How we got here: the Paul Ryan marathon lie, a slippery slope
Let’s talk about News; not “Huey Lewis and the –” or the Biblical “Good –.” Just The News–the continuous flow of breaking stories and their subsequent spinning, fraying, interpretation and misinterpretation. It’s all encompassing, self-referential, and dictates everything that will ever happen in the preceding minutes, days, years.
The News has always been captivating; staying informed considered virtuous. But in recent weeks, News has reached critical mass. It’s more of a story when there is no story. The absence of an earth-shattering revelation is worthy of suspicion and paranoia-inducing. And the News, now, is more than just news. For many, it’s come to replace religion as the central source of hope and mystery in their lives, something huge and intangible that seems to keep the wheels spinning, and–for the truly devout–something that will redirect the trajectory of life onto its intended course, whatever that may be. Cries of “Fake News!” are the modern calls to burn or banish the heretics.
But how the heck did we get here? It’s unfair and stupid to ignore all the societal factors (mounting partisanship, politics as sport, news as entertainment, ever widening economic inequality, racial strife, fear, Fox News, Aaron Sorkin, etc.) that contributed, and reduce it down to a single thread, but that’s what I’m going to do.
It all started when Paul Ryan lied about his marathon time while the VP candidate alongside Mitt Romney.
Prior to August, 2012, Ryan was a middling, fiscally conservative, Rand-worshiping Republican Representative for Wisconsin’s 1st District. He was young by Congressional standards, physically attractive by almost any standards, to Republicans – a promising young star. And to Democrats? A tolerable, hunky member of the opposition.
But Ryan and his low body fat found themselves thrust into a far greater spotlight when, on August 11th, 2012, Mitt Romney named Ryan as his running mate ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
Shortly thereafter, during a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Ryan claimed he’d run a marathon in under three hours. The running community responded as it so often does to claims of impressive performances by high-profile individuals: it debunked it. It turned out Ryan had run 4:01:25 in his one and only marathon.
A few days later, via spokesperson, Ryan issued a non-apology apology for this fibbing, and seemingly, that was that. In the grand scheme of things, lying about running results (although he claims to have not lied, but misremembered his time–something anyone who runs 26.2 miles does not do) is probably small potatoes. And truthfully, who cares? Politicians lie constantly. All people lie occasionally. It’s always been that way and always will be.
But there’s something subtly nefarious about lying about one’s PRs, that the world at large can’t understand, but that runners generally do. Not only are you falsely elevating yourself, but you’re diminishing the achievements of others in the process. If everyone could run sub-three hours, it wouldn’t feel nearly as good to do so, the requisite months of tedious training rendered meaningless.
It’s a massive leap to make, but this sort of mentality can be extrapolated into explaining how we wound up with a 2016 election in which both major party candidates were under FBI investigation either during or immediately following the casting of the ballots.
In terms of information, race results are indisputable, black and white, and incredibly easy to check. There is only one side to them. None of these hold true for policy. And it’s expected that politicians will be untruthful when discussing politics. But to lie about something so personal and easily refuted indicates a pretty clear disdain for the public.
If you can lie about your race times, you’re already one or two escalations away from lying to constituents about the contents of a bill, or about where your campaign money comes from, or how you couldn’t give a shit about individual voters while caving into big-money special interest groups.
Regardless of which side of the aisle you fall on, the next few months are sure to be interesting ones for News, as that News may have the capacity to unleash unparalleled national scandal and crumbling of once-near-sacred institutions. And while it’s entirely possible a similar diaper storm would have unfolded had Clinton been elected, the reality we face now is one of Trump and his transgressions, brought about by a stamp of approval from Paul Ryan, liar of marathon times, and spurred onward by the News.
Both parties are probably irredeemably corrupt. One is fully in the pocket of big business and controlled via lever by some of the most hateful people on earth. The other is partly in the pocket of big business and too ineffectual to actually govern.
The only hope is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who polls favorably against Trump in a hypothetical 2020 election between the two and who has never run a marathon to lie about. Let’s all stop and smell what The Rock is cookin’: a return to Big Guys in politics, and an era of integrity, excessive cod consumption, and Medicare for all.