Closing the Door

July 5, 2012 (Study), Fred Tomaselli, 2012. Courtesy the artist and James Cohan, New York.

The Year That Was and Wasn’t

We asked writers and thinkers to tell us: What were the most important events of 2015—and what were the least?

Interviews by Hayden Higgins


Roxane Gay
I felt like change might really be possible despite so much evidence to the contrary.

Most Important: This was the year of activism and disrupting the status quo, with the rise of Black Lives Matter and student activists at campuses across the country taking stands on issues they deemed important. It was a year when, for the first time in a long time, I felt like change might really be possible despite so much evidence to the contrary. I, and, I suspect many others, needed to see this kind of activist energy to believe progress is not as futile as it seems.

Least Important: The Republican debates have been the biggest waste of time and energy. In each showing, the candidates reveal themselves to be narrow-minded buffoons who are desperately ill-equipped to govern. Staring at a screen saver for the same amount of time the debates have aired would have been a more productive use of the public’s time.

Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist and Untamed State. Her novel Hunger is forthcoming in 2016.


Jazmine Hughes
The world didn’t get any better, but it also didn’t get any worse.

Most and Least Important: The best and worst parts of this year are intricately related, two threads of 2015’s now-tattered pall. The past 12 months have spewed a deluge of bullshit—political and personal, domestic and international, internet-based and IR—but out of the wreckage has bloomed a potent practice of accountability. The world didn’t get any better in 2015 (Saint West was born far too late in the year to tell), but it also didn’t get any worse: People, largely, remained terrible…but this time around, people, now more than ever, refused to stand for it. The hunger stirred up by the #BlackLivesMatter movement refused to be satiated with crumbs of presidential candidate promises. Meetings were made, rallies were attended, and the cause is now impossible to ignore, especially for the next POTUS. The women violated by Bill Cosby got the attention they deserved on the cover of New York magazine—35 faces and hearts ripped open for us to consume, each story basking in the light of the truth, Cosby’s fate near-sealed. Answerability isn’t novel, of course, but the swell of social media—a sea of justice and care—has fortified its power like never before.

Jazmine Hughes is associate digital editor for the New York Times Magazine.


Bijan Stephen
It was a particularly virulent manifestation of the fruits of white supremacy.

Most Important: I’m still not sure how to process the massacre in Charleston: A young white kid, an avowed racist, walked into a black bible study group, stayed for an hour, then killed nine of its members in cold blood. He went on the run, probably in his juvenile mind thinking he could live off the land—hadn’t he just played avenger?—for the rest of his days. It was a particularly virulent manifestation of the fruits of white supremacy; I haven’t stopped thinking about what he wrote beforehand.

“Black people are racially aware almost from birth, but White people on average dont think about race in their daily lives,” he wrote. “And this is our problem. We need to and have to.”

Least Important: I hesitate to dub something the least important thing that happened this year, but I guess I’d have to say dadbod. Why did that ever become a thing? And why did we care? Hm.

Bijan Stephen is an editor at The New Republic.


Laura Olin
We might be able to figure out how to live on this planet without continuing to slowly incinerate it.

Most Important: For the first time in history, CO2 emissions declined over a year when the global economy grew. In other words, we might be able to figure out how to live on this planet without continuing to slowly incinerate it and ultimately render ourselves extinct. That would be pretty cool.

Least Important: The birth of the second royal baby, by which I mean of course Saint West.

Laura Olin does digital strategy for Democratic campaigns for work and runs an experimental email list called Everything Changes for fun (now under the banner of The Awl).


Tom Scocca
It was #whiteandgold. It was #blackandblue. It might have been the Singularity.

Most and Least Important: Do you remember the dress? The Dress. I was at a crowded dinner of internet news professionals when someone asked me what seemed like the most pointless and obvious question—why would you even show me a picture of a blue and black dress and ask me what color it was?—and then madness, a frenzy, no one was even drunk anymore, my mobile phone battery was hot to the touch and plunging toward zero, the concurrents were doing things the concurrents had never done before, ours and everyones, it was the biggest thing in the entire world. The great invisible black-boxed engines of Facebook and the lesser engines of Twitter and who knows what else, the machinery to which we had long since entrusted our fortunes and readership, all of it was running at unimaginable levels, focusing and sharing attention. As a matter of media history this should be recorded as the intimation of how complete the loss of control had become, of how we would be soon enough be called to answer to the businesspeople of Facebook to whom the machine-gods of Facebook answered (in the name, to be sure, of answering to what the public was purported to desire, by the machine-gods of Facebook), and of how that call would be made through the mouth of a sinkhole opened under the traffic charts, into which the entire notion of owning a platform would go splintering down out of sight. But that is retrospect, analysis, context. In the moment the only thinking was the throb of tens (hundreds!) of millions of minds locked into a single, urgently blank binary thought-process. One’s own mind (if that term even meant anything) began flipping helplessly back and forth. It was #whiteandgold. It was #blackandblue. It might have been the Singularity. I don’t know that it wasn’t. It was the most important story anyone had ever seen. I had forgotten it ever happened till we put together the end-of-year numbers.

Tom Scocca is executive features editor at Gawker and author of Beijing Welcomes You.


Meredith Fineman
Watching these women kill it with sales and ratings.

Most Important: Seeing real, funny, flawed, bawdy, and complex women not only played out on film and in TV, but being written by women too. Watching these women kill it with sales and ratings. Ilana and Abbi on Broad City, Gabrielle Union on Being Mary Jane, Amy Schumer in Trainwreck, Sharon Horgan on Catastrophe, Julie Klausner on Difficult People. Here’s to making more of that happen, Hollywood. I’m looking at you.

Least Important: Linkbait for productivity and shaming people that aren’t early risers, and often the two combined. “12 things eight of the most productive people (you won’t believe how productive they are!) in the world do before six am.” “You’ll never believe how the most productive people go to bed (they hang upside down like fruitbats).” “Here are 16 reasons getting up before 4 am increases your productivity and also some oatmeal recipes.” How about sleeping?

Meredith Fineman is the founder of FinePoint and a writer.


Aminatou Sow
Men are basically over.

Most Important: Honestly every single thing Nori West did this year was iconic, but nothing beats throwing front row tantrums at fashion shows. Normally I can’t stand children in public spaces but this charmed me to no end. My god LOOK AT HER! Like I said, I C O N I C.

Also Kanye thinks Nori cried at his fashion show because she “JUST WANTED PEOPLE TO STOP BEING MEAN TO HER DADDY.” Seriously. He told Google it for yourself. I am so excited for Nori and baby Saint to terrorize fashionistas everywhere in 2016.

Close second: This vine was also v v v important.

Least Important: Most things men had to say. Men are basically over.

Aminatou Sow is the co-host of Call Your Girlfriend, a podcast for long-distance besties.


Jamie Lauren Keiles
Startup is just another word for a business, which belabored discussion about workers’ rights, diversity, company culture, etc.

Most Important: Brands finally caught on to identity politics in 2015. Burger King grilled up an LGBT whopper, Taylor Swift “became feminist,” transition made for good TV, and politicians learned the marketable answer to “Do Black lives matter?” Two or three years ago, we were all delighted that feminism seemed to be gaining ground. Now we will start to see radical ideologies lose their teeth entirely as they are taken up by people and institutions that explicitly stand to benefit from maintaining the status quo. We’re approaching a threshold where visibility becomes nothing more than bucket-able demographics for marketing purposes. By 2020 at the latest we’ll have ads for fracking featuring interracial queer couples. Big pharma will try to get Kathleen Hanna to be the face of an osteoporosis drug. I want to say this is outright bad, and thus important, but I think the more charitable thing to say is that I’m excited to see how the radical vanguard adjusts their own language and positioning to combat this recent dilution of terminology.

Least Important: Anything about “a startup” was irrelevant. Startup is just another word for a business, and this distracting language belabored a lot of otherwise very important discussion about workers’ rights, diversity, company culture, etc. Someday we will be laughing at how we ever thought that companies like Uber and AirBnb were inherently progressive just because they…had apps? involved the internet? were headquartered on the west coast? I honestly don’t know why people ever believed that startups were progressive—I believed it myself. Twee flat design schemes are more powerful than we think! Anyway, this mass misconception was a weird useless digression that lasted most of 2015.

Jamie Lauren Keiles is a writer.


Claire Cameron
Chinese scientists used CRISPR to edit the genomes of human embryos—a world first.

Most Important: CRISPR-Cas9, a gene editing technique, has been around for a few years now, but everything changed in August when Chinese scientists used it to edit the genomes of human embryos—a world first. The breakthrough was widely deemed unethical, but their work heralded the coming age of using gene editing in humans to combat genetic disease. Scientists have been meeting throughout the year to decided what ethical framework needs to be in place before that actually happens, though. In the meantime, CRISPR was used this year to edit mosquito and other insect genomes to spread gene mutations that could curb the diseases they spread.

Least Important: The US Senate admitting “climate change is real and not a hoax,” in an amendment made in January. Co-sponsored by a senator who believes that since the climate has always been changing (good one, guys!) we should sit back, relax, and enjoy the balmy weather, it was a total cop-out by a country that has historically been one of the biggest carbon emitters. It was underscored later that day by the Republican-led vote against a subsequent amendment proposal to say that climate change isn’t just real but that humans contribute to it significantly. Because that hole in the ozone layer made itself.

Claire Cameron is a science writer and news editor at Nautilus.


Kristen Hare
Every hot take that everyone has had about everything.

Most Important: The Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. The graphics several news organizations shared of US maps showing where same-sex marriage is legal, with every state included, were pretty powerful. We collected front pages from each state the following day, and they offered a snapshot of how welcome this was in some places and how unwelcome it was in others.

Least important: Every hot take that everyone has had about everything. All of them. They blur together into one long smear. I can’t even call anyone out.

Kristen Hare is an online reporter with Poynter.

May 10, 2011 #2, Fred Tomaselli, 2012. Courtesy the artist and James Cohan, New York.


Maria Bustillos
Substantial numbers of UK citizens want an end to income inequality and corporate welfare.

Most Important: The amazing election in September of a real live liberal and self-avowed democratic socialist, Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, is the year’s most important event. Corbyn barely made it onto the ballot but wound up winning in a landslide, because it turns out that substantial numbers of UK citizens want an end to income inequality and corporate welfare; they want good public education and healthcare for all, and Corbyn represents their interests. I daresay the same would happen here if our own democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, should win the Democratic nomination.

Least Important: In the near-impossible event that the Republican establishment should permit Donald “Biff” Trump to secure their party’s nomination, Democrats will be free to run half a salted garden slug against him and still win the presidency by a mile, and perhaps even the Senate along with it. The media’s relentless fascination with Trump’s every blister-faced, lying, racist syllable is thus a testament to the least important thing to happen in 2015—his pathetic candidacy—and also to the fourth estate’s continued addiction to cheap headlines at the expense of informed, responsible public discourse.

Maria Bustillos is a Los Angeles-based journalist and critic.


Anthony Doerr
Demand for palm oil transformed much of Indonesia into “a carbon bomb.”

Most Important: Incomprehensibly large pieces of Indonesia burned this year. Years of greed, negligence, slash-and-burn agriculture, and worldwide demand for palm oil transformed much of Indonesia’s landscape into what one activist called “a carbon bomb” and this fall the bomb went off. The smoke from nearly 50,000 fires sickened hundreds of thousands, and we lost irreplaceable chunks of some of the most bio-diverse forests in the world.

Least Important: Larry Bird weighed in on DeflateGate.

Anthony Doerr is a novelist and the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for All the Light We Cannot See.


Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib
The youth is leading the protest movement in a way I hoped for at the end of last year.

Most Important: As someone who found a voice of resistance far too late in life, I found nothing bigger this year than the voices of protest and resistance that we saw coming from a lot of youth movements. 2014 struck me, in a lot of ways, as America’s reintroduction to necessary discomfort. Loud, visible protest. In 2015, we got to see so much of that creep down to college-aged students. It hasn’t always been clean or seamless, but it has been empowering to watch young people claim their space and stand firm in the face of some incredible odds. Not just on college campuses, but nationally. Young people of color, young queer and trans* people, the youth is leading the next wave of protest movement in a way that I hoped for at the end of last year. It is thrilling.

Least Important: Kanye West did a lot of things, but none of them involved him releasing a high quality version of “Wolves,” so was any of it actually important?

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is a writer and poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. His collection The Crown Ain’t Worth Much is forthcoming in 2016.


Mayukh Sen
My heart still breaks for those families.

Most Important: I fell out of my chair when I heard the flaperon from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 washed up on the coast of Reunion. (I know, I’m weird, and this seems like a frivolously small happening of this year’s many events.) I didn’t think any trace of that plane would be found in my lifetime. The plane’s disappearance triggered a real geopolitical shitshow—look no further than Malaysia’s comically slow rollout of information at every step of this process—which is an element of this incident people sidestep too often. Before that part of the plane was found, it was tempting to abstract the plane’s disappearance into what felt like a long Unsolved Mysteries episode. But now that we’ve got some physical trace of the plane, we’re closer to understanding what may have happened and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Also—at the risk of sounding like a human Hallmark card—my heart still breaks for those families.

Least Important: The announcement of a Full House reboot (“Fuller House”) is dumb, irritating, and so very revealing of our country’s cultural sloth. Why would you devote energy to reviving a garbage show? Why do we continually appease the lowest common denominator humans who walk among us?

Mayukh Sen is editorial director at This.


Doree Shafrir
They’ve helped shift the narrative about rape and survivors.

Most Important: Bill Cosby’s accusers going public. By coming out, they’ve helped shift the narrative about rape and survivors.

Least Important: The least important event of 2015 was Jeremy Bieber’s now-deleted tweet:

Lol, I guess?

Doree Shafrir is a culture writer at BuzzFeed.


Jessanne Collins
We’re actually having scientific conversations involving the term “alien megastructures.”

Most Important: The discovery of a “strange mess of objects whirling” around the star KIC 8462852. And the ensuing fact that we’re actually having scientific conversations involving the term “alien megastructures” now! Then again, we could just be seeing a bunch of comets, but that would also be cool and weird. Either way, it’s one of those discoveries that makes space seem awesome again. Plus, it was significant that this discovery happened thanks not just to the Kepler telescope but to a group of amateur “citizen scientists” who’d been parsing its data with their human brains. A sign that in fact, the machines haven’t taken over yet. (Not even Netflix.)

Least Important: Er, The Dress? I’m really glad we were all talking about chromatic adaptation so enthusiastically for a while there, but I’m not sure in the end it was worth the drama.

Jessanne Collins is vice president and editor-in-chief of mental_floss magazine.


Craig Mod
Tech moves in cycles, and Interactive CD-Roms in the ’90s were both ahead of and before their time.

Most Important: One of the most important, or certainly most curious, shifts in publishing this past year was the trend of moving away from standalone apps, and back to the open web. The Atavist was one of the more high-profile shifters. But even Dan Frommer’s City Notes guide—ostensibly a digital book—moved from app-only to web-only. More proof that tech moves in cycles, and that Interactive CD-Roms in the ’90s were both ahead of and before their time. On the flip side, Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn’s baroque digital book, The Pickle Index, came out as an uber-app, showing us that if you’re going to go in, you need to go all in.

Least Important: Hoverboards. Cities passing laws banning them. Rappers getting into fights with BuzzFeed reporters about selling them. And all under the auspices of the holy name, Hoverboard. My 1980s eight year-old self would never be satisfied with these “hoverboards” and neither should we!

Craig Mod is a writer, designer, and publisher.


Helen Rosner
We’re at the beginning of an epidemic of compassion.

Most Important: The most important thing that happened this year is that things finally got so bad that engines are finally rumbling to make them better. There was a morning earlier this month—shortly after the San Bernardino shooting, not long after the Laquan McDonald video was released, the day after the House voted to defund Planned Parenthood—when I woke up, looked out the window, started crying, and couldn’t stop. I started running through reasons why this might be happening: Was it hormones? Had I had a lot to drink the previous night? Had I skipped taking my meds the day before? My husband gently held my hand and said “Hey, you know, there’s a lot of horrible stuff going on in the world. Did you consider that this might just be genuine human emotion?

Anyway, I think it’s good that I’m waking up crying. I think it’s good that this year, people of every group are learning about the ways we hurt, brutalized, taken advantage of, and dehumanize others, and how that’s built into a system that deserves dismantling. It means we’re waking up, as a society. This isn’t a simple thing of privileged white guys finally seeing the plight of others: I think everyone is learning about the burdens being put on everyone else: women, trans people, people of color, Muslims, people living in poverty, climate refugees, even poor white guys and their toxic masculinity. We’re at the beginning of an epidemic of compassion. I feel deliriously, maybe irrationally, good about it.

Least Important: The least important thing that happened this year was that llama thing, because I was on vacation when it happened so I missed the whole thing and even now only hazily understand what even happened, so screw it.

Helen Rosner is features editor at Eater.


Jia Tolentino
Who would want to be a cop after 2015? The answer should terrify all of us.

Most Important: The American cop’s huge evolutionary leap towards predator and away from protector. In 2015, the extent to which police departments are ready to cover up not just incompetence but sadistic, racially vindictive, essentially terroristic activities was fairly, if not fully, revealed. There was the off-the-books Homan Square in Chicago, where over 7,000 people, the vast majority of them black, have been “disappeared”—by the same department that spent a year burying tape and paying the man who executed Laquan McDonald. In Oklahoma City, Daniel Holtzclaw stayed on the force for months after allegations emerged that he was targeting and raping poor black women in his precinct. The men who killed Tamir Rice had the audacity to claim the 12-year-old presented an “active threat.” Who would want to be a cop after 2015? The answer should terrify all of us.

Least Important: Any Twitter fight, but specifically the Taylor Swift-Nicki Minaj one, in which Taylor Swift’s aggressive attempts to position herself as Friend to All Women fell flat in a fluffy white garbage pile of self-interest and overcompensation. One great way to never have to rethink your “feminist idol” is to never crown one, particularly from the glossies who can sell out MSG.

Jia Tolentino is features editor at Jezebel.


Alana Massey
A heroic group of teenage skater witches made headlines at fucking last because Satan is good to those who wait.

Most Important: 2015 was a banner year for goddamn witches, I can tell you that much. Following the triumph of The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in 2014, women graduated from mere mischief to mayhem in retributions that might get them burned in another age or latitude. Squads gave way to covens, spinsterhood became glamorous, women shed the pretense that their misandry was somehow ironic, and a heroic group of teenage skater witches made headlines at fucking last because Satan is good to those who wait.

Least Important: 2015 was not a banner year for the subtweet because subtweets are always gauche. Cut it out. No one cares. That shit is unseemly.

Alana Massey is a writer covering identity, culture, technology, and relationships. Her essay collection All the Lives I Want is forthcoming.

Apr. 20, 2009, Fred Tomaselli, 2009. Courtesy the artist and James Cohan, New York.


Jeremy Keehn
Here’s to getting caught up in things that aren’t life-or-death.

Most Important: The events I consider most important this year are the rise of ISIS, the global refugee crisis, and the unchecked proliferation of mass shootings in the US—from the high-profile ones to the underreported, often-unsolved ones afflicting poor and minority communities. It’s tough, looking at all of them together, to resist seeing a world gone a little mad with violence and fear, and to resist despairing at the inadequacy of our political responses. Then again, we’re fixing the whole climate thing, right…?

Least Important: I’d normally be inclined to pick something I wish the world hadn’t paid so much attention to, but I can’t begrudge anyone some frivolity to balance out this year’s genuinely scary news. So, my least-important events are ones I personally got a lot of joy from: Connor McDavid wielding his hockey stick like a Hogwarts-issue wand, Steph Curry’s ongoing exploration of basketball possibility, and of course the Bat Flip Heard ’round the World. Here’s to getting caught up in things that aren’t life-or-death.

Jeremy Keehn is an editor for The New Yorker.


Casey Johnston
2015 was a year for confronting the uncomfortable realities of the status quo.

Most Important: 2015 was a year for confronting the uncomfortable realities of the status quo. There were a lot of terrible things that happened, the way terrible things are always happening—Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, numerous videos of inhumane treatment, sometimes of children, by police officers—but they were immediately followed by loud and zealous rejection of the pat explanations of the wrongdoers. There were similar reactions and refusal to accept ingrained sexism. More than 50 women came forward about being sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby. Ellen Pao lost her trial against Kleiner Perkins. Being loud about this stuff is an unfair burden for people of color, women, LGBT people, and all their intersections to bear, but there’s a lot to be done and no one should be allowed to forget it.

Least important: The dress. I can’t believe the internet talked about this as long as it did because the dress is SO OBVIOUSLY blue and black. I guess we learned about half the world is blind as a bat, which is maybe important after all.

Casey Johnston is a tech writer, journalist, and video maker.


Brad Listi
The presidential candidacy of Lincoln Chafee. Shine on, you crazy block of granite. Shine on.

Most Important: As I write this, the most important event of 2015 hasn’t happened yet. The UN Climate Change Conference, set to take place in Paris in December, will probably have the greatest global impact of any event this year, with the possible exceptions of Penisgate and the birth of Kim and Kanye’s second child. Assuming things go well and some kind of agreement is reached, pundits and activists will undoubtedly hand-wring and be upset with the results—change not radical enough, too little too late, et al. And hey, maybe the fatalists are right and there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves anyway because everything is irretrievably fucked and it’s all our fault and we’re a really bad species that deserves to die painfully, en masse, in a broiling hellscape of our own creation. Still, though. I feel like a broad, meaningful consensus in Paris would be a big deal, a legitimate cause for hope, and a radical departure from where things were in, say, 2004, or even 2010 in Copenhagen. At the very least it would be of significant symbolic value, helping to shift the discourse and set us on a better path as we attempt to get our ecological shit together. Fingers crossed.

Least Important: The least important event of 2015? I’d have to say the presidential candidacy of Lincoln Chafee. Shine on, you crazy block of granite. Shine on.

Brad Listi is founder of The Nervous Breakdown and the author of Attention. Deficit. Disorder.


Dara Lind
Too many Americans have terrorized themselves.

Most Important: The global refugee system is broken. Think beyond Syria. Syria is a morality play: wicked dictators, drowning children. What we’re seeing right now is widespread, often smuggler- (or trafficker-)facilitated migrations of desperate humans: from Syria to Germany, from Eritrea to Italy, from Myanmar through Thailand, from El Salvador through Mexico.

Some are fleeing persecution. Others are starving, poor, abused. Many are both. Smugglers don’t care: Desperation is a tremendous market opportunity. International refugee law very much does.

At worst, sniffing out “real” refugees is an invitation to reject everyone. But even in the hands of honest countries, it’s a massive security challenge—one that shouldn’t be dismissed. And how bright is that line, anyway, between kinds of mortal desperation?

Least Important: Shelter-in-place notices. Too many Americans have terrorized themselves—whether by seeing jihadis around every corner or doing the same with mass shooters.

Nothing monopolizes the attention economy like the phrase “active shooter.” But sometimes the active shooter is a hoax, or an error, or someone who was apprehended before he actually shot anyone. If we shouldn’t grant those who succeed the honor of remembering their names, should we grant those who fail—or don’t exist—the honor of causing us even a moment’s fear?

Dara Lind covers criminal justice and immigration, among other things, as a reporter for Vox.


Ted Scheinman
The tragedy is how necessary the movement is. The triumph is a renaissance in political courage.

Most Important: #BlackLivesMatter. The movement has mobilized young people in a way we haven’t seen for generations. It cuts to the center of nearly every problem in American life, public and private: the rotten culture in our militarized police departments, the broken and bursting penal system, the state of our schools, our legislative (and personal) hypocrisies over recreational chemicals, the question of how to exert political force without a billionaire at your back. Its leading exponents work 20-hour days, argue with eloquence and urgency even when they’re being questioned by dunces, give no quarter while consistently urging peace, and have established ready plans for reorganization in the event that one of them is assassinated. The tragedy is how necessary the movement is. The triumph is a renaissance in political courage.

Least Important: Three-way tie between A) Jim Inhofe’s snowball-parlor-trick; B) Bill Maher’s unceasing diatribe against Islam; and C) the continued existence of The Daily Caller. That’s fine, boys—stay right where you are! The world proceeds apace. We’ll send you a postcard from the other side.

Ted Scheinman is the senior editor for special projects and developing stories at Pacific Standard.


Josh Dzieza
This will seem like a year when we got to see what a distributed, digitally networked civil rights campaign can do.

Most Important: It’s felt like a year of slow-rolling stories punctuated by disastrous events. The dispiriting Trump phenomenon, ISIS, so many shootings, some bright spots with climate change amid the usual darkness. The Black Lives Matter movement has been building for a while, but in 2015 it coalesced into something new, sticking around where movements like Occupy faded and getting real results: officers charged, officials ousted, racist symbols removed, and discussions of police brutality, mass incarceration, and other issues on the campaign trail. In retrospect this will seem like a year when we got to see what a distributed, digitally networked civil rights campaign can do.

Least Important: The Dress. My mind is an internet-riddled amnesiac sieve when it comes to these things, but the dress stands out because at the time I actually thought it was going to be important, at least in the sense of having a lasting media effect—I dunno, get me some of that optical illusion traffic! But no, it was a rogue wave, not to be repeated, though I saw some people try. Now it seems the original post has been taken down. I only remembered because I saw a guy on the street last week with a black shirt that said it was white and gold. It took me half a block to get it.

Josh Dzieza is reports editor at The Verge.


Eve Peyser
He still didn’t lower the price of Daraprim. Let him disappear into the abyss.

Most Important: The senate passing a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and repealing the Affordable Health Care Act. All the mass shootings. Donald Trump’s nauseating popularity. All are signs of the impending apocalypse. Load up on water and duct tape. Pray often. Tell your mom you love her.

Least Important: Everything related to Martin Shkreli. We (the media) assassinated his character. He was doxxed. I embarrassed him by posting screenshots of our Tinder conversation. He still didn’t lower the price of Daraprim. At this point, he’s achieved his dream of becoming the ultimate cartoon villain. Let him disappear into the abyss.

Eve Peyser is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in, The New Inquiry, Mic, and The Daily Dot.


Diana Lind
It may only be a matter of time before there is real justice reform.

Most Important: When terrorists kill people, or psychopaths go on shooting rampages, our society collectively mourns these deaths and the injustice of violence. But for far too long (forever?) there has been ignorance of the far more common but equally deadly and tragic deaths of people of color at the hands of police. In 2015 there was a profound consciousness-raising as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, that not only called into question traditional police tactics, racism and unwarranted violence, but productively reshaped city police forces. Unlike other movements for change, such as Occupy’s vague wishes for greater income equality, BLM has seen the fruits of its protest in the firing of Chicago’s police chief; the federal justice department’s investigation into Philadelphia’s police force; the indictment of Baltimore police staff following the death of Freddie Gray. These changes give hope that it may only be a matter of time before there is real justice reform.

Least Important: Twitter and its decision to change from “favorite” icon stars to hearts. Remember how people cared for like 45 minutes about that?

Diana Lind is Managing Director, Penn Fels Policy Research Initiative.


Alana Levinson
Who profits off viral content?

Most Important (Meme): “What are those?!?!?!”This summer, Brandon Moore (aka Young Busco) uploaded a video to Instagram of his interaction with a cop that went viral. But the clip was not what we’ve come to expect in 2015, a year where 935 have been shot dead by police. Instead, we saw a man confronting a police officer about his terrible footwear with a simple, and now iconic refrain: “What are those?!” The vid has gone on to inspire countless interpretations, even landing itself in a Samsung commercial featuring ASAP Rocky. The meme’s popularity is in large part due to the way it taps into the cultural zeitgeist and I also think it raises an important question that will continue to be asked again and again in 2016: Who profits off viral content?

Least Important (Meme): Pizza Rat. When “Otters holding hands” busted on the scene in 2007, the video was revolutionary in its cuteness. It was the first time I remember consuming content of an adorable animal on the Internet, which is funny now when you consider that there is an entire BuzzFeed vertical dedicated to this kind of thing. But I think we’ve reached a point with the Pizza Rat sensation—and the memes it has inspired—where “creature content” is kind of hollow. Compared to memes that feature actual human beings and have some kind of political potential, a rat dragging a piece of pizza in a NYC subway station is just boring.

Alana Levinson is a staff writer/editor at Medium/Matter and the founder of Stevie Zine, an online culture magazine for and by women.


Dustin Volz
Forcing the developed world to grapple more directly with ongoing humanitarian disasters in the Middle East.

Most Important: The global refugee crisis. The flood of migrants fleeing Syria, Afghanistan, and other war-torn countries for safe harbor in Europe is upending the demographics of an entire continent and forcing the developed world to grapple more directly with ongoing humanitarian disasters in the Middle East. The massive relocation of humans has allowed Germany, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, to recast its international reputation as a country of tolerance and compassion—while stoking long-simmering nativist fears elsewhere.

Least Important: The 2016 presidential campaign. Because it was still 2015.

Dustin Volz is a tech policy writer for Reuters.


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