Discover more from Pandemic Accountability Index
What Professional Wrestling Teaches Us About Pseudoscientific "Debate"
The recent controversy with Dr. Hotez, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Joe Rogan centered on a live "debate" is frankly something that a lot of public-facing medical and scientific voices aren't adequately prepared for. Going to med school and learning a lot of highly technical and specific material to carry out the responsibility of saving lives and fighting disease, leaves out a great deal of how sections of the general public will abuse you for their own sadistic gains.
On the other hand, the mechanics of the modern professional wrestling industry can teach us a great deal about what really drives flamboyantly incorrect hacks like RFK Jr. - so let’s dive right in:
Professional wrestling is, to vastly over-summarize, a highly athletic stage play featuring a vast roster of characters from all walks of life - from the tax-man to the "straight edge" cult leader - engaged in theatrical physical combat. In reality, it doesn't make sense to flip forwards through the air three times before kicking someone in the face - but it's a highly impressive physical feat, and in the right context, can be very exciting. The majority of professional wrestlers are "independent contractors," often responsible for their own travel, healthcare, training, and other expenses. They put their lives on the line to entertain and even inspire an audience that, deep down, knows this is all just a big show - for fun, entertainment. So what?
The term "big fight feel" is common amongst professional wrestling fans when hyping themselves up for a big event - like All Elite Wrestling's World Heavyweight Big Burberry Belt Champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman, against the legendary New Japan Professional Wrestling "Ace," Hiroshi Tanahashi, who is essentially Dragon Ball Z's Goku but as a real life person, at the "Forbidden Door" Pay-Per-View. AEW founder Tony Khan, NJPW President Takami Ohbari, Maxwell, and Hiroshi and others all financially benefit from people ordering the Pay-Per-View, cleaning out the merch table, and other forms of consumerist engagement.
Conflict creates cash, if you will.
"Danhausen" was formerly a generic wrestle-man who struggled to make a name for himself early in his career, before embracing his love of classic horror cinema. Becoming Danhausen, the demonic huckster who collects human teeth, carries around a sack of "human monies," and curses random scoundrels, is now one of the biggest attractions & merch-movers in the professional wrestling industry.
Is he the best technical wrestler or submission artist? No. But he's *easily* one of the most entertaining characters of the modern era. Fans talk about "dream matches" of Danhausen versus various opponents, like the flamboyant Dalton Castle, or NJPW's Ryusuke "Funky Weapon" Taguchi, who frequently uses his buttocks as a lethal weapon. We often dream of encounters that may never happen with our favorite characters, and let our imaginations run wild with imagined conflicts.
A lot of kids grow up watching wrestling and dream of being in the squared circle, even acting out their favorite "finishers" when roughhousing with one another. Dreams and ambition, given enough time, sour and turn into a bitter envy. The now-champion of AEW, Maxwell Jacob Friedman, was one of these people - and had the impossible opportunity to confront his role model, CM Punk, in a legendary storyline that led to one of the greatest, objectively Shakespearean, monologues of all time - even talking openly about being the victim of anti-Semitic bullying; a bold statement considering a rising wave of anti-Semitism across America.
In Maxwell Jacob Friedman's own words:
"I made a promise - that whatever outcasted kid at school, who was getting bullied - who was gettin' BULLIED! Had me to watch on his TV screen, and I was not gonna leave him high and dry - just like you did, Punk! You gutless COWARD! At Revolution, March 6th, you can choke me with the chain, you can whip me with the chain, you can make me bleed buckets! But I will not quit, because if I quit, then I'd be no better than you."
This led to the greatest Dog Collar match in the history of professional wrestling, in which both competitors are chained together by the throat. CM Punk even dug into the back of his wardrobe and yanked out his vintage Ring of Honor gear, coming out to his classic theme music: "Misera Cantera" by A Fire Inside. It was brutal, bloody, and an absolutely incredible spectacle that left a permanent mark on the centuries long history of wrasslin'.
So just why was this physical "debate" so incredible? Well, CM Punk and Maxwell Jacob Friedman are both highly trained & experienced performers at the very top of their game. This was like Eminem's "Stan" brought to life in the ring, as Maxwell took a very real human experience and ran with it to an incredible climax. What these men didn't do was invite some random "smark" (smart mark, a derogatory term for an obnoxious wrestling fan with a crippling social media addiction) to jump the barricade and attempt a dangerous hurricanrana-to-piledriver sequence.
As disgraced World Championship Wrestling booker Eric Bischoff likes to say: "Controversy Creates Cash." This much is true. However, as R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez cover in The Death of WCW: whilst WWE's Attitude Era rose in prominence with The Rock and Stone Cold, WCW struggled to retain an audience, with head bookers Vince Russo & Eric Bischoff resorting to more and more outlandish stunts to try and make headlines, including even putting the World Heavyweight Championship around the waist of David Arquette, an untrained actor & star of the new comedy film Ready to Rumble in 2000. WWE bought out WCW the next year.
Behold! A shocking revelation: professional wrestling fans want to watch a show centered on professional wrestlers, not some untrained actor geek - something even David Arquette accepted and has become a professional wrestler himself, to redeem his name in the eyes of fellow wrasslin' fanatics.
Oddly enough, most pro-viral contrarians like RFK Jr. and Kirsch have never considered actually going to med school and attaining a medical license.
Just What is a “Debate,” Anyways?
So why is it, that anybody would want to watch a "debate" between a pompadour charlatan like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who flunked the bar exam, versus an actually licensed medical scientist like Peter Hotez, who went against Big Pharma and developed patent-free, low-cost vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus? Or huckster "entrepreneur" Steve Kirsch versus an actual doctor who has treated COVID-19 patients like Jonathan Howard?
As a former member of high school Debate Club, you quickly learn that public debates are little about fact, and much more about performance. If you have an active sex life and actual hobbies, then you can quickly learn this from Aaron Eckhart's 2006 magnum opus, Thank You For Smoking, about Nick Naylor, a lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco Studies - a pseudo-scientific front for cigarette manufacturers:
In public debate, we are to assume that both competitors are on equal ground - the emotions around, say, The Rock vs. Stone Cold at Wrestlemania 17 are quite different from "The Man of 1,004 Holds," Chris Jericho, squashing "Bore-Us" Malenko as part of his extended defamation campaign against Dean "The Man of 1,000 Holds" Malenko. You are expected to assume that a lung cancer specialist pediatrician is of equal scientific stature against a know-nothing, professional yapper from the "Academy of Tobacco Studies." That is the entire point - from a very real life Big Tobacco lobbyist:
"Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy."
Carny* self-promoting hacks like Steve Kirsch or RFK, with zero scientific or medical experience, expertise, or accomplishments must desperately leech off of those who do more than just yapp on the Internet all day & have actual achievements under their belt - the constant belching for "debates" is so those who know little, but talk big can elevate themselves to equal footing alongside those who do big, and talk little.
Understanding the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine “Debate”
In the 1993 special "Revelations," legendary comedian Bill Hicks gives his thoughts on the advertising & marketing industry:
"Quit putting a goddamn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet."
Thirty years later, it's terrifying to imagine what a now 60-something Hicks would see of the America that has emerged, in which harassment of medical experts by sadistic cranks that mock the deaths of children has become a profitable mortgage-paying venture. Not even exaggerating, this is from a now-deleted tweet by professional narcissist and “debate” carny Steve Kirsch:
“Jonathan Howard MD claims Cassidy Baracka is was a healthy child in Massachusetts who succumbed to COVID and died from COVID. I’m prepared to bet $1M he’s wrong. Does anyone want to put up money to bet against me?”
This is just depraved and pathetic, exploiting a dead child for some sadistic gambling sham. Why would any doctor or scientist risk lending credibility to such a carny hack by entertaining any form of “debate?” Neither Steve Kirsch or Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have a medical degree or any actual scientific expertise - so left with an empty bandolier, these pompadour charlatans have to resort to dishonesty, lies, and outright fictions to try and present their outlandish positions (of naked eugenics) as legitimate.
It was never about having a legitimate “debate,” but much like RFK Jr’s narcissistic run at the Presidency, this is just an attempt to boost his national platform and further financially benefit from the spotlight on his seductive contrarianism. From a February 2022 article on the New York Post:
[RFK Jr.’s] biggest haul came from the anti-vax organization Children’s Health Defense, [which he founded] which paid him $345,561 as chairman in 2020 — a raise of more than $90,000 from 2019, according to the group’s latest tax filings.
Hines said she was appalled by a speech he gave last week at the Lincoln Memorial, where Kennedy implied that those who oppose vaccines are being persecuted more severely than Anne Frank, the German teen who hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam before being sent to her death at Auschwitz.
“Even in Hitler’s Germany you could cross the Alps into Switzerland, you could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did,” he said. “Today, the mechanisms are being put in place to make it so that none of us can run and none of us can hide.”
The over-the-top outrageousness is the entire point: to create an eye-grabbing spectacle to grow RFK Jr.’s follower base and further increase his income as a carny anti-scientific hack - regardless of how many die or become disabled by COVID-19 following his anti-medical advice.
Turning the realm of medical science into low-brow entertainment to be exploited by do-nothing carny hacks, desperately trying to present themselves as serious authoritative voices by begging for “debates” against those with real-world responsibilities and actual accomplishments is extremely pitiful and pathetic.
Steve Kirsch and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. should try going out and getting a real job, doing something that actually benefits society, like becoming a sports entertainer, instead of leading harassment campaigns and leeching off the achievements of those that have actual knowledge and experience about highly technical subjects you so desperately wish everyone would pretend you know a single goddamned thing about.
Leaving behind a legacy of carny bullshit, making a mockery of medical science, is not something that will be looked back upon kindly in the history books.