If you have not heard of Kayfabe, read this

Kayfabe is a term that relates to professional wrestling. It is the storyline created to make the fighters, the sport and even the crowds more invested in what happens in the ring.

Watching athletes compete on skill alone is the definition of sport. Pro wrestling takes it further emphasising the good and bad characters of the fighters not just their skills. The good characters are the faces, the bad are called the heels. The good characters become even better when facing particularly bad characters.

Having an audience shouting for the favourite is as important as then crowds booing at the villain. The villains may be more important to get emotion running high and the crowds invested in the story.

If you think about what political rallies resemble and perhaps Donald Trump rallies, in particular, you may see the similarities. It is not only the US President that is seeing the benefit of riling up emotions and playing on people's fears. It works on all of us.

Tweets about Iranian sanctions that were due to come into effect on 5 November were preceded by a tweet using the Game of Thrones font to say that sanctions were coming.

It got HBO the owners of the show to respond and George RR Martin, the author of the books too. One of the actors in the series Maisie Williams also replied. As a consequence, the attention got the tweet more mentions, likes and retweets.

This article will add to the effect.

The intention though is not to add to the fire and ice, but rather help show it for what it is - a blurring of entertainment principals on real events.

Dramatic TV shows and sporting rivalries are more interesting than coverage about issues of policy. As a way to get more people interested in policy issues, they are sometimes described using terms from sport and entertainment. In order to get someone to read the story, you need to use more dramatic language. Differences of opinion become a "war", a loss becomes a wipeout and how we feel about the subjects becomes more important than what we know about it.

Social media is great for news and entertainment, but the blurring and the means to manipulate the messages and create villains and heroes may see us conflate real events with entertainment.

Biologist and entomologist Edward Wilson, when asked about how humanity might deal with receiving and processing a lot more information, said: "The real problem of humanity is the following: we have palaeolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology."

Unless we are able to understand how technology could be used to get us to react emotionally, there is a danger we can be manipulated.

George RR Martin's Game of Thrones quote to say "Fear cuts deeper than swords" could apply equally in his novels and in the real world. Seeing how fiction can relate to our society is important, but there is a limit to how far we can take clear insights and apply them to a complex world.

It is hard to reason with someone about their fears and it is all too easy to make us afraid. We need to recognise our fears and separate the elements intended to scare us from the elements that need to be addressed to reduce that fear. To succeed, we need to know when we are being influenced by kayfabe and when we are addressing the real issues.


This article first appeared on 702 : If you have not heard of Kayfabe, read this


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