Written By: Nathan Hill
“What do you mean attack?” the anchor asks. He sits in a studio with shiny black floors and a lighting scheme of red, white, and blue. His face is smooth as cake fondant. Behind him, people at desks seem to be working. He says: “Could you describe the attack?”
“All I actually know right now,” the reporter says, “is that things were thrown.”
“That is unclear at this time.”
“Was the governor struck by any of the things? Is he injured?”
“I believe he was struck, yes.”
“Did you see the attackers? Were there many of them? Throwing the things?”
“There was a lot of confusion. And some yelling.”
“The things that were thrown, were they big things or small things?”
“I guess I would say small enough to be thrown.”
“Were they larger than baseballs, the thrown things?”
“So golf-ball-size things?”
“Maybe that’s accurate.”
“Were they sharp? Were they heavy?”
“It all happened very fast.”
“Was it premeditated? Or a conspiracy?”
“There are many questions of that sort being asked.”
A logo is made: Terror in Chicago. It whooshes to a spot next to the anchor’s ear and flaps like a flag in the wind. The news displays a map of Grant Park on a massive touch-screen television in what has become a commonplace of modern newscasting: someone on television communicating via another television, standing in front of the television and controlling the screen by pinching it with his hands and zooming in and out in super-high definition. It all looks really cool.
While they wait for new information to surface, they debate whether this incident will help or hurt the governor’s presidential chances. Help, they decide, as his name recognition is pretty low outside of a rabid conservative evangelical following who just loves what he did during his tenure as governor of Wyoming, where he banned abortion outright and required the Ten Commandments to be publicly spoken by children and teachers every morning before the Pledge of Allegiance and made English the official and only legal language of Wyoming and banned anyone not fluent in English from owning property. Also he permitted firearms in every state wildlife refuge. And he issued an executive order requiring state law to supersede federal law in all matters, a move that amounted to, according to constitutional scholars, a fiat secession of Wyoming from the United States. He wore cowboy boots. He held press conferences at his cattle ranch. He carried an actual live real gun, a revolver that dangled in a leather holster at his hip.
At the end of his one term as governor, he declared he was not running for reelection in order to focus on national priorities, and the media naturally took this to mean he was running for president. He perfected a sort of preacher-slash-cowboy pathos and an antielitist populism and found a receptive audience especially among blue-collar white conservatives put out by the current recession. He compared immigrants taking American jobs to coyotes killing livestock, and when he did this he pronounced coyotes pointedly with two syllables: ky-oats. He put an r sound in Washington so it became Warshington. He said bushed instead of tired. He said yallow for yellow and crick for creek.
Supporters said that’s just how normal, nonelite people from Wyoming talked.
His detractors loved pointing out that since the courts had struck down almost all of his Wyoming initiatives, his legislative record was effectively nil. None of that seemed to matter to the people who continued to pay for his $500-a-plate fund-raisers (which, by the way, he called “grub-downs”) and his $10,000 lecture fees and his $30 hardcover book, The Heart of a True American, loading up his “war chest,” as the reporters liked to call it, for a “future presidential run, maybe.”
And now the governor has been attacked, though nobody seems to know how he’s been attacked, what he’s been attacked with, who he’s been attacked by, or if the attack has injured him. News anchors speculate at the potential damage of taking a ball bearing or marble at high velocity right in the eye. They talk about this for a good ten minutes, with charts showing how a small mass traveling at close to sixty miles per hour could penetrate the eye’s liquid membrane. When this topic wears itself out, they break for commercials. They promote their upcoming documentary on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11: Day of Terror, Decade of War. They wait.
Then something happens to save the news from the state of idleness into which it has drifted: The anchor reappears and announces that a bystander caught the whole spectacular thing on video and has now posted it online.
And so here is the video that’s going to be shown several thousand times on television over the next week, that will collect millions of hits and become the third-most-watched internet clip this month behind the new music video from teen pop singing sensation Molly Miller for her single “You Have Got to Represent,” and a family video of a toddler laughing until he falls over. Here is what happens:
The video begins in whiteness and wind, the sound of wind blowing over an exposed microphone, then fingers fumbling over and pressing into the mic to create seashell-like swooshing sounds as the camera adjusts its aperture to the bright day and the whiteness resolves to a blue sky, indistinct unfocused greenishness that is presumably grass, and then a voice, a man’s voice loud and too close to the mic: “Is it on? I don’t know if it’s on.”
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