Three 'Post-Truth' Related Items

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1) A very good essay by David Roberts, in Grist, on how politicians, regular people, and members of the media are finding their footing in the era of "post-truth politics." I mention it because it's worth reading and also because Roberts makes a convincing case that he originated or popularized the term "post-truth" politics. [UPDATE: Eric Alterman makes an even more convincing case that he used "The Post-Truth Presidency" as a chapter title in his 2004 book, When Presidents Lie.] [Update-update: Apparently the late Chuck Colson used the title "Post-Truth Society" in his writing as early as 2002.]


2) A very good essay by Andrew Cohen, here on The Atlantic's site, about "The National Scandal They Didn't Talk About in Tampa." What he has in mind is systematic efforts to suppress voter turnout this year; it's a sequel to Cohen's interview last week with Rep. John Lewis, on why efforts to deny some Americans' basic civic right aren't attracting more attention. Since Cohen has done such a thorough job, I won't go further into the merits for now but will just say, please read both pieces.

3) A very intriguing item by Scott Douglas in Runner's World, on how another of Rep. Paul Ryan's claims stands up to fact-checking. The claim is of absolutely zero intrinsic importance: it concerns just how fast a runner Ryan is. Last week, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, Ryan said he had broken three hours in a marathon:
HH: Are you still running?
PR: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don't run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or yes.
HH: But you did run marathons at some point?
PR: Yeah, but I can't do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.
HH: I've just gotta ask, what's your personal best?
PR: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.
HH: Holy smokes.
Runner's World was also impressed. But then:
Runner's World has been unable to find any marathon results by Ryan. Requests for more information from Ryan's Washington and Wisconsin offices, and from the Romney-Ryan campaign, have so far gone unanswered.

If Ryan has broken 3:00, he'd be the fastest marathoner to be on a national ticket. John Edwards has run 3:30; George W. Bush has run 3:44; Sarah Palin has run 3:59; and Al Gore has run 4:58.
I've written to the Runner's World author to follow up on the story and will report back. [UPDATE: here is the follow-up item.]  Again, the claim is of no importance on its own. [But, as the followup shows, the flat-lie nature of Ryan's early claim does have significance.] Neither Bill Clinton nor Ronald Reagan, two-term icons of their respective parties, set the world on fire in the marathon; and it is obvious that Paul Ryan is amazingly fit. You can imagine a million innocuous explanations here -- for instance, Ryan not wanting to bore a non-running audience with an exact time. But what caught RW's attention was Ryan's haziness on the details, since this is the kind of detail people tend not to get hazy about*. As a typical commenter on the RW story says:
Nothing political here, just an observation: I, and all the marathon runners I know, can tell you no - matter how many we have run - exactly what our PR [personal record] is and where we ran it.
This is probably nothing, but like RW I found it interesting, especially after this week's speech.
__
* To illustrate the point: As recounted here, my best was 3:02, in a Marine Corps Marathon in Washington when I was 30. It drove me crazy then and since that I hadn't found a way to go just three minutes faster so as to "break three."
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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