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Build Back Baffler

Our Year of The Baffler, 2021
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This year may have begun with a bang—the sound of a motley, social media-addled mob charging through a flimsy police barricade and into our nation’s Capitol—but it’s going out with a whimper: the long, slow death rattle of President Biden’s signature piece of legislation, which had already been stripped for parts in a doomed bid to appease the unappeasable, months before Joe Manchin announced as an early Christmas gift that he had no intention of ever voting for it. If this spineless Democratic capitulation gives you déjà vu, well, that might as well be the word of the year: How else to describe the feeling of watching the Omicron variant surge just in time to disrupt another holiday season with record numbers of daily Covid cases, only weeks after press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a question about making at-home rapid tests freely available to all Americans with mocking disdain? On the bright side, at least student loan payments have been paused for another whole ninety days, only a negligible downgrade from the $10,000 of outright cancellation Biden promised on the campaign trail, itself a fraction of the debt carried by the average borrower.

As we squint helplessly into the headlights of 2022, few things feel certain—except, of course, the imminent overturn of Roe v. Wade, a catastrophic defeat for the Democrats in next year’s midterm elections, and the continuing degradation of life on planet earth in the face of catastrophic climate change. Oh, and one more thing: that The Baffler will still be here, a perpetual thorn in the side of feckless politicians, brain-dead Beltway insiders, scheming VCs, and juvenile Marvel stans everywhere. For now, why not take a look back at some of the salvos, essays, and criticism that helped to direct our rage throughout 2021? After all, misery loves company.

California Elegy

By Ben Ehrenreich, Issue no. 55

The stockaded dream of California’s settlers lives on. You can find it in every gated and green-lawned subdivision, in the paranoid politics of frightened whites.


Shit Happened

By Dave Denison, January 21

How a democracy regains self-respect after Trump—or doesn’t.


You Are Witness to a Crime

By Debra Levine, Issue no. 55

In ACT UP, belonging and care was not conferred by blood or soil. Care was offered when you joined others on the street with the intent to bring the AIDS crisis to an end.


Surrealism’s Beating Heart

By Reed McConnell, February 18

On Leonora Carrington, Unica Zürn, and leaving musehood behind.


How to Become an Intellectual in Silicon Valley

By Aaron Timms, Issue no. 56

You now have ideas, an all-purpose acknowledgments section, and a font. How should you present everything? “Write like you talk,” Paul Graham once said, but he forgot to add: “And talk like an asshole.”


Going Beyond the Veil

By Lina Mounzer, Issue no. 56

A contradiction between private comportment and public discourse is the central theme of Leila Slimani’s book Sex and Lies: True Stories of Women’s Intimate Lives in the Arab World.


Who Owns Vaccines?

By Ann Neumann, April 15

How nationalist IP-hoarding will prolong the pandemic.


When the Party’s Over

By Brendan O’Connor, Issue no. 57

The problem for the left is not primarily to win people over to its policies, but to convince people the policies are worth fighting for.


Narrative Napalm

By Noah Kulwin, May 17

Malcolm Gladwell’s apologia for American butchery.


Freedom on the Line

By Alizeh Kohari, Issue no. 57

Pakistani fishing communities struggle inside the nets of bonded labor.


Poems from Palestine

Edited by Fady Joudah, June 1

A series of poems from Palestine, curated by the poet and translator Fady Joudah.


United in Rage

By Tarence Ray, Issue no. 58

For a brief time in eastern Kentucky, the War on Drugs was not only waged from above; it was a grassroots war, and everyone was pressured to take a side.


Molecules and Vectors

By Asad Haider, October 6

Noel Ignatiev’s radical commitments.


The Scream

By Mohammad Ali, Issue no. 58

It was clear that Muslim journalists could no longer be objective, impartial observers. We were moving targets in Modi’s India.


Left Behind

By Lydia Kiesling, November 2

The Build Back Better Act makes families a bargaining chip.


Against Artsploitation

By Dana Kopel, Issue no. 59

Behind the New Museum’s veneer of social justice was rampant exploitation.


Bad Faith

By Dale Peck, Issue no. 59

Andrew Sullivan’s infinite repression.


Macho Macho Men

By Benjamin Weil, November 23

The queer history of pumping iron.


See Your Trash

By Allyson Paty, Issue no. 60

I am trying to see the individual items that constitute my life’s trash, to remember them in a kind of elegy.