Closing the Door

Doug Bloodworth, Wall Street Journal, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Photorealism.

The Year That Was and Wasn’t

We gathered writers and thinkers to consider everything that happened over the past 12 months and asked them: What were the most important events of 2013—and what were the least?

Blake Hounsell
Rouhani might ultimately fail to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, but there’s no question the attempt matters.

Most Important: The election of Hassan Rouhani in Iran. A huge deal that could avert a war that would roil the Middle East and send the price of oil skyrocketing, provoking another global recession. He might ultimately fail to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, but there’s no question the attempt matters.

Least Important: Where to start? There are so many unimportant things that happen each year, but one event that got wildly disproportionate coverage: the Jodi Arias trial. Murder is horrible, yes, but I’ll never understand the public’s fascination with these courtroom dramas.

Blake Hounsell is the deputy editor of POLITICO Magazine.

 

Jeremy Keehn
That place was Toronto, and that roundworm was Rob Ford.

Most Important: As part of the editing process for the Harper’s Weekly Review, I sift through an ape-bashing-head-against-cage amount of bad news each week, and while that lens tempts me to pick something tragic—the Syrian civil war, maybe, or some marker of our ongoing failure to confront climate change—I’m going instead with a less remarked-on event: the finding, published in November in the estimable journal PNAS, that one in five sunlike stars has an Earthlike planet orbiting it.

Scientifically speaking, I’m not sure how big this news is, nor whether it increases the odds that there is other intelligent life in the universe, but it gives me hope that, someday, some alien entity will encounter the Voyager Golden Records, grok to some Kesarbai Kerkar, and decide that we are (or were) something more than our homicidal and suicidal tendencies as a species would suggest. I also like that this finding compels us to think about ourselves collectively as a species; I don’t know to what extent doing so improves our prospects here at home, but it definitely doesn’t hurt.

Least Important: Somewhere, the day Nelson Mandela died, an engorged nematode was loudly exemplifying the antithesis of everything that was noble and inspiring about Mandela. That place was Toronto, and that roundworm was Rob Ford.

Jeremy Keehn is an associate editor at Harper’s Magazine.

 

Jörg Colberg
The worst aspect of [the NSA revelations] is that most people don’t seem to care much.

Most Important: The revelations around the NSA. We all thought online privacy was going to be destroyed by corporations (with, let’s face it, our tacit approval). But we did not have an idea of what the government was up to. Now we do. The worst aspect of this is that most people don’t seem to care much, with Democrats rallying around their president (who reacted to the revelations like a passive-aggressive husband caught cheating by his wife, “welcoming” debate).

Least Important: Out of the sea of irrelevance I’ll pick the sale of a Francis Bacon triptych for more money than the entire 2013 NEA budget. It’s not like there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. There is. But it’s not that someone has that kind of money to spend on pieces of art.

Jörg Colberg is the publisher and editor of Conscientious Photography Magazine.

 

Diana Lind
Everything about Detroit’s bankruptcy was inevitable.

Most Important: Everything about Detroit’s bankruptcy was inevitable. The city has lost a quarter of its population in just the last decade. It has been run by crooked politicians—just months ago, former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 federal felony counts and sentenced to 28 years in jail, but if you look back over the century, he’s barely an anomaly. For years leading up to the bankruptcy, the city was spending more than half its annual budget on city worker entitlements such as pensions and healthcare. And we haven’t even mentioned how manufacturing and industry abandoned the city for the suburbs, other countries, and robots, leaving the city with an unemployment rate of 17.7 percent. You get the dire picture. So we knew that Detroit would eventually go bankrupt. And yet. It was still pretty shocking that in America—land of too big to fail—there actually was a day of reckoning. Detroit’s going to have to figure out how to restructure $18 billion in debt while the clocks tick and legal fees mount. It will be sad and fascinating to watch. But as Michael Moore tweeted, “Don’t cry for us, America. You’re next.”

Least Important: Sean Parker’s wedding?

Diana Lind is the executive director and editor in chief of Next City.

 

Maria Bustillos
Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald managed to evade the eye of Sauron.

Most Important: Who knows how, but Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald managed to evade the eye of Sauron and reveal to a stunned world the truth of our disgraceful and lawless surveillance state. Where their revelations end up is anyone’s guess: The weight of all the Big Lies is still sinking in. But whatever else happens, we’re all in the debt of these three, and of the newspapers that published their work. May heaven’s blessings rain down upon the head of Alan Rusbridger forever.

Least Important: I still find it difficult to believe that the blown deadline on the development of a government website should have been of more interest to the press than the fact that the working poor can now have access to life-saving treatment for cancer and diabetes. Surely we could have done far more to publicize this fact. Or the fact that medical bankruptcies will plummet as the result of the Affordable Care Act—or that the horrible specter of “preexisting conditions,” which consigned people in the scariest, most terrible circumstances to still worse ones, is now a thing of the past.

Maria Bustillos is a Los Angeles-based writer.

 

Ted Scheinman
You needn’t be a Catholic to appreciate the import: It’s been six centuries since a pope stepped down.

Most Important: On the last day of February, well over a billion worshipers scratched their heads when news leaked that Joseph Ratzinger—better known as Pope Benedict XVI, son of Bavaria and Vicar of Christ—had announced his retirement. Ratzinger did so in a series of half-mumbled Latin sentences that left all but one Vatican correspondent clueless. (Things they won’t teach you at Medill: Learn Latin, and you’ll scoop the field.) You needn’t be a Catholic to appreciate the import: It’s been six centuries since a pope stepped down, and more than seven since a pontifex did so willingly. I’m no Catholic, but I have used the pope’s library several times, and anyone who spends more than a few days in Vatican City should pause to consider those French bullet holes that still pepper the walls of certain pre-Reformation battlements. These days, the Swiss Guards look like indignant clowns, and their primary duty is to measure women’s skirt lengths, but for most of Christian history, these and others have died for the privilege of serving the pope—never mind becoming him. Does Ratzinger’s Greta Garbo moment portend a major shake-up in the culture of the Vatican? Did Christopher Hitchens just really hurt his feelings? Is Pope Francis decrying capitalist excess for real, or merely to punk the American news cycle? Regardless, Ratzinger has added a major chapter to papal history—and he’s given the Canonization Action Squad™ very little to work with.

Least Important: Anything involving Ted Cruz and his fake filibusters. Wake me when he has something resembling policy bona fides or a legislative agenda. Better yet, call Stephen Harper and offer to trade Cruz for Drake. At least Drake can rhyme.

Ted Scheinman is a freelance writer and editor. His first book of nonfiction will appear via Faber in 2014.

 

Doree Shafrir
Here, I’ll write next year’s story for you: This is the new iPhone.

Most Important: Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks, because there’s no more denying that they really are watching us. Shiver.

Least Important: The new iPhone announcement. Why do we keep falling for this as a News Event? Here, I’ll write next year’s story for you: This is the new iPhone. It does some new stuff, is faster, and looks a little different. The end.

Doree Shafrir is the executive editor at Buzzfeed.

 

Doug Bloodworth, New York Times, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Photorealism.

 

Leah Finnegan
It’s time. Patriarchy OVER. 2013 out.

Most Important: Comes down to Mandela’s death, the Syrian disarmament, and Miley. But I’m going to go with Miley because Women Matter. And why were people surprised, exactly, that a 20-year-old woman danced suggestively in Brooklyn? I do it all the time in my apartment. Just kidding. Not really. But really, women: Miley, Malala, Michelle O., Beyoncé, Wendy Davis and her catheter. Seriously, people. Listen the fuck up. It’s time. Patriarchy OVER. 2013 out.

Least Important: Edward Snowden. The only interesting thing about him was his girlfriend. I know; the truth hurts. Bye, nerds.

Leah Finnegan is an editor at The Morning News.

 

Adrian Chen
With something like Snowden you’re not really sure where the spectacle ends and the “real” news begins.

Most Important: The most important thing that happened this year was obviously Edward Snowden’s NSA leakstravaganza. Important because he was just one dude but got results: A federal judge just ruled the bulk phone record collection Snowden uncovered was probably unconstitutional. But also important in the sense that Snowden represents a new kind of news event that is simultaneously hugely momentous—almost boring in its obvious import—and spectacularly titillating on a human level. With something like Snowden, you’re not really sure where the spectacle ends and the “real” news begins, and that frisson is what gives these stories so much staying power and wide appeal.

Least Important: The least important thing of 2013 was probably some meme or something. I don’t know; I was too busy reading Snowden’s girlfriend’s blog.

Adrian Chen is a freelance writer and an editor at The New Inquiry.

 

Sarah Urist Green
What? Seriously? That just happened? You’re 71, Paul.

Most Important: The rollout of the Affordable Care Act. No matter what a disaster it has been or may be for a while longer, it marks a seismic shift in the way Americans make decisions about their lives and careers. I am choosing to be optimistic about it, believing that, aside from banishing the obvious evils of preexisting condition clauses, Obamacare is a first step toward the U.S. not having a destructive, embarrassing, and small-business-hampering healthcare system.

Least Important: Paul McCartney forgiving Yoko Ono for breaking up the Beatles. What? Seriously? That just happened? You’re 71, Paul. At least he fessed up and called her what she is, “a badass.” (For what it’s worth, the release of Ono’s “Bad Dancer” video—despite its hilarity and star-studded cast—was also unimportant news this year.)

Sarah Urist Green is the creator and curator of PBS’s The Art Assignment.

 

Andrew Womack
Yes, it was disheartening, but that disappointment is temporary.

Most Important: The Snowden leaks, and there are many reasons why. Most compelling is that they have changed, and will continue to change, how we view technology with regard to our private lives. And it turns out that even though we now know we are being watched, we have adjusted our comfort levels to be OK with that—please don’t take our phones away. Worries over Facebook’s ever-evolving privacy policies or Google’s data collection practices seem positively quaint now.

Least Important: The failed healthcare.gov rollout will prove the least important event of 2013. Like millions of people, I tried many times—unsuccessfully—to sign up. Yes, it was disheartening, but that disappointment is temporary. By this time next year, affordable health insurance for all Americans shouldn’t be a miracle or a novelty, but rather a reality of American life. As dependable as death panels and individual mandate taxes.

Andrew Womack is a co-founder of The Morning News.

 

Nathan Thornburgh
Moral intelligence, however, seems to have been written out of the RFP.

Most Important: The world finally came to see that that for the United States, dystopia is something of a state objective: Hoovering the world’s data into dank spy filters; using drones—look, they can be launched from submarines like bath toys!—to bomb innocents and baddies alike from nearly invisible altitudes. DARPA turned 55 this year, and the good news is that U.S. industry can still innovate. Moral intelligence, however, seems to have been written out of the RFP.

Least Important: At 9:20 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2013, a massive shard of malevolent asteroid blew up over the town of Chelyabinsk, Russia, with a force equal to 20 to 30 Hiroshimas. The ensuing fireball was many times brighter than the sun, and the region was showered with thousands of molten murderballs that broke windows, smote a zinc factory, and made the whole city smell like gunpowder. The Russians recorded it all on their dashcams, then cursed, spat on the smoldering ground, and went about their business as if nothing had happened at all. How embarrassing for the meteor.

Nathan Thornburgh is the co-founder of Roads & Kingdoms.

 

Willy Staley
This very rock would have hit this part of our planet traveling at that exact speed whether we were here to measure it or not.

Most Important: At 9:20 a.m. Yekaterinburg time, an approximately 27-million-pound mass of rock and iron entered the atmosphere above central Russia traveling around 42,500 miles per hour, exploding in the sky above the city of Chelyabinsk, home to more than one million. The burst released as much energy as half a million tons of dynamite. About 1,500 people were injured, but amazingly no one died. Otherwise, the numbers are so large they defy comprehension—almost useless as measurement. But their proliferation seems like a way to avoid the acknowledging that this very rock would have hit this part of our planet traveling at that exact speed whether we were here to measure it or not. Footage of the incident was immediately available online thanks to the widespread use of dashcams in Russia, which put the smallness of human affairs in sharp relief: The cameras are mainly popular as a bulwark against endemic insurance fraud and police corruption.

Least Important: A neologism invented to describe photographic self-portrait (typically made using handheld computers with access to the entirety of human knowledge) was crowned “Word of the Year” by Oxford Dictionaries.

Willy Staley is a freelance writer.

 

Silvia Killingsworth
Miley Cyrus stuck her tongue out. My goodness.

Most Important: This was the year of women having their voices heard on the internet. XOJane’s “It Happened to Me” rubric blew up. When Malala Yousafzai gave a speech to the United Nations, it was known as #MalalaDay. Beyoncé sneak-attacked us with a new album. Twitter appointed the first woman to its corporate board. But the most significant event was Wendy Davis’s 11-hour filibuster against an abortion bill in the Texas statehouse, livestreamed via the Texas Tribune’s YouTube station; over 180,000 people tuned in, and it was positively electric. As a result, Davis has a real shot at the governor’s seat in 2014.

Least Important: Miley Cyrus stuck her tongue out. My goodness.

Silvia Killingsworth is the managing editor of the New Yorker.

 

Doug Bloodworth, Honey Fly, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Photorealism.

 

Nikkitha Bakshani
What do you do when your entire nation is about to be engulfed by waves?

Most Important: The small Pacific country of Kiribati needing to evacuate its inhabitants because the island is sinking. I think the idea of Atlantis as a vague possibility in the near future is enough to make me believe in climate change, but also, what do you do when your entire nation is about to be engulfed by waves?

Least Important: Amanda Knox. Yet I am addicted to following up on this case, reading article after article that teaches me nothing new but leaves me hollow when I realize this is not an I Know What You Did Last Summer-esque teenage mystery/drama/romance. Talk about study abroad gone wrong.

Nikkitha Bakshani is an editor at The Morning News.

 

Tobias Seamon
Cats spread an insidious parasite that makes people their slaves.

Most Important: The confirmation that some crazed Bohemian scientist was actually right about cats spreading an insidious parasite that makes people their slaves.

Least Important: Everything to do with celebrities.

Tobias Seamon is a contributing writer at The Morning News.

 

Colin Fitzpatrick
An offensive statement from a Fox News anchor is not news.

Most Important: The most important thing that happened this year, hands down, was Obama’s late decision for diplomacy with Syria. With early sentiments pointing toward war, it’s clear that the future of our country (not to mention the coming election) hinged upon his decisions more than ever.

Least Important: While I didn’t think I could find anything less significant from the past year than Miley’s VMA performance or Kanye’s “Bound 2” video, Fox News outdid them both when Megyn Kelly went on her “Santa is white” rant. While it is definitely a form of expert trolling, an offensive statement from a Fox News anchor is not news. That segment with Shep Smith playing Candy Crush for five minutes is more interesting.

Colin Fitzpatrick has worked with PBS and The Daily, and assists al Jazeera America’s current affairs programming as digital programs editor.

 

Michelle Dean
The [Steubenville] case did at least one good thing in its stark demonstration that acts of documentation can be explicit acts of cruelty.

Most Important: Steubenville, not because it was a good thing for anyone but because it augured a breaking point for the confluence of sexual violence and social media that I’ve been watching for years now. I think the case did at least one good thing in its stark demonstration that acts of documentation can be explicit acts of cruelty. This is something that, prior to the tangled case here, was not clear to the general population. All year, as people argued about this, I kept thinking about a line of Sontag’s regarding Abu Ghraib: “The events are in part designed to be photographed. The grin is a grin for the camera. There would be something missing if, after stacking the naked men, you couldn’t take a picture of them.”

Least Important: The Great Smarm-Snark Wars of 2013. I regret my own participation in them, even with this short blurb, already. The luxury of positing social criticism as either “nice” or “mean” is one that belongs to people who are already empowered to get their “voices heard” or whatever cliché it is we’re using lately. For the rest of us, it’s a more complicated dynamic, the “speaking truth to power” thing. Not that we heard from many of the “rest of us” in this whole debate, which frequently seemed to be conducted by, about, and for people who are white men. (Except Maureen Dowd, I guess, but I am willing to grant she’s a sui generis case in this as in everything else.)

Michelle Dean is an editor at large at Flavorwire.

 

Alexander Chee
The Kardashians are poison for newsstand sales.

Most Important: The introduction of the phrase “climate departure,” for the period when we will be past “climate change.”

Least Important: The discovery that the Kardashians are poison for newsstand sales.

Alexander Chee is a contributing writer at The Morning News.

 

Shani O. Hilton
Few things are better than hanging out with people you like.

Most Important: Every time the Kardashians sat around in Kris’s living room and talked about nothing. They served as a reminder that few things are better than hanging out with people you like.

Least Important: Every argument that happened on the internet. It doesn’t matter who was right.

Shani O. Hilton is the deputy executive editor at Buzzfeed.

 

Liz Entman Harper
Sorry, I wandered for a minute there. Miley who?

Most Important: For dreamers and explorers, the confirmation this year that Voyager 1 has left the solar system and entered interstellar space may be the spiritual milestone of the century, if not the millennium. Launched in 1977, the Voyager 1 probe is the most distant man-made object in the universe. If aliens ever do find Voyager and figure out how to play the Golden Record, which carries hundreds of sounds and images from Earth, the first music they will hear is Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 2. Voyager won’t even come close to another star for another 40,000 years, so that day is a long way off, but if those aliens decide to come looking for us, it’s interesting—and profoundly moving—to contemplate what they will find when they get here.

Least Important: I don’t know when we became a nation that could be scandalized by a bikini-clad young woman dancing suggestively during a rock ‘n’ roll awards show on a cable music video channel aimed at 15-to-30-year-olds that debuted with a performance of Madonna rolling around and humping the floor in a wedding gown while singing a song called “Like a Virgin.” A show that, a few years later, featured Madonna dressed like Marie Antoinette shoving a short-shorted courtier up her skirt. And wearing a Jean Paul Gaultier bullet-tit bustier and grabbing her crotch. Sorry, I wandered for a minute there. Miley who?

Liz Entman Harper is an editor at The Morning News.

 

Doug Bloodworth, Jumble, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Photorealism.

 

Danielle Henderson
Royal babies are SUPER boring because they’re shielded from the public like a filthy secret.

Most Important: I was riveted when Beyoncé’s publicist asked for those unflattering Super Bowl photos to be removed from the internet. This event is how I found out she has a personal archivist and is very in control of her image. Normally, I wouldn’t find this remarkable—we expect that pop stars are handled by someone at all times, right?—but Beyoncé uses her control as a continuance of her overall power. It’s incredibly important for people to see powerful, feminist black women setting boundaries and dictating life on their own terms.

Least Important: I couldn’t muster up the give-a-shit for the birth of the royal baby. Regular babies are boring until they are old enough to be my designated driver, and royal babies are SUPER boring because they’re shielded from the public like a filthy secret. What did they name it? What does it look like? Don’t tell me—I will slip into a coma.

Danielle Henderson is a freelance writer and the author of Feminist Ryan Gosling.

 

Jen Doll
Cronuts, obviously. 300 Sandwiches. Kale. Selfies.

Most Important: The most important event that occurred in 2013 was Cronuts. By this I mean that the frenzy surrounding stupid trends and actually kind of BS fake news as opposed to talking about actual things (like, for instance, what the hell is going on with guns in this country, or the state of our climate crisis) is “important” because of what it tells us about ourselves. I think it’s important next year to try to have meaningful conversations about the important things, to really further the discussion and do a little less easy trolling and angry snarking and outrage manufacturing for page views. Not that we shouldn’t have fun, silly stuff, too. We should be able to do both, to find a healthy balance! It seems a lot of the time, though, that the truly important gets left behind or fades too fast in favor of something pointless. Or maybe I’m just cranky.

Least Important: Cronuts, obviously. 300 Sandwiches. Kale. Selfies. The debate about whether people should be nice or mean in book reviews, and everything else that gets recycled over and over again online. Though, again, maybe these things are important as a reflection of the current state of society, as represented by the internet. Gosh, I am cranky. I love you, internet. Fingers crossed for 2014.

Jen Doll is the author of the upcoming memoir Save the Date.

 

Jenna Wortham
We all started to see how the influx of fresh money changed the tech cognoscenti and bred a sense of entitlement and disdain for experiences that do not conform to a certain like-mindedness.

Most and Least Important: The “Backlash by the Bay”

Silicon Valley has always occupied a spot in my imagination as a magical place where amazing things can happen, where anyone with a clever-enough idea and grit can chart a path to success and potentially impact the world. The ingenuity and optimism appealed to me so much that I wanted to cover it for a career. But 2013 became the year when all that changed, when that began to take an ugly turn. It’s the year the curtain lifted, the year when we all started to see how the influx of fresh money changed the tech cognoscenti and bred a sense of entitlement and disdain for experiences that do not conform to a certain like-mindedness, spoiling some of that optimism and leaving a bad taste in many a mouth. Which isn’t to say that the tech industry hasn’t birthed some phenomenally interesting products, concepts, and systems this year, but I’m mostly intrigued by the economy of privilege at play: how access, or a lack of it, became oppressive instead of liberating. As modern consumers of technology, we are all complicit.

Maybe it weighs so heavily on me because it’s a huge part of my job to spend most of my time thinking about it, but it is a troubling cognitive dissonance, made more so by watching how the city’s wealthiest continue to design and develop ways to further insulate themselves from the socioeconomic realities and infrastructure problems of the city. Like the private car services that can be summoned with the press of a button, services that can are creating a new working class, a layer of people who serve as errand-runners, housecleaners, and drivers to those who can afford it. It’s eye-opening, this future of lopsided value systems and hierarchies that we seem to be creating.

As a woman of color, I also can’t help but notice that these opportunities tend to only be afforded to certain people of a certain background and the problematic asymmetry that is welling up around it.

This is the best as well as the worst event that has happened, has continued to happen, because it is forcing us to reconsider what we hold dear and to understand the world that is being built, that we are building, around us.

Honorary mentions: Wendy Davis; Beyoncé’s Beyoncé; Google’s self-driving cars and Glass, for giving us a dazzling taste of the future in this lifetime; @desusnice, for proving that the internet is fun and that Twitter is still relevant; American Horror Story: Coven; the rise of apps like Snapchat that dared to consider life beyond Facebook; mixes on SoundCloud; the meteor footage captured by Russian dashcams; animatedtext.tumblr.com; Black Vine; Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Meaty by Samantha Irby; The Billfold, for real, honest discussions of how regular people deal with money.

Jenna Wortham is a tech reporter at the New York Times.

 

Erik Bryan
This level of dysfunction and disregard for the American people is beyond the pale.

Most Important: The most important event of 2013 is actually what didn’t happen: Not a single significant piece of legislation regulating access to firearms was passed. This is outrageous. Dan Kois and Slate have done a heroic service in cataloging reported deaths due to firearms since the massacre in Newtown, Conn., and we’re now at a little over 33,000 in just more than a year. Every poll shows the vast majority of Americans want and expect further gun regulation, at least in the form of extended background checks, to help reduce the egregious amount of bloodshed caused by guns and gun violence, but our elected representatives haven’t done shit-all about it. More than anything else, this inaction proves the sad state of our so-called republic. Special interest groups, the NRA in particular, have proven that a well-funded and belligerent minority can utterly deter our democracy. I’m not so naive to believe America ever had a perfectly functioning democracy where the interests of the public always outweighed the interests of lobbyists and the powerful few, but this level of dysfunction and disregard for the American people is beyond the pale. The American experiment is a failure.

Least Important: Can we have just one year where we don’t have the same trifling argument over the pronunciation of “gif"?

Erik Bryan is an editor at The Morning News.

 

Rosecrans Baldwin
Open cockpits. No radio, no parachute. If it rained, it rained.

Most Important: Nadia Popova died. I didn’t know about Russia’s Night Witches brigade until I read Popova’s obituary in the Economist. Basically, these were women who flew bombing raids over Germany during World War II, in planes made from canvas and plywood with open cockpits. No radio, no parachute. If it rained, it rained. But they were so successful, so feared, any German pilot who downed a “witch” was awarded the Iron Cross. The Times recently animated her life.

Least Important: Nikolay Davydenko stood atop the men’s tennis game in 2013 for break points converted, winning 48 percent of the break points he faced, one percentage point above Rafael Nadal. And that’s about all there is worth noting about Nikolay Davydenko, who must be the least-noticed top player in men’s tennis.

Rosecrans Baldwin is a co-founder of The Morning News.

 

Graham T. Beck
If Earth as we’ve known it manages to survive, this will be remembered as a watershed.

Most Important: Twenty-nine publicly traded companies operating or based in America (including ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP, and Shell) started planning their future growth on the expectation that the U.S. government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming. If meaningful regulations follow and Earth as we’ve known it manages to survive, this will be remembered as a watershed.

Least Important: Thieves snatched a seven-foot-tall, 50-pound sculpture of Gumby from a front yard in Saugerties, NY. Whether Gumby is recovered or the perpetrators are caught is entirely irrelevant.

Graham T. Beck is a contributing writer at The Morning News.

 

Susan Elizabeth Shepard
If you want people to know things, you risk freedom, home, health, and life.

Most Important: Information crimes and their repercussions. The sentencing of Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond, respectively, Aaron Swartz’s suicide, Edward Snowden’s exile: If you want people to know things, things that put institutional power at risk, you risk freedom, home, health, and life.

Least Important: A New Zealand attorney launched the Critiquing Your Dick Pics With Love Tumblr, bringing the female gaze to the forefront and creating a cock shot aesthetic.

Susan Elizabeth Shepard, formerly known as @StripperTweets, is a writer and an editor of Tits and Sass.

 

Roxane Gay
Broader, more robust, sometimes difficult conversations about feminism were had.

Most Important: This year it was important that broader, more robust, sometimes difficult conversations about feminism were had, particularly those spurred by Mikki Kendall’s #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag. That call to action, and others, demanded greater inclusivity and intersectionality in feminist conversations and actions.

Least Important: On the other hand, one of the least important events of the year was the bizarre proliferation of aimless “feminist debates” as critics and the like discussed whether this pop star or that business mogul was a feminist and whether their feminism was righteous enough. These debates gave the impression that feminists are more interested in talking about feminism than being about feminism, which is really not the case.

Roxane Gay is the author of the forthcoming An Untamed State and Bad Feminist.

 

Leah Reich
In 2013 so many incredible, powerful voices said: When are you going to recognize?

Most Important: On June 25, after Wendy Davis’s filibuster was suspended, Leticia Van de Putte stood up and said, “Did the president hear me or did the president hear me and refuse to recognize me? At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” Replace female senator. Replace male colleagues. No wonder so many of us cheered.

In 2013 so many incredible, powerful voices said: When are you going to recognize? Daisy Coleman. Mikki Kendall. Cord Jefferson. Twenty-six women. Chelsea Manning. Ashe Dryden. Tressie McMillan Cottom. The list goes on.

Least Important: Please let’s never, ever talk this much about Love Actually again.

Leah Reich, Ph.D., is an ethnographer and writer based in Oakland, Calif.

 

Kevin Lincoln
Ugh, the rise of the Upworthy-style headline.

Most Important: Jenny McCarthy, the patron malpractitioner of the idiot rain dance that is the anti-vaccine movement, joining The View, because it’s the perfect example of our culture’s deranged self-kneecapping tendency to not only fail to prevent charlatans and lunatics from having a bully pulpit, but to actually put them there ourselves. See also: the exoneration of George Zimmerman and our ongoing failure to even pretend like we’re serious about preventing global warming and the looming antibiotics inefficacy. (On the bright side, Before Midnight carried on the greatest love/”love” story of our time. SO THAT’S GOOD. I swear I don’t think everything’s bad.)

Least Important: Ugh, the rise of the Upworthy-style headline, an emotionally haywire Rube Goldberg machine that is setting back mass communication approximately 100 years. Even if Upworthy-proper’s main dickishness is just being reductive to the point of absurdity—nuance is dead; periods in the middle of headlines killed it—it’s also bred the brutal copycats that are actually actively lying. And we’re murdering artful hyperbole, which is such a bummer.

Kevin Lincoln is a TV and magazine writer living in Los Angeles.

 

Nozlee Samadzadeh
It’s only when we collectively decide what is most important to us that we can get to work on it.

Most Important: With apologies for getting a little meta, as the editor who compiles these entries I was struck this year in particular by how uniformly the most important news stories of the year—Edward Snowden and the NSA, universal health care, climate change, feminism—filtered through the daily firehose of our news media and into this annual feature. And that’s important! It’s only when we collectively decide what is most important to us that we can get to work on it.

Least Important: What even is a ramen burger? Please don’t answer that question.

Nozlee Samadzadeh is an editor at The Morning News.

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