. So I think her advice to a small business contractor in Peoria will be "steal all the employees from your rival across town then brag about doing so in DVDs 30 years after the fact."

The product's continual reliance on racism, homophobia, and misogyny:  This almost goes without saying, but the WWE - indeed, most pro wrestling - has relied on these aspects in their storytelling for decades. But as Rick notes in his piece here,What Was Good About the Attitude Era (and What Wasn't) , the WWE achieved the height of its popularity with over violence, stereotypes, and rampant sexism. 

But that has no connection to the Trump campaign. *cough*

The Anti-Union, Anti-Benefits Company: Look, unions are seemingly a bad word in American political and social discourses, but I think wrestlers are long overdue for union representation. Hell, Darren Aronofksy, director of The Wrestler, has spoken at length about wrestlers finding representation, even through SAG. Of course, no company has worked as hard to prevent this as the WWE. When Jesse Ventura tried to form a union in the 1980s, his movement failed in part due to threats of the McMahons toward wrestlers (also Hulk Hogan ratted on Ventura's plan because he's a real American).

In connection to that, the WWE is company that labels its employees independent contractors to not only avoid paying employment taxes, but also to deny wrestlers health insurance and other forms of compensation; indeed, as ex-wrestlers like CM Punk have claimed, it's not only not uncommon for wrestlers to foot their own medical bills, but also to be expected to return before getting any opportunity to properly heal. Oh, and to procure their own travel. And food. And spend an ungodly amount of time traveling.

Actually, we could probably add a second-section entitled abuse of wrestlers here. Oh, the steroids! Remember the steroid trial in the 1990s? The McMahons don't want you to!

And there's so much more I could detail: the company's aggressive use of tax-breaks for producing movies, the hypocrisy of sanitizing the product - again, not that as that was a bad thing - to coincide with her Senate campaign when she was incredibly active in a number of non-sanitized storylines, the hypocrisy of promoting anti-bullying messages when the McMahons are notorious bullies, etc,, etc,, etc,

But the larger issue here is that someone who rose to prominence off the literal sweat and blood of many workers who were not properly compensated is now (likely) going to be in a position to sway government policy for businesses. And frankly, she shouldn't be. Frankly, Donald Trump shouldn't be president either, but here we are.

In my Trump piece, I urged wrestling fans and Americans to not fall for the confidence game that Donald Trump was playing. In that piece's conclusion, I wrote this:

Yet the real confidence artist that appears to be Donald Trump reminds us that actual confidence schemes can be dangerous and destructive to both people and institutions. And he has left a track record of very real confidence schemes that have destroyed the finances and careers of many. And what wrestling fans - and voters - should remember is that there are times when you should consider the implications of our entertainment: wrestling fans should consider the real problems with the WWE and voters should not embrace the illusion of one con man.

Obviously, my appeal to voters and wrestling fans did not work. But it's important to remember that Linda McMahon has been involved in the destruction of many careers and businesses. The legacy of the McMahon family has not only been about dominating the professional wrestling world, but also helping to eliminate WCW, ECW, the AWA, and the WCCW, as well as abusing and defaming wrestlers who dared challenge their business practices.

But what I would ask wrestling fans to think about, especially if they are like Rick and I and lean toward the left and are frustrated by the results of the election, is to consider our own complicity in all of this. I don't mean that we actively campaigned for Trump or voted for him, but we have subscribed to the WWE Network, purchased DVDs, gone to live events, or purchased merchandise. To an extent, Linda McMahon's success was a by-product of our own involvement and in many cases our investment.

We obviously cannot go back and change the history of what we did spend on the WWE product, but we can start to consider how much we will be planning to spend in the future. For me, it has been clear for a long time that the brain-trust of the WWE holds values that are extremely different from mine. And for a long time, I was able to reconcile that fact by noting that most owners of the sports team I follow would not vote for the same candidates I would.

Yet now, one of those owners - along with the man that she and her company have been mythologizing for years - is in the position to do severe damage to not only wrestlers and rival companies, but the fabric of the American economy and society. And I think it's time for we wrestling fans to take a very long look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we want to support those figures any longer.

I feel it's time to give the WWE - and, by extension Linda McMahon - the boot.

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