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Wed Dec 29, 2021, 11:24 AM

A year of dubious characters and dark drama: Salon's best News & Politics stories of 2021

A year of dubious characters and dark drama: Salon's best News & Politics stories of 2021
Maybe you think you just dreamed Mike Lindell and Lauren Boebert: You didn't. And they were the fun parts of 2021


This long, long year began with high hopes that it would be better than the tumultuous election year of 2020, which also saw a summer of hopeful but traumatic protests and the onset of the most significant global pandemic in a century. We awaited the arrival of a new president, believing oh, so innocently! It hurts to remember that politics might become "normal" again. The idea that American life could be boring in 2021 was seen as a positive, am I right?

Well, so much for that. Was this year exhausting, soul-draining, mind-boggling and sometimes terrifying? I'd check all those boxes. But boring? Not so much. Five days into the year, Democrats won an unexpected double victory in the U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia, giving them a tenuous congressional majority after the puzzling and disappointing election results of November 2020. But you may recall what happened the day after that, on the 6th of January, when a joint session of Congress was to certify the electoral votes and declare Joe Biden the next president. It was a formality! Sometimes the opposition party squawks about it as Democrats had done in 2001 and 2005 but the business gets done and the country moves on. That's just how it is!

OK, so much for that too. It seems unnecessary to point out that that day and its as-yet-unfinished aftermath was the biggest news story of the year. And then things really got weird. We began to realize, gradually and uncertainly, that the Philip K. Dick alternate-universe dream state of the Trump years wasn't done with us yet. It was like Neo realizing that what he takes to be the real world is still inside the Matrix or, more to the point, it was like when the characters in a "Nightmare on Elm Street" sequel realize they're still asleep and there's no escape from the guy with the long spiky fingers.


Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

It's always gratifying, as an editor, when you publish a story you know is important but you suspect very few people will read and you're totally wrong. That happened in June, when Salon contributor Phil Torres, an academic philosopher who writes for us a few times a year, made his decisive rift with the "New Atheism" movement associated with intellectual luminaries like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker. Phil was once a true unbeliever, you might say, and wrote that when New Atheism emerged in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, as a counterweight to fundamentalism of all sorts, it appeared to offer moral clarity, it emphasized intellectual honesty and it embraced scientific truths about the nature and workings of reality. It gave me immense hope to know that in a world overflowing with irrationality, there were clear-thinking individuals with sizable public platforms willing to stand up for what's right and true to stand up for sanity in the face of stupidity.


Why did Lauren Boebert lead a late-night Capitol tour three weeks before Jan. 6?

Salon reporter Zachary Petrizzo spent much of the year trying to untangle the puzzling personal, professional and political stories of Rep. Lauren Boebert, the newly-elected Colorado Republican with a passion for guns and a number of connections to QAnon, the MAGA movement and the conspiratorial far right. But of all Zach's essays in Boebert-ology, nothing went deeper than the intriguing tale of a late-night U.S. Capitol tour she took with several family members on Dec. 12, 2020 which was the same day as the big "Stop the Steal" pro-Trump rally in Washington, and roughly three weeks before she was sworn in as a member of Congress. ...........(more)


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