Discover more from Beck of the Pack
The Laz Lake propaganda fire is running out of oxygen
The Outside Online campaign to cancel Laz Lake has its own Rudy Giuliani
When I decided to make this blog mostly about the “formal” coverage of running, I was hoping to limit myself to traditional sources — “legacy outlets,” in the parlance of those happy to see these declining — along with a few websites, podcasts and blogs that in my judgment carry sufficient influence, such as Letsrun.com and the various weekly newsletters I’ve mentioned here. While would be easy to generate a dozen substantive posts about the surreal nonsense written about intersex athletes in The New York Times alone, I’m realistic about the high level of traffic mom-and-pop (or twin-and-twin) running-information shops like Letsrun.com get, especially compared to pieces published on increasingly paywall-driven and ridiculous sites like Runner’s World, Outside and Podium Runner/Women’s Running. (I’m lumping the last two together despite their marked imbalance in overall credibility, because maligning the garbage in one of them got me banned, without complaint, from writing for the other.)
That’s one way to say, “I was hoping not to write about pure social-media drama.” But in my parochial sphere of concern, that’s not realistic; distance running, applying the criteria of most sports fans, doesn’t qualify as a professional sport in the first place, and because so many individual breast-implant-laden, 25 5K-minute runners (mostly from Texas) draw more attention from their Instagram ass-waggling than all of the sub-15:00 women in history combined attract from their athletic feats, it’s not easy to ignore the impact of social media. And most people are cowards, so they like to comment in groups about, rather than to, things like blog posts linked to Facebook from elsewhere, lest the author himself prove too trenchant, noncompliant and white for their liking on contact.
This reality in turn guarantees that when something other than the sport itself (say, social justice) is the focus or theme of a given endurance publication, overall or for a given issue — and these days, that sort of has to be the case for the operation to survive — the emergence of the wag-the-dog effect is inevitable: Someone causes a ruckus on social media, the outlet covers it as a story, and the original agitator refers back to the story as if it happened organically, keeping the bullshit-ball bouncing around. That’s what has happened to create the illusion that Gary Cantrell, aka Lazarus Lake, is guilty of some kind of wrongdoing. That the primary outlet behind this smear is itself a hotbed of proven ethical failings seems appropriate for our climate, but it’s too bad this kind of me-me-me flailing posing as activism has become de rigueur in a sport a lot of people are attracted to specifically because of its lack of intrinsic bullshit: You run a distance against others, you get timed, and those are the results of your participation that day. If someone insists on piling more onto that equation against your will, in your space, you have every reason to insist that they fuck off.
But it’s been declared by fiat that politics and running are inseparable, which in the minds of the people promoting this idea means unconditional and universal acceptance of leftist political chatter throughout running. With grave consequences for disobeying. All of which represent, without question, exactly the tactics of fascist-style religious sects and movements throughout history. All of which is why these people are distressing. And they fucking lie.
On September 11, Outside published a sham of an article by degenerate editor Molly Mirhashem’s personal SJW lapdog, Martin Fritz Huber. My review of that piece doesn’t include any speculation about how Huber learned of Ben Chan’s exchanges with Laz, but I’m guessing Chan reached out and Outside bit. Either way, they decided to take a wrecking ball to Laz’s reputation, which might have been okay if they didn’t have to curb-stomp journalistic ethics to get there.
The two most important passages in Fritz’s story are “There was a note from Cantrell: “I am 1000% in agreement, but this is not a political site” and “[Chan] is adamant that he doesn’t think that Cantrell is a racist person.” Given this information alone, any effort to sway readers toward the notion that Cantrell is in fact racist, or even anti-”anti-racism,” can be dismissed as illegitimate. Yet since that was the narrative Fritz and Mirhashem had committed to, that’s what the article stubbornly tries to do. Fritz — who, to his credit, doesn’t seem like enough of a moron to be using his best aim or most powerful ordnance in these slow-motion ambushes — even admits he applied extra pressure in an effort to see if Cantrell would change his tune and become more of an asshole, a process akin to remote inverse waterboarding.
Even as the cancel-happy harpie types claiming this isn’t about convincing their readers and followers that Cantrell a racist, their public antics suggest otherwise. Complaining that someone lacks a sufficiently developed social conscience is just as much of a smear as just as obscene a farce, and also deeply unethical and consequential given the scale of Laz’s contributions to, and popularity within, running. They want him out of the sport unless he bends to their will and lets them litter his pages with numbingly stupid outbursts that relate to calls for social justice in the same laser-focused way that a bobcat shriek evokes the Gettysburg Address.
Ben Chan, the instigator in the 9/11 story, became newly upset when Amy Clark, the editor of Ultrarunning Magazine, had the nerve to do a podcast with Lake — and believe it or not, he’s known primarily for things besides idiots posting the same sexy picture of him along with with their ill-founded, monotonous grievances — without, in effect, fitting him for a Klansman’s outfit before or during the interview.
That Chan still isn’t done declaiming about the life-shattering experience of having some posts deleted is actually good for Cantrell, because everything Chan says is either a distortion, a falsehood, or simply too stupid to really deconstruct. In the same way Rudi Giuliani is now making sweaty, off-the-wall “speeches” in the service of a corrupt White House, Ben Chan is playing the same role for a shady publication whether it wishes him to or not. If he continues in this vein, and finds ways to prostrate himself and reality even further, Huber and Mirhashem may one day propose having spoken to a different Ben “Asian Sensation” Chan in Keene, N.H altogether for their hit piece. (If I could ask him one thing, it would be “How the fuck did you wind up in that town?”)
Chan’s Instagram post manages to have discernible lowlights despite belly-crawling its way through a bog of poorly worded complaints from start to finish. For instance, he claims that “Laz has declared that his virtual and in-person races are refuges for runners scared of the the sight of the words ‘Black Lives Matter’.” This is untrue. Laz’s haters are insistent on getting him to cop to a special distaste for BLM, even though he hasn’t. He says of the podcast “There are coded white people euphemisms to shift through.” I think this baroque warning is itself a euphemism for “Laz and Clark employ dog-whistle racism,” an assertion he immediately incinerates by providing no helpful examples and a couple of Jesus-in-my-ketchup-stain contrivances. And most insidiously, he magically discerns people’s browser histories and then convicts them on this basis: “it's very likely neither of them have ever visited BLM's website.” Is it? and that helps your argument how? But because this outcome was likely, Chan uses it as a Trojan horse to tar the pair with all manner of presumed character shortcomings.
This guy is just a capering asshole. And though he may seem daft and semi-literate in spots, he knows that much. It has to be the main goal. I can’t understand why so many people would rather be known for destructive shenanigans, often using logic of a piece with that of biblical creationists and back-alley astrologers, than not be known at all.
Chan says that his white friends have “flipped on” him (it sounds like he hates white people anyway, so hopefully he’s more at peace now). Alison Wade wonders why there aren’t more people in the same uproar she’s in and suggests boycotts might be in order. If you find yourself on a rhetorical-philosophical island, with the edges rapidly being eaten away on all sides by the encroaching ocean — and most of us do from time to time, at least those of us with smart friends — you should take a moment to consider whether your initial hypothesis (or in this case, stipulated conclusion) might have some big-ass holes in it.
And it’s while one thing to be wrong, it’s another to be wrong and intent on cratering someone’s livelihood over it, and also to be spineless about the entire circus you caused. I have particular reasons for homing in on motherfuckers who leverage the inglorious nature of the Web try to ruin people’s lives with lies. You can all piss your pants that Laz and others don’t want an unending verbal melee on their pages, and believe ill of such people, but if you decide to keep whacking away at someone in the hope of marginalizing that person and his earning potential, you’re just a rip-roaring cunt.
In terms of writing material, schadenfreude, and the validation of mild personal grudges, I’m happy for Chan and those like him to continue engaging in ritualistic self-humiliation. He still looks a little better than Giuliani, anyway. But the more he does this, the worse the people who originally wrote about his plaintive, scattershot jabbering will look, and the more evident it is that these folks are being noisy to be personally noticed, not to advance anything useful.
I have to emphasize what Outside Magazine is or should be best known for these days, other than hosting Alex Hutchinson’s truly inimitable and excellent Sweat Science newsletter. These are basic facts, not opinions, except where the difference is obvious.
It (to use the corporate singular) stiffed hundreds of freelancers to the tune of over $150,000, and probably would have kept doing this had a bunch of injured parties (actually injured, not SJW-injured) not learned of each other’s existences. It has, or at least had at one time, a blunt-force quota system that discriminates against a perceived excess of white contributors and white topics, the only plausible explanation for why Mirhashem shelved my story while pretending not to for ten months until I pulled the plug myself — exactly the outcome I then realized she’d been waiting for. The editor-in-chief, Chris Keyes, is either a chickenshit or extremely lazy, probably both, as his only involvement in my email to him was forwarding it to his decrepit underling so she could continue stonewalling until I and my esteemed band of New Hampshire palefaces just evaporated.
Maybe Mr. Keyes never submitted those invoices in question to accounting, or maybe the people in that department were told by the old white male publisher of the enterprise to sit on a whole pile because no individual writer was bound to make too much noise over a few hundred bucks. Maybe they all sit around the offices in Santa Fe lighting farts and telling anti-Semitic jokes, in series or in parallel. I mean, I might as well assume the absolute worst and state it as dogma; this is within the apparent rules.
All of the foregoing is undeniable evidence of a shitty, shitty business. Had Nate Silver started following any of this a year ago, he would have placed the odds of it giving someone in the running community an unjustified dragging through the mud by the end of 2020 at 78%, according to sources.
And a final exhortation to any haters who have read this far. If Laz Lake was denying you space on the Internet on the physical world to express your viewpoints, I’d be wholly in favor of shutting him down. Maybe. But this proposition is so absurd that it only serves to underscore the corresponding insanity level of the whiners. Also, just how small a…ah, never mind.
Interestingly —it and isn’t it interesting how people have come to use that word to mean “More motherfuckery ahead”? — I actually had to take a detour from writing about the dismal editorial choice of a different official industry publication to write this. But before I get there, I’ll probably write about the outdoor mask-police in my neighborhood, who are surely more aggravating than yours, and who have almost probably never read a single word about infectious disease.