White Racists Are the Real 'Victims': Jonathan Chait Turns Heel in His Feud With Ta-Nehisi Coates
Last night, at the WWE's 30th annual Wrestlemania, one of its most legendary figures lost his first match at the event in 22 years. The defeat of the "Undertaker" caused utter shock, dismay, and confusion among professional wrestling fans. That the unbreakable and indefatigable Undertaker would lose a match in "his yard" caused a collective moment of cognitive dissonance and a collective "huh?" as it trended around the world via social media.
The sun sets and rises everyday; the Undertaker does not lose at Wrestlemania. It would seem that rules are made to be broken--even those once thought immutable.
I use the phrase "politics is professional wrestling" as a way of describing how, just like the scripted events in the squared circle, that much of American politics is a battle of good guys and bad guys over relatively predetermined outcomes within what is in practice a very narrow issue space. Politics is professional wrestling is also my way of alluding to the spectacle, fun, entertainment value, mayhem, madness, and polarization that has come to typify American political discourse in the 24/7 cable news cycle.
The much discussed public debate between The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates and New York magazine's Jonathan Chait about the "bad culture" and "pathological" ways of black folks was a very useful and necessary conversation, one stimulated in its most recent incarnation by the bigoted, white supremacist, dishonest, lazy thinking of Paul Ryan, the Republican Party's wunderkind "big ideas" guy.
Chait and Coates are so very smart. Their writing is a joy to read. Their debate, has for the most part, been a net gain for a public that has been trained for soundbites as opposed to an extended dialogue and deep thinking about serious public policy matters.
As in professional wrestling, there is a natural ebb and flow to a feud. Chait and Coates's "program" reached a climax this week with the latter appearing on the Sunday morning edition of Melissa Harris-Perry's essential MSNBC program.
Unfortunately, Chait was unable to be on Melissa Harris-Perry's show with Ta-Nehisi Coates.
A great feud also has falling action and closure--in wrestling parlance this is called the "blow off" match.
The blow off match is a way to milk a now concluded storyline for more money, to set up a new feud in the future, for a competitor to leave the promotion and pursue other ventures, and/or to give the fans a final taste of the sport and entertainment provided when competitors have great chemistry with one another.
As with boxing (Ali-Frazier), sometimes the rematch is a story unto itself and surpasses the first parts of the narrative.
Shawn Michaels' and the Undertakers' two classic matches at successive Wrestlemanias would fit the latter model.
Unfortunately, most blow off matches diminish the quality of the events and climax that led up to them. And in the most egregious examples, the blow off match can actually hurt the fans' memories of what transpired beforehand: the failed follow-up match is the heavy shadow that comes to color our memories with an ugly tint.
I am concerned that Jonathan Chait's new piece on race in America is the failed blow off match in what was a thrilling feud with Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Chait is now baiting Coates in order to get a cheap "pop" from the fans.
There were earlier signs of Chait's change in attitude.
In a previous essay, Chait hinted that he was going to turn full on heel when he deployed Malcolm X as a cheap shot against Coates.