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What matters now. A publication from Medium about politics, power, and culture.

An explanation for people’s attraction to QAnon, the Plandemic hoax, and more

From the conviction that there is a secret cabal of nefarious liberals puppeteering our lives to the belief that the moon landing was a hoax, conspiracy theories are a constant subject of perverse fascination in American culture. To believers, these theories explain the inexplicable; to outsiders they’re utter poppycock. …


The world’s most visible trans woman has kicked off her gubernatorial campaign by demonizing trans women in sports. How do we call her out?

A microphone.
A microphone.

Quick: When you think back on the past half-decade of political campaigns, what do you miss? Is it pointless celebrity vanity campaigns? Irresponsible culture war fearmongering? Do you love having bitter arguments about Representation and Tokenism and how the press ought to cover a problematic female candidate?

Buckle up, friend: Caitlyn Jenner is running for Governor of California, and her first major policy recommendation is banning trans girls from sports.

“This is a question of fairness,” Jenner told a reporter from TMZ this weekend. “That’s why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It…


There is rage, yes, but also endless disappointment

Before I even got out of bed this morning, I read this long piece in Slate about Blake Bailey, the author of the recent Philip Roth biography whose publication has been frozen amid allegations of rape and sexual assault, as well as grooming young students. I can’t stop reading about it. There are more stories, memories, allegations surfacing from his former students, and it’s bringing up feelings. I was fortunate to talk to a couple friends who are also women writers about this over Zoom the other night. …


In her new book ‘The Making of Biblical Womanhood,’ history professor Beth Allison Barr reveals centuries of women that modern leaders keep trying to erase

I was seventeen years old in 1997 and thought I might be receiving a call to the ministry. The places I felt safest were in prayer, head bowed over my Bible, or in church, considering this precious, complicated world as a gift and thanking the God who I thought gave it to us.

I even had a good role model, a witty, vibrant associate pastor who told stories that wove together her gentle humor and a faith I saw as beautiful. But as I began exploring what Christian faith might look like, I expanded out away from her curious, humble…


In case you missed it, friends

The most amusing shot in Wednesday night’s broadcast of the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress — alas, it was not an official “State of the Union Address” — was of a masked Bernie Sanders. You could only imagine the smirk hiding under his COVID-cover, as he listened to a normally centrist Joe Biden call for so much of what Sanders has been ranting about for years: free college, paid sick leave, an exciting future of electric cars and green jobs; the list goes on. We couldn’t see it, but the smirk was likely a mix of “I…


A tirade against mask-wearing reveals how people like Carlson have emptied popular conservatism of substance

H.L. Mencken famously defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” With the Covid-19 pandemic entering (we hope) its final stages in the U.S., hardcore conservatism seems increasingly to be defined by the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may still be worried about Covid.

That, at least, is what’s suggested by this week’s bizarre attacks from people like Tucker Carlson on anyone who might consider wearing a mask outside (or having their children wear a mask outside). …


The first address by the president to a joint session of Congress is called just that: an ‘address’

Quick civics lesson. I just learned this myself and thought I would share it with you. You may be wondering why President Biden’s first major address to a joint session of Congress was not called the “State of the Union.” Isn’t that what we call the annual address? The red team sits on one side, the blue team on the other, and they applaud and scowl at alternating moments throughout the evening. It’s a stodgy football game — tennis match? I don’t know; I’m not a sports guy — of politics, policy, and pride.

The event has its own initialism…


The J&J vaccine is especially useful for marginalized populations. Did that make it easier to suspend its use?

In the wake of regulators’ lifting the suspension of the J&J vaccine (which I wrote about recently), states across the country have quickly resumed giving people the shot. This is obviously good news, particularly given that the pace of vaccination in the U.S. has been slowing of late. But it also points to the fact that J&J’s shot is not just a bit player in the U.S.’s vaccination campaign. Instead, it’s filling a role that the mRNA vaccines are not, allowing public-health officials to reach underserved populations that otherwise might be hard to vaccinate. …


These manipulative buzzwords might be all over your social media feed…

My fascination with secret code languages took root under the monkey bars. It was 1999, when a fellow seven-year-old in jelly sandals taught me the simple phonological pattern of Pig Latin. Ig-pay Atin-lay. It felt like a superpower. Upon mastering the language, I was an insider, and so was everyone else who knew it. We were cool. Intellectually superior. Morally superior, even. Anyone who couldn’t scramble their syllables like we could was simply not one of us. With language alone, power could be exercised invisibly, without leaving a trace of evidence.

Two decades later, I’d become a sociolinguist, dedicating my…


Learn a lesson from sports

For about 90 seconds, I thought the 2021 Academy Awards were going to be awesome. Regina King, who had a film she directed, One Night in Miami, up for three Oscars the year after she won one for If Beale Street Could Talk, strode into the Oscars like she owned the place. Producer Steven Soderbergh gave her an Ocean’s 11 intro to establish his goal of making the ceremony feel more intimate and personal, and you half expected Vegas fountains to rise gush behind her in celebration. I’d never seen anything like it at the Oscars before. It was exciting…

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