The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Paul Ryan wasn’t drowning his sorrows in Papa Roach — though the Internet wishes he were

“LOSING MY SIGHT. LOSING MY MIND. WISH SOMEBODY WOULD TELL ME I’M FINE,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan did not sing. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

Friday may or may not have been the day that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s dream of repealing Obamacare died forever. But it was definitely the day that birthed anew a long-standing Internet fantasy in which Ryan (R-Wis.) is secretly an angsty closet rocker.

The 2017 version of the old game, “What does Paul Ryan listen to when he’s sad?” was — to be clear — totally unfair to Ryan, if not also to Papa Roach.

It started with a tweet from writer Justin Halpern. He shared a doctored screenshot of yesterday’s New York Times article on the demise of the American Health Care Act, which changed this kicker:

Ryan said the bill included “huge conservative wins.” But those provisions were ultimately not enough.

Into this surrealist glory:

“Last Resort” is a hit 2000 single by Papa Roach, which the AV Club notes “has had a weird second life as a symbol of turn-of-the-millennium eyebrow-ring angst.”

Here is a compilation of teenagers singing the song:

Halpern’s Photoshopped tweet invited us to imagine Ryan, after a defeating day on the Capitol, consoling himself behind tinted windows, perhaps singing along to the lyrics: “Feeding on chaos and living in sin / Downward spiral where do I begin?”

This fake news spread so far and wide that an hour later Halpern felt compelled to clarify it was a joke — even if, he wrote, Ryan “is SUCH a tool it was believable.”

His joke, it turns out, was only setup for Papa Roach itself to administer the coup de grace to Ryan’s mockery:

Which itself felt like the ultimate punchline to a running gag that’s been going on since at least 2012, when a New York Times profile on Ryan began with this sentence:

“Representative Paul D. Ryan strolls the halls of Capitol Hill with the anarchist band Rage Against the Machine pounding through his ear buds.

A few months later, Ryan voluntarily appeared in photographs with said ear buds for a Time magazine shoot.

Unlike Friday’s business, this was not fake news. But it did play out much the same: with Ryan publicly mocked by his professed music idol.

“Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing,” Rage guitarist Tom Morello wrote in Rolling Stone, after Ryan became the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2012. “He is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades.”

It was only natural to wonder what else was raging behind Ryan’s ear buds. The candidate even offered hint at rallies, per the Los Angeles Times, once saying:

“My playlist starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin.”

Which prompted the newspaper to wonder if perhaps “when he’s feeling introspective, he might appreciate Heart’s ‘Dog& Butterfly.’”

And so Ryan’s imagined playlist became a mock theme as his political career progressed from failed candidate to House speaker.

Not necessarily to end this sort of thing, Ryan actually released his Spotify playlist last year.

Or he released a playlist, at least. It opened with “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, followed immediately by the Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony.”

Slightly edgier: Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and “Sure Shot” by the Beastie Boys.

“They are very common songs!” Wonkette observed. “But many of them are also good, so we won’t hate.”

Alas, the commentariat has been less friendly since Ryan’s fabricated rockout to Papa Roach.

Here are the key turning points in the Republicans' fight to pass the American Health Care Act. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Andrew Harrer/The Washington Post)

More reading:

Donald Trump made it to the White House. His treasured phone may not.

Trump’s 3,000 websites — and what they say about his rise to power

The totally nerdy inside story of ‘Star Wars,’ as told in Mark Hamill’s tweets