Gabriel Blackwell




Though bystanders said he seemed to be screaming something insulting, the man, people reviewing the footage later said, was really only claiming to have entered the Metro at Coyoacán. He was saying, in Spanish, that he had only just woken up, and that he could not understand why the train looked different, or why everyone seemed to be speaking English. This, he said before the policeman put him in a headlock, was the only reason he had put his hand on the woman's shoulder—merely to ask her where they now were. Where was he? The official had trouble pronouncing both the man's name—Horacio Quiroga; the official inexplicably substituted a long e for the short a at the end—and where he was from—Na . . . Naucalpan? In Mexico? Anyway, he had been in the country illegally as far as they had been able to ascertain. If the whole thing hadn't been caught on video, this official didn't say, no one would have had to spend their Sunday looking into the deceased's uncertain immigration status. A woman sitting across from Quiroga on the M had taken a picture and posted it online. M is for manspreading! she'd written. A second woman applied a filter that automatically added a sombrero and a can of Tecate to everyone in the picture. When a friend of the second woman pointed out this was the same man from that video everyone was sharing, she took down the post, but not right away, and not without some regret—it was the most popular thing she'd posted in a while, with seventy-eight comments and over two hundred likes. While she was debating whether to take it down, a friend of one of her friends screencapped the post and the seventy-eight comments and posted the screencaps. You believe this shit? this friend of a friend wrote. These screencaps attracted so much attention that a popular news aggregator ran a story on them, blurring out names and avatars to avoid the otherwise inevitable civil suits. Unfortunately for the original poster and her friends, another site, less scrupulous and desperate for readers, found and ran the unblurred screencaps. Comment Thread Confirms the Worst in Humanity, the headline read. The woman was, shortly after, fired from her position with an apparel company. The first site ran a story on the controversy surrounding the unblurred story on the second site, including in an update unsubstantiated reports that the woman who had taken the photo had been in brand engagement prior to her dismissal.



The spokeswoman feels she is finally getting her position down while making her third appearance of the day on the cable news shows, at exactly the moment the failed comedian starts to talk. Practice, she thinks, it just takes practice. When the representative from her home state has finished responding, she says, speaking directly to the anchor, Well, Jeff, what the Congressman has just said is simply untrue and contrary to the record. Those allegations have, time and time again, been proven to be baseless. She has, she feels, come across as forthright, honest, and, above all, strong. She feels sure the coverage tomorrow will be positive. A few hours later, a journalist will check his direct messages and realize he has photographic evidence that the allegations are, in fact, true. The news will focus on these photographs and the resignation that follows, and the spokeswoman's convincing performance will be—unfairly, as she sees it—relegated to a few scattered opinion pieces on partisan blogs and a moment or two of airtime when commentators discover they have nothing else to say but their segment isn't quite over. She will, listening to one of these commentators, a man best known for his remarks disparaging what he termed pitiful correctness, be reminded of her first job, still in high school, working as a tour guide in what was technically a national park, though really it was simply a home of historic significance on the west side of town. She will remember how awkward it could be to have people on the tour talking about their ancestors' landholdings in the area while she explained the significance of the recess behind the cabinets in the kitchen to people visiting from the city. This lantern was a signal that safe harbor awaited them, she remembered she'd had to say. The first few times she'd heard people on the tour talking and laughing at some piece of information she was required to deliver, she'd been thrown off and had forgotten her next lines. She had had to refer to the script in her back pocket, virtually ensuring she would not get a tip when they arrived back at the gift shop. Eventually, though, she'd learned that, even though she had been told, again and again, never to change the script, her supervisors nevertheless couldn't dictate the way she delivered her lines, the emphasis she gave certain words and the look on her face as she said them. She had made enough to go on the class trip to Germany that summer, she remembered. It had been a good time in her life.