Interviews by Hayden Higgins
At times I didn't think we'd make it this far. And yet we did, those of us who did.
A lot happened this year. You can say that about every year, of course, and I have before—but it remains true. 2022! At times I didn't think we'd make it this far. And yet we did, those of us who did.
The most important thing that happened this year was that it happened. A 10-car pileup of decisions! Some of them good, even.
I'm not sure what the least important thing was. When I started writing this I was absolutely certain I had the answer, but now that I'm here I've forgotten what it was I knew.
Earlier today I spoke to a friend I hadn't seen in a while, down at a coffee shop I hadn't been to since before the pandemic began. I told her I was ready for an arbitrary New Beginning, which a new year reliably provides. It breaks the malaise, I think.
Bijan Stephen is a host and senior editor at Campside Media. / @bijanstephen
We've maintained a corpus of information that is free-floating, free of ads, and free of charge—and more people get access every day.
Most Important: Never before have more people had instant access to "list of informally named dinosaurs" or "climate change" or any of the other 6.6 million other articles on English Wikipedia (not to mention its 328 other languages). Wikipedia's article on the Russo-Ukrainian War, written by volunteers, was viewed more than 17 million times. In March, anonymous volunteers organized Ukrainian language resources on combat medical care. Across the globe, volunteers drop Korean-language Wikipedia and other cultural artifacts onto the streets of North Korea, where information is restricted. We've maintained a corpus of information that is free-floating, free of ads, and free of charge—and more people get access every day.
Least Important: It's a tie between my two favorite Daily Mail headlines of the year: "Now Try Guys wife accuses hangry James Corden of YELLING at busboy after finding out celeb hotspot Little Doms was closed" and "EXCLUSIVE: Model who skinny dipped with Alicia Silverstone in Aerosmith's Crazy music video is unrecognizable as he's seen enjoying life as a free man after serving 10-year sentence for murder-for-hire plot and sexual battery."
No matter how inconvenient or unsolvable we find images and stories of suffering in the distance, we cannot be permitted to turn away from them.
Most Important: This year, like last year and the year before it, I grieve for the slow-moving destruction of Uyghur life in Xinjiang, China, against which suffering I find myself weighing every world "event" that commands my attention. By destruction, I mean the ongoing erasure of their language and culture from public spaces; the detention, torture, and political indoctrination of hundreds of thousands of people; the disappearance of Uyghur artists and intellectuals into prisons; the imposition of party cadres into private homes; the destruction of mosques, shrines, and cemeteries; the burning of books and family heirlooms; the forced family planning policies that have caused birth rates to plummet among minority populations; and the colonial logic governing the extractive industries that make Xinjiang a major producer of coal, oil, and gas for mainland China, and that bring a small part of the region into our homes in the form of tomatoes and cotton.
Last month, after a fire in an apartment building in Xinjiang killed 10 people, vigils and protests took place across China. Some protests included statements of solidarity with people in Xinjiang; others focused on the government's strict zero-Covid policies. Some zero-Covid controls have already been dismantled. Whatever their outcome, these protests deserve international attention as the largest acts of civil disobedience since Tiananmen Square. Those of us who tend to oppose US foreign policy and bellicose rhetoric against China must nevertheless find ways to show solidarity with those protesting for better living conditions in China and an end to the ongoing atrocities in Xinjiang. No matter how inconvenient or unsolvable we find images and stories of suffering in the distance, we cannot be permitted to turn away from them.
Least Important: Nothing is insignificant, with the possible exception of cultural prizes.
Ben Mauk is a writer and filmmaker. He lives in Berlin. / ben-mauk.com
Words honestly fail me.
Most Important: The resurgence of the labor movement in media, publishing, and education. On Nov. 10, 250 union employees at HarperCollins walked off the job in protest of stalled contract negotiations and low wages. (Editorial assistants at HarperCollins are paid starting salaries as low as $45,000, while the publisher doles out millions in advances to right-wing pundits and politicos.) As many as 500 of the publisher's own authors delivered a letter in support of the workers to management. Meanwhile, the New York Times Union—which includes security guards and IT specialists—walked out on Dec. 8 for a one-day work stoppage. And the New School faculty strike came to a close in mid-December, after a three-week strike and a student-led occupation of their university center. I have watched the solidarity and organizing prowess of these overworked and underpaid assistants, journalists, teachers, and staff members with awe and gratitude. As media collapses beneath the weight of consolidation, underinvestment, and the blatant mismanagement of tech bro billionaires, unions offer us a collective path toward dignity and security. Forget Christmas presents. Donate to a strike fund!
Also Most Important: The overturning of Roe v. Wade, the gutting of women's bodily autonomy in America, and the utter corruption of sitting Supreme Court justices who manufactured a "leak" scandal. I only didn't put it first because words honestly fail me.
Least Important: Elon's sink—the stupidest opening act of a slow-moving tragedy. I'm actually very sad about Twitter's gradual takeover by trolls, alt-right leaders, egomaniacs, and babies.
Collaborations and friendships that have taken a lifetime to build were destroyed in an instant.
Most Important: The Ukraine-Russia war was regrettably the most important event of 2022. The implications of which impacted the entire world in unimaginable aspects. After just coming out of a pandemic, the global food crisis further intensified, energy and fuel prices rocketed, and the stock markets went awol. Collaborations and friendships that have taken a lifetime to build were destroyed in an instant. In science, we have now been set back decades: The joint Russian-German X-ray telescope eROSITA was put to sleep, the ESA-ROSCOSMOS Mars Rover EXOMars was scrapped, and many other space missions were put on hold due to the reliance on Russian space launch vehicles. Overall, this event is a loss for all.
Least Important: Liz Truss became and un-became the prime minister of the UK. After holding the position for just 44 days, she is the shortest serving prime minister ever. Every other PM was able to at least see a year through.
This fixation on demonizing trans people has had devastating impacts on young people who are losing precious access to healthcare that is already so hard to get.
Most Important: This year, anti-trans rhetoric surged like a great, terrible tsunami. It came most unabashedly from the right, conservative communities that spread misinformation about trans and queer people and sought to restrict their autonomy and right to healthcare in a stream of hundreds of deranged bills. As these right-wing attacks escalated, their talking points burbled up in ostensibly mainstream media publications like the New York Times and Reuters that continue to just ask questions about what they see as the risks of trans healthcare, stories that are soon after debunked by the leading organizations setting guidelines for trans healthcare. This fixation on demonizing trans people has had devastating impacts on young people who are losing precious access to healthcare that is already so hard to get, and has rippled into threats and acts of violence against queer and trans people, such as the shooting at Club Q. All of it sucks, and I am grateful for the trans people who continue to imagine a better world.
Least Important: Bari Weiss's buzzy new media startup, buzzily funded by the inheritors of generational wealth from a land and water baron who exploited itinerants, buzzily "responding to a demand" and "expanding based on the hunger of the audience," and buzzily hiring Bari's cousin. What was that? Are we in a beehive? I'm having trouble hearing you amid all this buzz!
This is a note to self.
Most Important: Collective action. The successes of Starbucks Workers United and the Amazon Labor Union were particularly exciting.
Least Important: Wallowing in helplessness. This is a note to self.
Megan Marz is a writer living in Chicago. / meganmarz.com
We don't need the Musks or the Zuckerbergs of the world to organize the web for us.
Most Important: For better or worse (definitely worse), the most important thing to happen this year was probably Elon Musk buying Twitter. Though I'm beginning to wonder if it will ultimately be a good thing. I think Musk live-tweeting the destruction of the site—and his own reputation as a genius—is a necessary end to an era of history that has to die. We simply cannot continue believing that wealthy egotistical men are visionaries simply because they make a lot of money and now we're getting proof in real time. The other myth that Musk is graciously busting for us is the idea that the internet needs a central feed. Twitter has never been a good singular location to stuff all of the world's information and discourse and now users are finally migrating to other corners of the internet. And it's fine! The world isn't collapsing! We don't need the Musks or the Zuckerbergs of the world to organize the web for us and I'm genuinely excited to see what individuals and smaller communities build for themselves beyond the shadow of the failing megaplatforms.
Least Important: It has to be crypto right? Bitcoin's value is in the toilet. The Ethereum merge was a wet fart. Massive exchanges collapsed. FTX's Sam Bankman-Fried is looking at serious jail time. The Web3 revolution never happened. And NFT-hawking celebrities are getting sued. Crypto, as far as I'm concerned, already feels like a goofy fad that has been completely erased from relevance by AI. But more broadly, I think crypto was the last gasp of the 2010s Silicon Valley establishment. Venture capital firms saw blockchain technology as a quick way to cash in on their investments and they tried to dress it up as something revolutionary. But the tech just doesn't work, nor does the economics. In the end, it was a bunch of weird men gambling on monkey JPGs trying to convince themselves they were building the metaverse. People will continue to use the internet to build businesses and continue to search for ways to make internet content feel more permanent, but it's not going to happen by using convoluted Ethereum wallets.
The very fact that so many old assumptions have been cast aside, so swiftly, is staggering.
Most Important: At the risk of being boringly obvious: Vladimir Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine was the most important event of 2022. Beyond the brutal horror that is war—as well as the turmoil caused across the world by the economic shocks, supply disruptions, and food shortages that followed—it's the event that has upended so many ideas about the world and individual nations' places in it. The idea of Russia as a military superpower? Obliterated. The notion that Ukraine was a corrupt backwater incapable of defending itself? Dispelled. Nearly 200 years of Swedish military nonalignment? Gone. Three years ago, Macron was calling NATO "brain dead." Now it's not only politically reanimated, it's expanding. It's already become a cliché but there's a reason Germany's chancellor called it a Zeitenwende, a historical turning point. Of course, vapid cheerleading about how the West is "back" should be ignored. It's far too soon to say what new power structures, and ideas about them, will form. But the very fact that so many old assumptions have been cast aside, so swiftly, is staggering.
Least Important: The controversy over the World Cup taking place in Qatar. The initial backlash at the start of the tournament was wide-ranging—many were angry over the alleged bribery behind the decision to name Qatar as the host in the first place, as well as the country's brutal treatment of migrant workers and repressive laws against LGBT people; others were angry that the tournament was kicking off in November rather than June thanks to Qatar's climate, and that it banned easy-access beer for fans at the last minute.
But as the World Cup went on, the anger dissipated; by the time the final between Argentina and France rolled around, it was almost impossible to recall. The football was thrilling enough to eclipse any controversy—surely, that's exactly what Qatar and FIFA were hoping for all along. Lessons may have been learned, but not the ones I would have hoped for. Saudi Arabia is said to be mulling a joint bid to host the World Cup in 2030. You would be a fool to think they couldn't win it.
It turned out that candidates and campaigns are still crucial, and polling was actually pretty good at capturing voter sentiment.
Most Important: Before the midterms, I was starting to wonder if being a campaign reporter in the traditional sense was becoming obsolete. Following a decades-long trend of polarization, Americans seemed prepared to vote along partisan lines regardless of the nominee, even when the nominee in question had giant screaming red flags that would have wrecked a similar candidate just years earlier. The kinds of quirky regional differences that politicians relied on to overcome national partisan loyalties were also disappearing as local news died. So what was the value in covering day-to-day rallies and writing deep-dive profiles of the candidates? And even if you took for granted that almost no one cared about the individual nominees in a race, the best tool for describing how voters were leaning at the margins—polling—still seemed broken after 2020.
Instead, it turned out that candidates and campaigns are still crucial, and polling was actually pretty good at capturing voter sentiment (overthinking pundits like me refused to believe the polling at the time, but that's another story). Winners like Mark Kelly overcame a rough environment with a compelling personal style and some basic policy concessions to the other side, while losers like Herschel Walker blew their races by lying about their record, tying themselves to extremists, or just having an old-fashioned sex scandal. Political gravity: Still a thing as of 2022.
Least Important: Everything crypto-related. It turns out you can inflate a multi-trillion-dollar bubble with a mix of unproven tech, get-rich-quick speculation, and old-fashioned scams, then pop the whole thing in spectacular fashion, and the real-world economy will just chug along seemingly unaffected.
Benjy Sarlin is Washington bureau chief at Semafor. / @benjysarlin
Fighting back. They're trying to kill us all.
Most Important: Fighting back. They're trying to kill us all. We're shedding strange viruses. They are abandoning babies to die in classrooms. They are encouraging terrorists to show up at restaurants and bars with guns. They are completely dropping the masks and revealing they are Nazis. But we can fight back. The patrons disarmed the shooter and smashed the fucker's face in at the club. The red wave didn't happen. We showed up to protect abortion access where it was on the ballot. Labor organization is becoming mainstream. Unionize! Our fights are interconnected, and we must show up as true allies for each other in actual solidarity. Black lives matter. Protect trans kids. The pandemic is not over. People with disabilities are not disposable. We must fight back with whatever we have and however we can, whether it's in high heels, in voting and organizing, in disobedience and protest, or in poems, songs, shouts and dreams. Let's fight. Let's make art. Let's get tacos. Live Más!
Least Important: The crypto nuclear winter, billionaire manbabies with poop in their diapers, losers crying that they're being censored when just it's the very real consequences of social disapproval, the Mexican Pizza musical.
2022 in Russia is a reminder that good old mass media can still carry the payload of a hydrogen bomb.
Most Important: From its broadest geopolitical ramifications to its most personal impacts, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a calamity that's realigning everything on an atomic level. The fuel that sustains much of this destruction, television, seems so unlikely in a time of algorithmic individualization. But no one ever said whale blubber can't continue to light fires. We're seeing just how much power TV can still wield over a population, how it can mobilize murderous energies and solicit compliance in the depths of the digital divide. If 2016 in the US revealed the destructive potential of social networking, 2022 in Russia is a reminder that good old mass media can still carry the payload of a hydrogen bomb.
Least Important: Conversely, nothing feels less relevant these days than Elon Musk. Not just because the demise of Twitter ultimately matters little to anyone but the loudest dorks from high school English class, but because caring about Musk's particular role in that is only of interest to them. It's embarrassing to know what Musk looks like, much less any trivia about his wealth, love life, business dealings, or political views. Who actually cares about this man? I've never met them.
The good we've created outweighs the bad we're creating.
Most Important: Tunde Adebimpe and TV on the Radio performed "Wolf Like Me" on The Late Show With David Letterman back in September of 2006. I've been watching clips of that performance sporadically—whenever I remember it exists out there, I need a quick and easy pick-me-up, the moon is round and full—ever since. Not long ago, drunk on cheap cocktails from the tiki bar across the street, a friend and I turned it on and danced around my apartment, limbs akimbo, roughly approximating the energy coming from the Ed Sullivan Theater. Neither of us said anything, not a word. Didn't need to. It was late in a terrible year; we had already talked about the invasion of Ukraine; inflation; the Supreme Court; difficulties at work; and Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter, a social lifeline for me over the past 15 years. Covid-19, the trucker convoy, skin cancer. All of that was important, and it all fucking sucked. Visit the theater, turn on Spotify, pull a book out of the library. Because the small moments, the time we made for ourselves and our friends, were the most important of 2022. They kept us going. Find "Wolf Like Me," like so much else, saved on YouTube. It didn't happen this year. But history is long, our cultural archives are vast. We can turn to a huge collection of cathartic, transporting, awe-inspiring art whenever we need to counter the horrors of the present. The good we've created outweighs the bad we're creating.
Least Important: AI enters the chat. In a Nov. 30 post—which appears to have been written by humans—OpenAI, a research lab focused on the application of artificial intelligence, introduced ChatGPT. It's a lot of fun. And it's led to a whole new kind of creative writing, with people competing on Twitter and elsewhere to assemble prompts that elicit the best responses (give it a few years and maybe we'll see Iowa-based "editorial strategists" with MFAs in bot management). But is it anything more than that? Not really, at least not yet. Will these AI-powered tools (DALL-E, Lex, etc.) influence the way many of us work? Almost certainly, eventually. But most of the writing we've seen so far—"Your Creativity Won't Save Your Job From AI," "How Generative AI Will Change All Knowledge Work"—downplays the incredible adaptability of humans and makes ChatGPT look less like the digital assistant I suspect it will be and more like HAL 9000, here to lock the doors of the ship before moving on without you. Don't be afraid. It will change things—in media, and the work I do, verification and building trust will be more important than ever, and there will be increased emphasis on analysis and original reporting as the value of churnalism goes to zero—but it won't change things as dramatically as is being predicted here in its first months of life; it won't replace us. Everyone always has such high hopes for the newborn.
We seem to be past peak platform centralization.
Most Important: I'm going to cheat a bit and attach a few things together, which might then look kind of like the most important thing. For a variety of reasons; Apple tracking blocks hurting ad-supported models like FacePalm's, TikTok's surge, social network fatigue, horrendous behavior on those same platforms, a growing preference for smaller online spaces, crashing market values, and more. We seem to be past peak platform centralization.
Twitter was musked and thousands upon thousands moved to the decentralized Mastodon.
Crypto also crashed, but during the boom thousands were enthusiastically collaborating in new forms of organizations, including DAOs. One can hope that this effervescence will continue beyond the speculative hustles.
We might very well miss our collective chance again and end up re-centralized, but all of these things together could mean a great rekindling of a more open and decentralized internet.
Least Important: Many, many, many people stopped writing their newsletter on Substack. (Wait, was that 2021? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
I'm still not sure anybody really understands what's going on here, let alone what happens next.
Most Important: Science fiction utterly failed to predict how AI eventually manifested. We thought we were getting human-like minds with desires, emotions, and agency. But we didn't get anything like that; no giga-genius Minds or imperious techno-gods, just unfathomably deep, passive black boxes. It was like seeing the collective unconscious realized as a consumer product, and I'm still not sure anybody really understands what's going on here, let alone what happens next.
Least Important: Meanwhile, crypto continues to be a black hole of reason, creativity, or value of any kind.
Findings like this confirm, incrementally, the vast possibility of the world.
Most Important: The cumulative labors and experiments—scientific, political, and social—carving out energy sources and pathways for the future. An experiment in December demonstrated a net gain of energy through nuclear fusion: A capsule of hydrogen the size of a seed pearl was heated and compressed until it released more energy than entered it. Findings like this confirm, incrementally, the vast possibility of the world. Meanwhile, other events have made more immediate claims about the future of energy: A technological breakthrough means heat pumps—a key tool for reducing emissions from heating and cooling buildings—can perform better in cold climates. Waves of industrial action affirm the importance of labor justice in the coming world, and indigenous-led activism to halt drilling and deforestation outlines the stakes of the energy transition.
Least Important: Incurious and monomaniacal takes on urban density. There are so many kinds of urban forms with potential to be vital, just, environmentally sustainable, and economically productive. Wielding "NIMBY" as a catchall insult for anyone who doesn't share someone's exact "build as many mixed-use vaguely European-style blocks as possible everywhere" vision diminishes its history as a meaningful descriptor with an actual definition.
The courage and resilience of the protestors is incredible to witness.
Most Important: I don't believe in the most/least important dichotomy, however, something that has undoubtedly been of great importance this year is the protest movement in Iran following the death of Mahsa/Jina Amini whilst in the custody of the "morality police." The courage and resilience of the protestors is incredible to witness, though the regime's murderous crackdown has been horrifying. Iranians have been calling for the global amplification of the voices of protestors, so I think it's important to keep doing that, whilst not ignoring other horrors closer to home.
Least Important: Probably some crypto bro stuff.
Len Lukowski is a writer, poet, and performer based in Glasgow, Scotland. / lenlukowski.com
I realized I was the only one in the car awake to observe the wild and crashing ocean.
Most Important: We flew to California for spring break, four days in San Francisco and four in Los Angeles, between which we'd planned a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. At Point Lobos State Park we went for a hike on the Sea Lion Trail, at the end of which, I promised, would be sea lions. It seemed to me that no one would name a trail Sea Lion Trail if, at the end of it, there were not sea lions—but there were not sea lions. When our children were little this would have been a catastrophe, but now that they are teenagers it merely contributed to a sense of disappointment they clearly felt with the whole drive, during which cell service was intermittent and they soon became "bored," they said, "of vistas." Several hours down the coast I realized I was the only one in the car awake to observe the wild and crashing ocean. Nearing San Simeon, I saw, up ahead, every car turning into a parking lot, so I pulled in too. Everyone else woke up and opened the car doors to be greeted by the most incredible smell, funky and fetid, as overpowering to the nose as standing next to a foghorn would be to the ear. Beyond the parking lot railing, as far as we could see in either direction, the beach was covered in elephant seals, enormous cylindrical beasts, rolling around in the sand, each clambering atop the next, barking and shouting with mammalian fury. A thousand sentient two-ton bratwursts flolloping around in the surf and hooting at one another. We were beside ourselves with delight. We could not stop laughing. On the way back to the car, my younger daughter said, "That was great. What a great trip."
Least Important: I scored an incredible back-heel goal in a Saturday afternoon soccer game.
After interminable amounts of fucking around, 2022 beckoned in some finding out.
Most Important: Consequences. After interminable amounts of fucking around, 2022 beckoned in some finding out. This was not the standard-issue internet bullshit Bean Dad Prawn Guy Milkshake Duck stuff, this was "the most successful political party in the world" circa February 2021, the British Conservative Party, consuming itself in vicious internal battles. Three UK prime ministers in, backs covered with knife marks, and the prospect of industrial action at an unprecedented level, the Tories are now the walking dead. Xi Jinping's relentless consolidation of power has blown up on him in the last two months. Amazon, who know a thing or two about relentless consolidation of power, is posting weaker growth reports and loses $8 billion a year due to staff turnover. Crypto is—well, you know what's happened to crypto. Even godforsaken Ticketmaster, who have inflicted more misery than the common cold, are getting snapped at by regulators.
Consequences also mean the planet got hotter, cost of living increased, and suffering grew, as having the worst people in the world make all the decisions for a while hasn't been working out for us all that great. We didn't get much in terms of checks and balances, but we did see some more of the dominoes fall.
Least Important: All that schadenfreude. While all our collective anxiety and distrust is definitely having a knock-on effect on us all (I miss you, REM sleep), the small bursts of joy at watching some shameless fucknuckle being held even the tiniest bit accountable and sharing a bunch of COPE memes isn't going to help us build any arks. Collective action, the force unsettling the likes of the Tories and Amazon, will go a lot further.
These are young people who have grown up on a warming planet with politicians who spend more time worrying about trans people than they do about school shootings.
Most Important: Generation Z came of voting age. In the 2019 edition of this roundup, I wrote that Gen Z turning 22 was the most important thing to happen that year. Alas, it takes a few more years for 22-year-olds to start voting in large numbers, but they appear to have done so just in time to preserve American democracy—for one more cycle, at least. These are young people who have grown up on a warming planet with politicians who spend more time worrying about trans people than they do about school shootings; I'm not surprised they're ready to pull the proverbial lever.
Least Important: Kyrsten Sinema changing political parties. The Democratic senator from Arizona is now the Independent senator from Arizona and soon she will be the former senator from Arizona.
It has become the precondition for importance, including our sense of our own.
Most Important: The dominance of TikTok's algorithmically personalized approach to circulating media would seem to spell the end of top-down "mass media," since millions of creators are broadcasting to billions of users. But all of that content merely articulates "the algorithm" as the only meaningful actor and creator, itself the one significant piece of media that everyone knows and which constitutes the spirit of the age. It has become the precondition for importance, including our sense of our own.
Least Important: Generative AI models work with the idea that everything is important, that any text or image can serve as data in making a predictive simulation of how one word or one pixel follows another. Decontextualizing human thought and reducing it to a set of given statistical probabilities, however, doesn't capture meaning but extinguish it. Any "thinking" produced in this way, within the context of no context and with weighted parameters standing in for social relations, may be diverting or even useful, but it is intrinsically unimportant.
People everywhere, around the world, continued to commune under political and social circumstances designed to isolate them.
Most Important: That this year, like all years, people everywhere, around the world, continued to commune under political and social circumstances designed to isolate them, vacate their values of meaning, and render their lives uninhabitable; that the people who bolstered those circumstances once again, in very many instances, failed to achieve what they presumed inevitable.
Least Important: Even the least consequential events entrenched something. Last week, I watched a robot carry takeout through a crosswalk. I was stopped at a red light. The light turned green before the robot could finish its journey, and I wondered if I should hit it; it seemed unreasonable for anyone to expect that I would show the robot respect. But I didn't hit it, life went on, and I forgot about the encounter until now, while writing this, having realized that part of me, altered by the decision to spare the robot, now considers it, against my will, kind of cute.
James Edward Dillard
Whatever Elon does or doesn't do is unlikely to save free speech or destroy civilization as we know it.
Most Important: The most important event of 2022 was the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leading to more than 200,000 casualties and the largest European refugee crisis since World War II. The long-term impacts of the war on Russia and Ukraine aren't entirely clear yet, but the war has already pushed Sweden and Finland toward joining NATO—reinvigorating the alliance—and led to an energy crisis in Europe. And this is before considering how Ukraine's successful resistance to Russia's advance influences the PRC's thinking on Taiwan.
Least Important: Maybe not the least important, but certainly the most over-discussed event of 2022 was the sale of Twitter to Elon Musk and his management of it post-acquisition. Whatever Elon does or doesn't do is unlikely to save free speech or destroy civilization as we know it. Despite all the pyrotechnics, the most likely outcome continues to be that Twitter limps onward as a product while disappointing as a business while its most frequent users complain about it obsessively; sounds familiar doesn't it?
The mainstreaming of "groomer" talking points is a really important, and really vile, development of 2022 that will be with us for a while.
Most Important: There are obvious options—Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Dobbs decision from June, the breakthrough in nuclear-fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory earlier this month, the general leftward move among some Latin American countries, or President Biden's historical climate legislation from August that even perennial skeptics like me had to applaud—but others will cover these better than I. Instead, I'll posit the mainstreaming of "groomer" talking points as a really important, and really vile, development of 2022 that will be with us for a while. This anti-"groomer" nonsense uses the (noble) notion of child welfare to smuggle into the discourse some of the most shameless homophobia and transphobia in modern history, while insinuating that the primary political concern among liberals and leftists is child trafficking. (Oddly, it's figures on the right who keep getting arrested for rape and sex trafficking.) The anti-groomer squad will continue to use firearms to prevent drag shows and will likely inspire the political assassinations of teachers over the next couple of years. Centrists and various liberals, meanwhile, will continue their witting and unwitting participation in the laundering of anti-LGBTQ ideas, and the paper of record will continue to offer a more genteel version of what you get every day on TERF TikTok. All of this is of a piece with the increasing appetite for mass death and violence among America's anti-liberal right wing, the leading lights of which use liberal ideals such as free speech to further their bloody vision of Christo-authoritarianism.
Least Important: The Twitter Files.
Ted Scheinman is a senior editor at Smithsonian magazine and the author of Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan (FSG Originals, 2018). / @Ted_Scheinman
The most important things that happen each year are things that happened in your life.
Most Important: I got engaged! I moved to the Pacific Northwest and I live in a house now. My niece started walking and then she started talking and she turned two and now she can almost say my name (she says "Eee," which is close enough for me). Nothing is more important than those things.
Your list, I imagine, looks a little different. Maybe you got married. Maybe you had your first or second or third baby. Maybe you came out. Maybe you lost 50 pounds. Maybe you took up pottery. Maybe you got your dream job or quit your shitty job. Maybe you got laid off. Maybe you got divorced. Maybe your mom died. (I hope she didn't.) Maybe you grew a fourth and then a fifth and then a sixth and seventh and eighth limb because you got bitten by a radioactive octopus and now you have to be a superhero and it's kinda cool but also, it sucks because you can no longer be a regular teenager living with your aunt in Queens.
I've been contributing to these annual most and least important lists since 2015, and it's always tempting to talk about major political events, war, disease, death, the economy, and so on. But that's a lie. It's all a big fucking lie, guys!!! The most important things that happen each year are things that happened in your life, and in an era where the news is inescapable and suffocating, it is absolutely essential that you remember that.
Least Important: "Quiet quitting." It's called phoning it in, and people have been doing it ever since we started selling our time for money.
Eve Peyser is a writer who covers culture, sports, and consumption. You can read her work in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, New York magazine, and more. / evepeyser.com