A profile of John Ziegler, a Los Angeles-based conservative talk radio show host, who is obsessed with the O.J. Simpson murders. Wallace examines the impact of Clear Channe]-type media monopolies and the proliferation of talk radio on the way Americans talk, think and vote. Instead of his trademark footnotes, the publication featured arrows that connected tangential ideas to each other on the page. The profile was originally published in The Atlantic, which can be read online; the online version transforms the lines and boxes to hyperlinks, which was likely Wallace's inspiration.
The essay details Ziegler's constant firing from host jobs due to the explicit things he says on air. His candidness seems to be not accepted by the American public.
This essay begins with John Ziegler being filled with "disgust and contempt in the churn so far [was] the US networks' spineless, patronizing decision not to air the Berg videotape and thus deny to Americans 'a true and accurate view of the barbarity, the utter depravity, of these people.'" The cynicism comes to play when this host is appalled that such a graphic video is not being shown to the public. His need, and the American public's as well, to want to see such a horrific act portrays the extent of American acceptance of watching such things. Moreover, we see a dichotomy between the public who wants to see this tape, yet that same public is appalled by what Ziegler says and want to remove him from the air. Even more, the fact that he is rehired and fired shows a juxtaposition between being horrified by such explicitness, yet hiring the cause of the explicitness over and over.
While on a literal level the essay's title refers to radio host John Ziegler, the idea of hyperlinks superimposing text onto the main thread makes the main text a "host" for parasitical texts that live on it. Especially when viewed on line, the main piece can be seen as a host page for these external pages that are undoubtedly dependent on it for survival. The hyperlink boxes are certainly invasive: spatially, they impede on the text, taking space away from the main thread; and temporally, the take the reader away from the text, disrupting the flow.
The narrator in this essay seems to be objective about Ziegler since Wallace choses to really let him speak for himself through his actions and the things he has done throughout his life.
This essay was originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in April 2005.