This article appeared in Anthropology News.
Trump’s political style subverts dominant conventions through humor and chaos, maximizing entertainment value as he flouts presidential norms. How to best explain the ongoing, day-to-day spectacle of Trump’s presidency? I suggest we borrow a concept from the world of professional wrestling where hyperreality converges with spectacle to produce the same strange amalgamation of bravado, hyperbole, and exaggeration (and outright lies) that marks Trumpian politics. That concept is kayfabe. Kayfabe allows Trumpian discourse to create its own internal reality filled with “alternative facts” that are used to determine what is true. In other words, kayfabe ensures that questions of truth and accuracy are not judged according to standards established outside the fourth wall of the theater, but inside the storyworld constructed on the stage or in the wrestling ring—or on the reality-television set of the Trump White House.