The best things I read on Donald Trump and the end of society as we know it in 2017

I posted my 10 favorite stories of 2017 earlier. I will post lots more “honorable mentions” in a bit. But, of course, Donald Trump so dominated the news that he deserved (is that the right word?) his own section.

There was a lot of good journalism done and some not so good stuff. But, these pieces were all terrific.

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* This from David From in The Atlantic is one of the most important reads of the year — not because it savages Trump (though it does) but because it showcases just how essential it is that we don’t let ourselves be beaten down by all the ways in which Trump has utilized his power.

The home run paragraph:

By filling the media space with bizarre inventions and brazen denials, purveyors of fake news hope to mobilize potential supporters with righteous wrath—and to demoralize potential opponents by nurturing the idea that everybody lies and nothing matters. A would-be kleptocrat is actually better served by spreading cynicism than by deceiving followers with false beliefs: Believers can be disillusioned; people who expect to hear only lies can hardly complain when a lie is exposed. The inculcation of cynicism breaks down the distinction between those forms of media that try their imperfect best to report the truth, and those that purvey falsehoods for reasons of profit or ideology. The New York Times becomes the equivalent of Russia’s RT; The Washington Post of Breitbart; NPR of Infowars.

The elections we’ve seen in 2018 — in Virginia and Alabama, in particular — offer some hope that cynicism isn’t the overwhelming emotion of the Trump era, but the machine will continue to push us toward that if we do not actively fight to avoid it.

* There have been so many stories about Trump and racism and America going to hell, and it’s always quite clear who the good guys and the bad guys are. This wonderful piece from Stephanie McCrummen in the Washington Post about a Muslim doctor fearful that his hometown has abandoned him plays with expectations a bit, doing a better job of drawing three-dimensional portraits of the people on both sides of the story in a way few others have done.

* I’ve read a lot of Ta-Nehisi Coates this year. I struggle with a lot of it for myriad reasons, but as a white male, it always feels like I’m being let in on a conversation between people who would normally never trust me with their feelings. This look at how race is not just a part of Trump’s rise, but the overwhelming cause of it, is so boldly argued and unflinchingly supported by history and data that it’s impossible to ignore.

* Also in The Atlantic, Adam Serwer writes what I think is arguably the most important story on Trump and race that I’ve seen. No one thinks they are a racist. Hell, even the neo-Nazis won’t just come out and say it. But racism is at the heart of so much of today’s rhetoric, and Serwer’s essay is so unwaveringly certain of itself that it’s conclusions feel genuinely earned.

* The ultimate question in our current era of tribalism: What do we do when facts don’t matter? The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert looks at why people are so willing to overlook evidence in favor of opinion and in Scientific American, Michael Shermer looks at how we argue with each other when facts aren’t enough.

* If not for the John Boehner story in my top 10, this New Yorker profile of Mike Pence probably would’ve been my favorite political profile piece of the year. Jane Mayer found so many great nuggets that it was a talking point for the left for weeks, and yet I think some of the biggest implications — for example, that Pence really isn’t that bright — were largely ignored.

* Much was made after the election of the so-called media bubble. Politico does a deep dive, and the results are… concerning.

* This tale of how the Washington Post flipped the tables on conservative scandal makers is so terrific and, for us journalists, feels like something of a superhero story.

 

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