Interviews by Hayden Higgins
Errin Haines Whack
I would point to another moment that has grown and maintained momentum for much of 2017, a phenomenon I'd refer to as #NotToday.
Most Important: Tempting as it is to answer this question with, “BELCALIS ALMANZAR, YOU FOOL!” I recognize this response as a given and won’t waste our time here laying out reasons for the obvious.
Instead, let us reflect on what else was important this year. Much has been made—and rightly so—about the tectonic shift in our culture that is the #MeToo movement. I would point to another moment that has grown and maintained momentum for much of 2017, a phenomenon I’d refer to as #NotToday.
Month after month, in ways large and small, people of color and white allies showed up to push back against what they saw as instances of the injustice, inequality, and bigotry in America that has recently resurfaced on a more mainstream basis as part of our sociopolitical climate. From college campuses to awards ceremonies to domestic flights to the ballot box, we spent a lot of 2017 covering stories about the black and brown people who made their voices heard.
In some ways, this was a departure from the public protests that dominated recent years during the rise of Black Lives Matter, but the message from Charlottesville to Alabama was the same: Not here, not now, not today.
Least Important: While I’d like to pretend that it was the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl, I know too many
friends annoying Saints fans who refuse to move on—which tells me that at least some portion of the American people are still obsessed with this. So instead I’ll go with the Facebook app. Yes, I’m serious. I took it off my phone earlier this year and I don’t miss it a bit—or the never-ending stream of push notifications that only contributed to my former fixation.
This is by no means to suggest that I don’t still have a Facebook habit, but news alerts are about all my system can handle these day. So while I’m not ready to go full Aziz Ansari and unplug completely from the internet, I’ll take my breaks where I can get them. I highly encourage you, dear reader, to do the same.
Errin Haines Whack is the Associated Press’s National Writer on Race and Ethnicity.
We’ve acknowledged our inability to communicate but still haven’t quite found a way to address it.
Most Important: The saga that was the 2017 special election to fill the US Senate seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Alabama encapsulated so much of the year’s major issues into one major story. Sexual harassment. Sexual assault. President Trump. The never-ending news cycle. Doug Jones’s victory showed there are times where people can put principles above party. The battles fought during the campaign serve as a harbinger of what we can probably expect for the midterm elections.
I think, scarily enough, part of the answer I provided last year still applies: We’ve acknowledged our inability to communicate but still haven’t quite found a way to address it to move forward as a society. We cannot allow for this to continue, and I think the election provided a starting point for working on fixing what’s broken before it’s too late (though some may say that’s already the case).
Least Important: The Unicorn Frappuccino (though the Christmas Tree Frappuccino is a close second). I’d also point out the MARTA bus probably made the implosion of the Georgia Dome more enjoyable. Those in charge of the demolition of the Pontiac Silverdome would’ve loved to have had the distraction during their first attempt this fall.
André Natta is a 2018 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University exploring how to reconstruct the local and regional journalism ecosystem for the 21st century. He’s written for Poynter, maintained his own local independent news website, and worked for WBHM in Birmingham, Ala.
“Be reasonable,” they will say calmly as they take the last remaining lifeboat.
Most Important: The dreadful response to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico embodies the larger right-wing approach in a century of imminent world-historical natural disasters: Offer little, give less, minimize the death toll, and act as though the islanders should be grateful. In Puerto Rico, as in so many other places, we bear witness to the hardening of a 21st-century caste system, a process of preemptive exclusion of various undesirables. The rebuilding plan for Puerto Rico—essentially more toxic debt levied on a vassal territory—is of a piece with the general trend toward hardline exclusion that will be necessary if the wealthy are to maintain their lifestyles while the rest of the world burns. As the seas rise, more and more people’s survival will depend on a swift and serious mobilization of resources. The reactionary right, taking power at a definitive moment of crisis, is ensuring that those resources will instead be concentrated at the top. And they justify all this by ratifying the idea that most people are not people, and that those dying are not worthy to live. Having blown a hole in the deficit, they will insist that we must be reasonable. “Be reasonable,” they will say calmly as they take the last remaining lifeboat.
Least Important: The #NeverTrump conservatives who make speeches extolling a Republican Party that never existed while rubber-stamping the president’s least-qualified and most-racist nominees to lifetime appointments on a US district court.
Ted Scheinman is a senior editor at Pacific Standard. His first book, Camp Austen, is coming this March via Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
The lancing of a giant, rancid boil that is not yet done drowning abusive men in workplaces across America and the world.
Most Important: What began with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at The New York Times, and Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker finally succeeding in breaking the Harvey Weinstein stories after decades of calculated legal threats that managed to previously bury them, turned out to be the lancing of a giant, rancid boil that is not yet done drowning abusive men in workplaces across America and the world in their own muck. The heroes of these stories are the women who spoke, the reporters who gave them the room to speak, and the publications willing to stand up to legal threats designed to silence the media. This is the beginning of a bonafide cultural and political movement that won’t be done until all women in all workplaces are safe—personally and legally—from predatory coworkers.
Least Important: Clueless overlord of global surveillance apparatus and disinformation emporium, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg took a for-no-reason tour of “real America.” As Zach Schonfeld pointed out on Twitter—the only place on the internet objectively worse than Facebook—in reality this looked more like “a movie about an alien who slowly learns to feel.”
Elmo Keep is an Australian writer and journalist in Mexico.
it’s fittingly symbolic to be closing 2017 in a sea of cataclysmic and life-upending and seemingly inextinguishable flames.
Most Important: The hellmouth has opened itself up a little wider and we’re inching ourselves closer to the world’s end. Fascists are boldly congregating in public; we (survivors, perpetrators, and their apologists alike) are being forced to bear collective witness to the extent of sexual violence in professional spaces while some of our continued pleas for safety are met only with offerings of carceral retribution; capitalism has barrelled us to the point of meteorological no return; high-res video imagery of police assassinations have replaced Pepe the Frog as the white supremacist meme of choice; none of us can afford our housing (our generational penchant for avocado is, of course, to blame for our lack of financial security). Without trivializing the environmental degradation and harm to health and loss of life/livelihood resulting from these California fires, it’s fittingly symbolic to be closing 2017 in a sea of cataclysmic and life-upending and seemingly inextinguishable flames. Hell is emptying and the devils and Lena Dunhams dance gleefully amongst us.
Important Interesting: Does everything need a goddamn reboot, spin-off, or sequel?
Zoé Samudzi is a freelance writer, photographer, and doctoral student in sociology.
Melissa Gira Grant
Coming just after the massive inauguration protests, the airport protests across the country felt like the answer to, so what's next?
Most Important: That last weekend in January, when airports swelled with immigration justice activists, volunteer lawyers, and whoever else could cram a sign on the subway, in protest of the Trump travel ban, which targeted those from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and has since been the subject of constant court battles. In New York, at JFK, protesters from Make the Road New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and many others stood in the bitter cold all afternoon and into the night, bearing witness and drawing out cameras. Meanwhile, inside, circles of lawyers set up shop at power kiosks, angling hand-printed signs toward the arrival gates so they could find family members of people who had been detained by Customs and Border Control. As the protest continued to grow through the evening, the various law enforcement agencies on the scene tried and failed to corral them, while at the same time the AirTrain, the public transit connecting the airport to the subway, was shut down, leaving hundreds more people stranded on the platform. So they just kept up the protest there, under the TVs tuned to CNN where they could see the rest of the protest still holding it down outside the international arrivals terminal, until the governor relented and let them through, too.
The next day I went back to the airport; the protests had moved to the courts and to lower Manhattan, and the lawyers had hunkered down at a diner, now with volunteer translators and free food coming in, managing hundreds of cases if not more over the next few days and nights. Coming just after the massive inauguration protests, the airport protests across the country felt like the answer to, so what’s next? It would be like this again and again this year—people coming together out of the apparent chaos, to care for one another—and it still is.
Least Important: God, I hope? The “rehabilitation” of the Pizzagate cult. Yes, Alex Jones and Mike Cernovich still believe, despite their attempts to put some distance between their platforms and their obsessions with (utterly invented) pedophile elites. And yes, in December even, a Pizzagate believer turned up in an anti-net neutrality video with the FCC chair. It is Dec. 19 and some of them remain a livestream and a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. May it not matter.
Melissa Gira Grant is a journalist and author, covering sexual politics, criminal justice, and human rights. She is a writer in residence with the Fair Punishment Project, and was a contributing writer for Pacific Standard and the Village Voice. Her latest book is Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work.
No one could hear you talking unless you were screaming at the top of your lungs.
Most Important: The most important thing about 2017 was that no one could hear you talking unless you were screaming at the top of your lungs. Every day there were at least 862 things of great importance happening. It was a year of waking up each morning with the volume already turned up to the absolute max, where each piece of breaking news, no matter how trivial, was of the utmost gravity until the next big bombshell dropped and made yesterday feel like five years ago.
If there wasn’t a mass shooting or natural disaster, it was simply another day of calling your senators to beg them not to vote for legislation that would hurt the neediest Americans while making the rich even richer or the president announcing another version of his racist immigration ban. If there wasn’t a wildly inappropriate Trump tweet, or a violent white supremacist rally, we’d perhaps see another sexual predator exposed for who he actually is, or roll our eyes in disbelief at the White House press secretary calling concentration camps “Holocaust centers.” It was the year where politics engulfed us all, where we grew accustomed to nonstop chaos of the Trump era, and we had no choice but to embrace the noise.
Least Important: Covfefe.
Eve Peyser is a writer and comedian who covers politics for VICE.com, and has been published in Esquire, GQ, Gawker, The Washington Post, and New York.
That's a good reason to stop letting people off the hook for doing things everyone agrees, in theory, are wrong.
Most Important: Maybe I’m trying to wish this into being, but I hope that 2017 marked the collapse of the “open secret”: the sin that everyone who knows about it agrees is a sin, but agrees just as strongly that it’s not worth holding anyone to account over. It turns out that when open secrets are exposed to sunlight, none of the excuses and rationalizations you can offer look anything less than pernicious and ridiculous. Maybe that’s a good reason to stop letting people off the hook for doing things everyone agrees, in theory, are wrong.
Least Important: The pee tape is a story about fetishes, but not in the way you think. The media fetishizes smoking guns; mass culture fetishizes origin stories; politics fetishizes “American”-ness, so it’s easier for the #resistance to call Donald Trump a Putin puppet than to acknowledge the ways in which he and his movement are deeply American. And atop it all, the blind hope that the discovery of a single object will both illuminate the whole truth and, somehow, take down the regime. This is not analysis; it’s fetishism.
Dara Lind covers immigration, among other things, as a senior reporter for Vox.
Stop me if you’ve heard this this year—misogyny’s a hell of a drug.
Most Important: The rise of toxic masculinity in all its forms, not the least of which is sitting in the White House. It’s apparent in the national reckoning on sexual misconduct and the most male-dominated government in decades, not to mention Republicans’ continued support for an alleged child molester joining the Senate. But it’s also apparent in less obvious places, like gun violence statistics and even our country’s response to a changing climate. Trump’s “America first” approach is exactly what you’d expect from a quintessential strongman. Meanwhile mass shootings—98 percent of which are perpetrated by men, a remarkable number of whom have histories of domestic violence—are getting deadlier. This year’s in Las Vegas was the deadliest in history.
Stop me if you’ve heard this this year—misogyny’s a hell of a drug.
Least Important: Everything Donald Trump said on Twitter.
Lucia Graves is a columnist and features writer at the Guardian and other publications.
Right-wing billionaires have the power to harness their petty grudges to gut publications.
Most Important: The shrinking of alt-weeklies (and other outlets for local reporting—Gothamist, DNAInfo, et cetera) is terrible for reasons other people can articulate more forcefully than I can. That right-wing billionaires have the power to harness their petty grudges to gut publications—leaving countless young, talented people jobless—makes me sick. This is nothing new, as the outcome of the Gawker trial showed us; in fact, it’s becoming pretty clear that the trial was just priming us for the shitstorm that’s ahead.
Least Important: Well, there’s quite a lot to sift through (the colossally dumb Rick and Morty McDonald’s incident immediately springs to mind), but I’m grossed out by all the media employees who publicly spoke out against their coworkers’ unionization efforts or defended their bosses’ efforts to resist unionization. (Won’t name names.) Not only is this line of thinking cowardly and sort of cultish; it’s also profoundly disrespectful to your coworkers—ones I’d wager would just like to be treated a bit more humanely!
Mayukh Sen is a Staff Writer at MUNCHIES at VICE.
By the time liberals figure out that Robert’s Rules isn’t a spellbook, it may already be too late to protest.
Least Important: The Russia investigation. No one cares. The Democrats—in and out of office—have spent much of 2017 doing what they do best: fumbling. I have little doubt there is a complex web of sinister and illegal relations between the Trumps, the Trump campaign, the Trump administration, and the Russian oligarch class. Americans knew that before the election, and he won anyway. Instead of looking at the election and sprinting to the left, the Democrats have gone on a Law & Order-themed treasure hunt with Bob Mueller, a man whose resume is a get-in-free coupon to Hell.
Most Important: The clearing of the Sacred Stone Camp/J20 prosecutions. While the #resistance flips through the statutes, actual civil resistance is getting increasingly difficult. In February, authorities illegally destroyed the Sacred Stone encampment, making way for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Nonviolent demonstrators at Trump’s DC inauguration in January were mass-arrested and are now on trial, facing decades in prison. The government isn’t following its own rules, and by the time liberals figure out that Robert’s Rules isn’t a spellbook, it may already be too late to protest.
Malcolm Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia and author of Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials.
Jamie Lauren Keiles
It will probably take at least a decade for me to unmesh how enmeshed this year felt.
I guess time has always been one big chain reaction, but I’m not even sure what counts as a discrete event anymore. I’m scared I will say that something is unimportant, and then in three months it will reveal itself as the impetus for mass indictments. Or whatever! It will probably take at least a decade for me to unmesh how enmeshed this year felt. Maybe the most/least important thing was how much it affirmed my personal belief that literally anything is possible.
Jamie Lauren Keiles is a writer.
Not only the influx of quality black art, but the vastness of spectrums it covered.
Most Important: A trend that continued was not only the influx of quality black art, but the vastness of spectrums it covered. I imagine this trend will continue, in part because of all the ways we’re being shown the range of possibility. I really loved watching the arcs of Kehlani and Sza, but I equally enjoyed celebrating someone like Kelela, who released her debut album approaching her mid-30s. Or Chadwick Boseman, hitting his stride in his early 40s. So much of popular culture/cultural currency is wrapped up in being youth-obsessed. If it is true that black people don’t physically age, let our art do the same. For generations and generations.
Least Important: That thing people did where they acted like black people were voting to save them, or save the world – and celebrating this performatively, treating black people as wizards or magical creatures. Please stop doing this.
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much was released in 2016 and was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in fall 2017 by Two Dollar Radio.
The most affecting horror is that of recognition.
Most Important: I’m sure there’s some logic to film release dates, and I can’t imagine that “two days before the 2017 Oscars” is considered an auspicious slot. But when a masterpiece like Get Out comes along, calendrical box office trends can’t possibly matter. It’s hard to overstate the importance of a piece of popular culture—with its gimmicks and homages and music cues—that can make fun of our country’s savage history while eliciting laughs of both discomfort and catharsis. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut does so many things so effectively, chief among them prove that the most affecting horror is that of recognition.
Least Important: For 11 glorious and bewildering minutes on Nov. 2, President Donald J. Trump’s Twitter account was gone. Bahtiyar Duysak, a Turkish-German contractor working in Twitter’s Trust and Safety division, has since claimed his action—executed on his last day at the company—was an error. Duysak told CNN outlets he actually “admires” Trump. I’d like to believe that the world would be different if old Don were relieved of his “Excalibur” but the truth is he’d still be the president, and he would find other ways to remind us of that fact.
Silvia Killingsworth is the editor of The Awl and The Hairpin.
The need for diversity on our climate desks.
Most Important: Since I imagine people have already written about all the big ones, I’ll choose the way that many white journalists and academics in America responded to David Wallace Wells’s New York magazine cover story on climate change. More than the article, this backlash serves as a better snapshot of what (and whom) “we” means when experts talk about climate change in 2017. It’s damning and disappointing, and a reminder of the need for diversity on our climate desks.
Least Important: The year ate my memory, and I’ve completely forgotten. Perhaps that’s the point? I’d like a significant reduction in traumatic news so as to remember the trivial bits in 2018.
Rahawa Haile is an Eritrean-American writer.
We saw the impotence of the important thing.
Most Important: In 2017 the most important thing was the death of that idea. We saw the impotence of the important thing: the smoking gun on Russian interference, the naming of men who abuse women. Big moments bring action that suggest an end in sight, that rot can be killed. But women still complain in private—if you talk to them—of offices where abusers roam, their secrets kept by women and men, even after the fall. Trump sits on his throne. There is no end date to cleaning house; it is a long job and we just keep doing it every year.
Least Important: The eclipse was an “event.” People flew or drove to far reaches of the country. Bees stopped buzzing as the darkness drew in; moms in Park Slope stopped fighting over homemade eclipse glasses at the library in time to share them. The next day, even hours later, life unfurled as usual. People fought and bees buzzed. If importance means a promise of measurable change, I’d say the eclipse: an event with no pretensions toward any shifts save the temporal sorts that take hold during a blackout or Ferris wheel stoppage or any other break from normalcy. I loved it!
Mallika Rao is a writer covering identity, culture, art, and dislocation.
Trump made clear that day that American democracy is much more precarious than we thought.
Most Important: The president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. Trump had been blustering authoritarian rhetoric since the beginning, but this was the first clear sign he’d govern as an authoritarian. No longer could the public nervously laugh that his language was just bloviating tough-guy talk. Authoritarians seek to weaken independent sources of state power, and Comey was less than four years into his 10-year term. Trump fired him simply because he didn’t like the FBI’s investigation into Russia collusion. Democracies depend not only on laws, but on norms, and Trump made clear that day that American democracy is much more precarious than we thought.
Least Important: Jon Ossoff’s special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district. So much ink was spilled over what that contest would signify for Democrats moving forward—since Ossoff was running in a conservative district that went narrowly for Trump in 2016. Yet that race, and Ossoff’s loss, ended up revealing little. Democrats won plenty of special elections in 2017, flipping seats in states like Oklahoma, Florida, New Hampshire, and even Georgia. And Democrats did so well on Election Night in November that reclaiming the House in 2018 no longer seems like a stretch of the imagination.
Rachel Cohen is a DC-based journalist and a contributing writer for The Intercept.
Labour insisted on a vision "for the many, not the few.”
Most Important: The rise of Jeremy Corbyn and a renewed left wing of the UK Labour Party. Corbyn and his supporters refused to accept the TINA (there is no alternative) mantra spawned by the UK’s own Margaret Thatcher. Instead, Labour insisted on a vision “for the many, not the few,” and the result was a surge of support for Labour, with Corbyn almost unseating the Conservative Theresa May, the current prime minister.
Corbyn is now the prime minister in waiting, and the movement behind him is spreading the lessons they learned in the past year to this side of the Atlantic. Let’s learn from them, and renew an international left the likes of which we haven’t had in decades.
Least Important: The endless analysis of whether the apologies of sexually abusive men were “good enough.” In many ways, that’s a matter for those around these men, beginning with the victims, to litigate.
For the rest of us, what matters is that this year, victims spoke out about sexual abuse and were finally believed. May we build on this momentum in 2018 and take this from a cultural shift to institutional change, one where there are channels for victims to raise allegations.
That will require that a victim of abuse has the material preconditions necessary for speaking up without fear that doing so will ruin her life. Which means fighting for universal health care and a generous welfare state that delinks one’s ability to survive from one’s employment status. It also means putting an end to the widespread, white-collar belief that HR looks out for victims, rather than for the employer (who, more often than not, is the abuser). Instead, we need third parties who have no loyalty to our employer. In other words? We need unions.
Alex Press is a New York-based assistant editor at Jacobin, PhD student in sociology, and freelance writer.
The beginning of a full-scale dismantling of patriarchal abuse of power.
When the Shitty Media Men spreadsheet hit the internet, I was in Taos, at an all women of color writing retreat. Doubly spared from the gaze of white people and the gaze of men—which feels like an unthinkable luxury now—we sat around the fireplace drinking whiskey out of paper cups, looking at PDFs of the spreadsheet we’d scrounged up and wondering who—or what—was next.
I’m from the west coast; I’m familiar with earthquakes, how the tremors in the ground might start off as imperceptible to humans but will make the water in a still glass tremble and shake. These faint rumblings of whisper networks, spreadsheets, and closed-door conversations have given way to an unprecedented destabilization of power in our industries, and I know that this is—it must be—the beginning of a full-scale dismantling of patriarchal abuse of power. Yet there are many difficult conversations ahead of us. We must do the important work of reckoning with how this abuse of power happens, and what justice looks like, and how harm will be addressed, and how healing will be done.
In all of this, the hashtag #MeToo, which was first started 10 years ago by Tarana Burke as a campaign to center survivors with an intersectional lens, and in its latest iteration has been critiqued for the way it excludes survivors of color and transgender and gender-nonconforming people, has come to epitomize the cultural moment. Much of our analysis of the moment hinges on the assumption that #MeToo has been successful because of liberal hashtag activism—a #resistance for the survivor set.
But what, exactly, has hashtag activism done for us this year? Has it given us anything palpable? More than anything, the flashy antics of liberal politics have suggested that buying merch and posting on social media might be a pathway for progress. It won’t. Until we are determined to center the material realities of those most marginalized in our politics, we will continue to fall short of our ability to do right by each other. I can’t imagine anything we need more than that.
Larissa Pham is a writer in Brooklyn.
A company with so little backbone doesn't deserve such power.
Most Important: I didn’t grow up in a household with two sides equal sides to the political coin. There wasn’t even a spectrum. Both sides said: Democrat. Black, middle class, and southern makes the idea of voting Republican nigh impossible. Selfishly the most important thing of 2017 was foolishly relearning that liberal white people still don’t know that world. Perhaps even more foolishly I’m praying that maybe they’ll start to contextualize that myopic worldview from both sides.
Least Important: Every Twitter public statement. The platform, along with Facebook and Google, reaffirmed their incompetence on the global stage. Issues of Russian bots and Nazis are met with shoulder shrugs and instead all they change is their self-imposed character limit. A company with so little backbone doesn’t deserve such power.
David Turner is a senior staff writer at TrackRecord. He lives in Brooklyn, and writes a newsletter about the ups, downs, and madness that is the post-streaming music industry.
Also, remember the Fyre Festival?
Most Important: A few days after the 2016 election, @missokistic tweeted something I’m still thinking about more than a year later: “*wakes up and looks at phone* ah let’s see what fresh horrors await me on the fresh horrors device”
The fresh horrors moved at a breakneck speed this year. If you needed to sleep or eat or god forbid, work for a few hours, you’d log back on to discover there were literal Nazis marching in America, that a gunman has killed dozens, that yet another White House staffer has been fired, another man outed as a sexual harasser, another town ravaged by a hurricane or wildfire.
Least Important: Humanizing or giving a platform to people who have assaulted, harassed, or violated others’ civil liberties under the guise of “balance.” Also, remember the Fyre Festival?
Jane C. Hu is a writer covering science, technology, and culture. She lives in Seattle.
There's always space and need to do more.
Most Important: There’s always space and need to do more: Be more, read more, write more, report more, sleep more, smile more, please more, eat more, hydrate more. I mean, there’s always the danger that the cloying push for moremoremore becomes so terrible and burdensome that the only more we want is to curl up in the fetal position in the softest corner of our beds. Which is fine! Really. We’ve all been there. But I say this to say that 2017 has been a year of exhaustion and reckoning. Instead of shrinking back against that demand for more, people have clapped back. For some, that’s come in the form of—and this isn’t comprehensive, of course—joining protests, running for local office, or promising ourselves that we’d stop gaslighting ourselves and speak out against those who’ve harassed or abused us.
Least Important: People who question the women—many who have had their stories verified and told by credible news outlets—who have come forward about the men who have raped, assaulted, or harassed them.
Kat Chow is a reporter for NPR’s Code Switch.
2017 has been a series of constant revelations—and revelations aren’t really meant to be constant.
Another year down, finally. I feel as though I’ve been lobotomized; although perhaps the more accurate comparison is to Phineas Gage, the poor soul who, in 1848, had a nearly four-foot-long iron rod blasted through his skull via a workplace accident with blasting powder. He survived, of course. We did too.
2017 has been a series of constant revelations—and revelations aren’t really meant to be constant. It numbs you to their meaning. Which is why, I think, the least important and most important thing that happened this year are one and the same: The News. Its awful, constant, accelerating presence.
Yes, I’m aware that’s a cop-out. But how else to fit #MeToo in with the famine in Yemen and the Las Vegas shooting? Kidding, that one’s easy. My point is, Gage’s injury became the “index case for personality change due to frontal lobe damage”—though apparently “of more historical than neurological use.” In other words, Gage became something we measure against. I fear 2017 will be remembered similarly. Was this the best of times, or the worst of them? Only history can say.
Bijan Stephen is a writer living in New York. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire, and elsewhere.
The end of the DACA program for the immediate and profuse human suffering it has caused.
Most Important: 2017 felt like a decade, not a year.
Each new, exceedingly terrible push alert revelation was another blow to normalcy: yet another mass shooting; yet another climate change-related disaster pummeling vulnerable populations; yet another case of sexual harassment cover-up; yet another display of violent, state-approved racism; yet another instance of innocent non-American lives becoming collateral damage.
They’re all very important. But among Donald Trump’s actions, I’d pick the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the immediate and profuse human suffering it has caused.
Least Important: Each word spoken (or tweeted) by a US president is newsworthy; I get that. But I just did not see the need for the hullabaloo around “covfefe.”
Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigration, inequality, and culture, among other topics. Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and the BBC.
Make sure your kids know how to swim.
Most Important: I’m always a drag on this one and bring up the latest terrifying piece of evidence that the planet will soon be uninhabitable for humans, and yep another one emerged this year: New studies indicate that previous worst-case scenarios on polar melt were not worst-case enough. Sea levels may rise as much as six feet by the end of the century if we don’t drastically curb carbon dioxide emissions. Make sure your kids know how to swim.
Least Important: Before this year, it would have been hard to imagine a scenario in which the words of the president of the United States were irrelevant. But with his ongoing Twitter meltdowns and televised ramblings, the president is indistinguishable from any other pathetic old man yelling at his TV. His own administration has begun to ignore what he says and instruct others to do the same. He’ll remain the most-talked-about man in the world, of course—and maybe that’ll keep him happy—but his own words are little more than noise.
Laura Olin is a digital strategist based in Brooklyn with an email list you can subscribe to.
They’re more disgusting even than he is. Which is saying something.
Most Important: The Republican Party is led by the most incompetent, most grotesquely ignorant man Americans have ever seen in public life, and the only ones who can do a thing about it—52 Republican senators and their 238 colleagues in the House of Representatives—failed to lift a finger to address this crisis, solely because they want to cling to their own power. They don’t care two pins if they shame the nation and hurt millions of people. They’re more disgusting even than he is. Which is saying something.
Least Important: The least important thing that happened is the flea circus put on every day by desperate administration hangers-on such as Sebastian Gorka, Kellyanne Conway, and Anthony Scaramucci. Let’s hope every self-respecting journalist fails to report on any of their romper-room villainy next year.
Maria Bustillos is a Los Angeles-based journalist, critic, and editor in chief of Popula, the news and culture magazine coming early 2018.
In 2017 we really saw and felt the effects of rigorous, ethical fact-checking.
Most Important: In a year like 2017, in which we spent so much time reading yet another piece of news and trying to rank it on a spectrum of emergencies going all the way from “imminent” to merely “existential,” I think the most important thing was fact-checking and fact-checkers. There are many cases past and present in which the arbiters of journalism have aligned themselves with typical abuses of power, so this is in no way a blanket endorsement; it’s just a recognition that, as a practice, in 2017 we really saw and felt the effects of rigorous, ethical fact-checking.
Too many of our forums are no less consequential for being informal—is it possible to subtweet all of Twitter? What’s it called when you’re subtweeting Facebook? The way we took information and turned it into accepted fact was determined by the work they did maintaining a high standard of accuracy, on a spectrum from “basic,” like names and dates, to “oh my god, how horrified should I be right now?” such as…like…I don’t know, there are too many examples, you can fill in whichever recent news story raised your blood pressure the most. It is all the more crucial for the fact (ha) that it is usually invisible. Without them we’d be even more fucked than we currently are. That’s true every year, I guess, but especially this one, and definitely next year, and probably forever.
Least Important: Any joke with the punchline “pivot to video.”
Haley Mlotek is a writer and editor. She lives in Brooklyn.
We need legislation protecting the environment, not your freakin’ tears and prayers.
Most Important: This single horrifying video by photographer Paul Nicklen of a polar bear slowly dying from starvation while wandering about on iceless land shows the startling effects of climate change. Polar bears only live in Arctic regions, so as the temperatures warm and sea levels rise, they are amongst the first creatures to feel the effects. Their ice-filled hunting grounds continue to shrink as sea ice disappears, and then they die. We need legislation protecting the environment, not your freakin’ tears and prayers. Fun fact: This video was filmed on Dec. 5, shortly after the environment took another hit after President Trump said he would shrink Bears Ears National Monument.
Least Important: Our SLOTUS, the Second Lady Karen Pence, and her daughter Charlotte Pence, formally announced that they would be making a children’s book called Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President about their Instagram-famous rabbit, Marlon Bundo, aka Bunny of the United States (BOTUS). Every day, the Trump Administration comes out with something new and terrible: an endorsement of pedophile Roy Moore for senator of Alabama, a tax bill that will greatly benefit the wealthy, or just a Twitter rampage at 3 a.m. from the imbecile president. The fact that BOTUS is getting his own book is, simply put, a distraction from reality.
Alicia Eler is the author of The Selfie Generation: How Our Self-Images Are Changing Our Notions of Privacy, Sex, Consent, and Culture. She is the visual art critic at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.
Most Important: Everything.
Least Important: Nothing.
Kyle Chayka’s first book, on minimalism, will be published in 2019 by Bloomsbury.