A lie can never stand on its own. It needs a support system, an environment that makes the lie itself believable and gives the liar in question the confidence that their fib would be seen as truth as soon as it leaves their lips.
Ryan Lochte calls his lie an "over-exaggeration," which is an excessive but not inaccurate description. Now that most of the details from that night have been revealed and sponsorships have been lost, that seems to be the case for all of Lochte’s story. Security officers did pull out guns and Lochte and the other three swimmers were made to pay before they were allowed to leave a Rio gas station. But in his initial version, Lochte neglected to reveal that the incident started with him and his friend destroying a sign and publicly urinating before being detained. The money that was paid was for the damage done, but it may have exceeded the actual cost, which then would justify Lochte’s claim that he was robbed. He also lied about a gun being pointed at his head. Guns were drawn, but not pressed against his forehead. It can then be assumed that he didn’t say "whatever" as they told him to get on the ground.
There’s also uncertainty on whether there was any destruction done to the bathroom -- cameras show that there wasn’t.
Aaron Gordon of ViceSports wrote that the oddest thing about the Lochte story is that it was even investigated to begin with. The great point in the initial article is that had Lochte been anyone else, a native of Rio or even a regular visitor, his story would have just remained a crazy story about a gas station robbery. It seems obvious of course, he’s famous so he gets more attention naturally, but it also speaks of the impunity with which crimes are committed.
Bloomberg wrote on the issue before the Olympics. There were more than 48,700 incidents of muggings in Rio last year:
Muggings rose 14 percent city-wide from January to May, according to the most recent data. In parts of the city, it’s been much worse: The region that includes downtown business district is reporting a 26 percent increase in street crime. In and around the Copacabana beach area, it’s up 44 percent.
Rio’s public defenders’ department stated in 2011 that the Brazilian state had over 60,000 unsolved murders in the last 10 years, with the percentage of solved cases in the city of Rio hovering at 14. The United States’ Bureau of Diplomatic Security reported in the 2016 crime and safety report that, "Police response, both from the military and civil police, varies. Police officials frequently cite a lack of resources, staffing shortages, basic equipment, and morale as reasons for widely varying response times and unsolved crime."
Before the Olympics, members of Rio’s police and some firefighters held up an ominous welcome to travelers:
So the chances of a robbery at a gas station being investigated was slim to begin with. Factor in that it happened during the Olympics, where security officers are more concerned with protecting the rich and their interests, and putting on a good face for the host city -- Rio Olympics spokesman Mario Andrada even dismissed the whole incident with, "They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on." -- and the whole situation, had it been any normal person, would have never seen the light of day.
It wasn’t meant to expose Lochte, either. The investigation had been started to find those who put his life at risk, even with all the holes in his initial story. It was started in his favor.
Lochte had the reality of crime and lack of police investigations in Rio as implicit support for his version of the truth. Still, with all that, he reformed the incident in order to lionize his role in it. He assumed that nothing would come of the small exaggeration, after all, nothing hardly ever comes from stories like his.
That belief didn’t just come to him from experiencing the city. Rio was depicted as a dangerous wasteland of crime, poverty and governmental decadence in every report and story as the games approached. Stories of body parts washing up on the beaches, shock articles about the threat of Zika -- which worked to also land Hope Solo in hot water — proliferated in the months beforehand. Videos of people being mugged on the streets, pictures of impoverished children in the favelas and doom-and-gloom tweets from respected journalists showed up again whenever a new report stated that the city was not ready for the games.
Due diligence and standard reporting turned into horror porn. It became exhibitionist. This gaze isn’t limited to Rio. When South Africa hosted the World Cup, the same million stories of crime, impending death and general savagery filled the internet, leading to things like a London security company making a "stab-proof vest" for travelers.
The fervor in the reportage is less about general well being and more a mockery of the situation in these places. It begins first as concern on whether the country/city will be able to host the event, then spirals into concerns about the safety of attendees. From there, the news cycle inevitably spirals out of control, becoming, in collective, a modern day Heart of Darkness, an arrogant, Western detailing of savages who are prone to crime and violence, policed by incompetents incapable of protecting those most valuable to society: travelers.
Add all of this up with the privileges that Lochte possesses -- a white male telling a story about violent brown natives, a celebrity, an American and the always reliable goofy, unaware jock whose actions can be excused because he never really knows what he’s doing -- and you have a small lie that turns into an international incident.
Lochte, 32, is not a kid as Andrada said. He’s a grown man but, unless it’s pathological, even children don’t lie for the sheer fun of it. They lie with a purpose: to avoid punishment, to gain something. In his story, when Lochte turned himself into a nihilistic hero in a country plagued with violence and crime, it was supposed to be the ending to his wild adventure in Rio. He knew that lies become truths if the environment wills it to be and he stuck to his initial story because he knew what was supposed to happen.
His story was supposed to be believed at face value, there wasn’t supposed to be a deep investigation and certainly it wasn’t supposed to be this big. Rio was a terrible place full of poor and desperate people and he had money and fame. A robbery in the middle of the night during the Olympics was supposed to be a non-story and he knew this.
He lied because he had been told that he could get away with it countless times before he even stepped foot in Rio.
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