Earlier this month I wrote a post noting that Linda McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment operation was coming under sustained media fire for a long history of "skits" that include violence to women, simulated sexual acts inside the ring, and mockery of people with mental disadvantages.
McMahon, co-owner of the WWE, is running as a Republican for the US Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd. To overcome her myriad political deficiencies - including supporting Barack Obama's chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel with cash donations last year, and working against Republicans to keep them out of office - she is pouring up to 50 million dollars of her vast wrestling fortune into the campaign.
Nonetheless, McMahon is running behind former US Congressman Rob Simmons for the GOP nomination, who has nowhere near her money but still is considered to be far more likely to beat Dodd's replacement, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
Anyway, the focus of my Feb. 10 article was a You Tube video of a WWE production, showing two very lovely women stripping down to their very skimpy underthings and proceeding to fondle and kiss each other until two very ugly male wrestlers beat the crap out of them. I used a headline that came from the video, wherein the WWE boasted that "sex and violence always sell."
Wrong! Really wrong. At the end of my article I noted - with a wink and a nudge - that the video and headline probably would generate tons of hits on my website, maybe more than ever before. That is where I was wrong, and presumably so is the WWE. I got a bit of a spike, but frankly, it was more like a blip.
I check my website analytics every day to see what readers are interested in, and where they come from, and I have had many, many far more active days. Which, as I think about it is a tribute to my readers, because they obviously didn't forward the link on to very many other readers.
But what, we must now ask ourselves, should we think about the WWE business model? Do sex, and violence and bullying the weak always sell? Is that really what most people want to see?
Linda McMahon told MSNBC recently that 16 million people tune in to the WWE's productions every week. That accounts for only about five percent of the American public, which isn't really all that much. Many other forms of entertainment have far more regular viewers. So, is the WWE correct in exploiting women and the disadvantaged?
There is a bigger reason for asking this question, that being China and the WWE's presence there.
As astute observers of the international scene you probably are aware that China holds about 1.4 trillion dollars in US debt, more than any other country, and could shut us down in a heartbeat.
You also are probably aware that in the past three years China hit one of our weather satellites with a laser beam, just to show that they could do it; that China was given access to banned electronic software during the Clinton administration that provided it with a massive leap in missile guidance technology; and that it stole our sonar and stealth aircraft technology. You probably know that two years ago a Chinese submarine surfaced in the Pacific Ocean not just within torpedo range of one of our aircraft carriers, but actually within sight! And the US Navy didn't know the submarine was there!
Late last year another American ship, towing a sonar "sled" crammed with our most advanced underwater locator technology, pulled it right across the bow of a Chinese submarine north of the Philippines and again didn't know the sub was there.
Then when President Obama announced that the US was going ahead with a sale of defensive weaponry to Taiwan (the "other" Chinese who are allies of the US,) Red China's military started openly discussing calling in the US debt and bankrupting us.
So what does this have to do with McMahon?
On February 6, the Vernon, Connecticut Republican Town Committee sponsored a Lincoln Day breakfast and invited both McMahon and Rob Simmons to speak. McMahon, with zero foreign relations experience, tried to pull a "gotcha" on Simmons by telling the audience that she personally opened the WWE Shanghai China office in 2007, and therefore she has an inside knowledge of the communist Chinese culture.
Bad move. Because when Simmons got up to speak he noted that as a CIA operative for a decade after he served in Vietnam, he was sent on many difficult and dangerous missions, including in China! Then he thanked McMahon for bringing up the subject - in fluent Mandarin Chinese! Here, take a look for yourself.
This raises several issues for me, the first of which is that McMahon and/or her staff presumably did a lousy job of reviewing Simmons' background or she never would have challenged him on China expertise in an open forum. Are they that sloppy on other issues too?
But more troubling is the position McMahon would put us in if she is elected to the US Senate while her family corporation is trying to expand its business inside Red China.
Remember, regardless of the Chinese government's edging toward Democracy, it still is a totalitarian country with a state-controlled media. Obviously, the McMahon family corporation, WWE, wants access to the vast markets available in that country. Consider this: the WWE reaches 16 million people each week in the United States, but with only 25 percent penetration in China it would reach the equivalent of the entire US population with each broadcast!
The WWE sponsors a monthly pay-per-view show that costs approximately $50 for those willing to tune in and part with their hard-earned money. If every single one of the 16 million weekly viewers bought the monthly pay-per-view package the WWE would gross about $800 million each month. Trust me, they don't get anywhere near that many viewers - but they still do very well, considering that McMahon and her husband Vincent are supposed to be worth a half-billion dollars or more.
But in China, using reruns of old US pay-per-view events to save on production costs, the WWE could do a pay-per-view event each week, charge as little as the equivalent of $4 US, and with only 25 percent penetration, gross more than a billion dollars with each show!
Think of the implications of making that much money that quickly without incurring any extra costs for equipment, locations and talent. Think of the possibilities if the WWE was given the go-ahead to develop Chinese "talent" and put on shows that are produced there!
But how do you acquire that access? Remember, this is a totalitarian country with a state-controlled media, where access is not a factor of free enterprise, but rather of the government granting permission.
Now think about the leverage the Chinese government would have over Linda McMahon, her family and her corporation if she was a US Senator. This would be a national security risk - no, it would be a national security nightmare.
Considering that McMahon is throwing money around the state to buy delegate votes in the Republican Town Committees - oh, sorry, it's to help the RTCs get Republican candidates elected, wink, wink, nudge, nudge - I don't think she would be averse to taking some direction from the Chinese Communists if she stood to reap billions from the WWE's Chinese operations.
Even if you are a Linda McMahon backer you have to admit she would have far more than the appearance of a conflict of interest. She would have to recuse herself on any vote that had even the slightest impact on China.
She wouldn't even have to serve on the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee, or make an overt vote, to both have influence and to be influenced. Remember the words of the late Deng Xiaoping, one of China's most influential Communist Party leaders who helped moved the country toward a market economy in the years after Mao's murderous purges, when he said that China should "disguise its ambition and hide its claws."
It would be very easy to influence important legislation if a member of the United States Senate was under the control, overtly or tacitly, of the Chinese government. Linda McMahon may think that taking an occasional trip to the Orient and watching the Chinese culture streaming past her office window gives her unparalleled insight on foreign relations matters.
I disagree and I'll repeat what I said above. This would be a disaster, a national security nightmare.
Saturday, February 27, 2010