Conservatives have declared war on abortion. That’s not about ‘protecting the family’ - it’s about controlling women.

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Whose families matter? As the clock ticks down on the first Trump era, conservative concern-trolling has given up on original thought and is just playing the hits. This week in America, haunted Stepfordian battlebot Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed as Supreme Court Justice, with a farcically undemocratic mandate to give the Christian Right everything their shrunken, spiteful hearts desire. …


What happened to sisterhood?

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image by Charles Hutchins via Creative Commons

Last week, beloved children’s author J.K. Rowling briefly became the world’s most famous transphobe. After the Harry Potter writer spent days defending transphobia on Twitter and in her blog, writing that she was “worried about the new trans activism,” millions of distraught fans and confused bystanders were left wondering what the hell was going on.

But Rowling’s public spasm of self-delusion isn’t unusual. It’s part of a larger, weirder pattern of prejudice. Whenever I’m sharing war stories with American progressives, one of the first things they tend to ask is why there are so many prominent British transphobes, and why respectable left-wing publications like the Guardian publish their writing on the subject so often. …


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National Guard soldiers in Downtown Los Angeles, May 2020. Photography by Samuel Braslow

The human heart is shoddy at sustaining outrage. In any ongoing crisis — a pandemic, a police crackdown, several centuries of brutal racial segregation or all of the above- people have a funny way of getting used to it. Normalising obscenity is a human instinct, unless we are in mortal peril. Confronting injustice is uncomfortable. It’s painful. It’s embarrassing.

To avoid discomfort and shame and pain, we tell ourselves that everything’s fine. We tell ourselves that it was all very dramatic for a bit there, but it’ll be back to normal soon. We pretend that the burning earth is stable beneath us. …


Edvard Munch turned his mental struggles into spectacular work. But do artists need to be tortured to achieve greatness?

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Edvard Munch, Ashes, 1925; photo: courtesy the Munch Museum, Oslo.

Produced in Partnership with SFMOMA, where Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed is on view until October 9th, 2017.


I went backstage at the biggest political show on earth- and found America telling stories about itself.

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Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

“America is great because America is good.”- Hillary Clinton.

“We dream of a brand new start-
But we dream in the dark, for the most part.”
— Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton.

When I was a child, I always half-suspected that America wasn’t real. It had to be made up. It was too good and too simple a story to make sense in the everyday world of bus stops and breakfast cereals and adults who invariably let you down.

Living and sometimes working here as a grown-up has not changed my opinion. …


Here we are in the desert of moderate liberalism. The storm has hit, and nobody was prepared.

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Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Banquo: It will be rain tonight.

First murderer: Let it come down!

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

It’s high noon on the first day of the Democratic National Convention and the block is, in every sense of the word, hot. It’s almost a hundred degrees in the shade. It’s the kind of weather where dogs run mad and bite their owners, and otherwise-sensible liberals do the same.

The fix, you see, was in from the start.

On the eve of the event, paranoid outlaw crypto-justice trolls Wikileaks released thousands of hacked emails that told the world what most of us already suspected: that parts of the Democratic National Committee were scheming against Bernie Sanders from the get-go. The air gap between suspicion and confirmation slammed shut around any hope for a peaceful convention, as thousands of protesters did their damnedest to make their displeasure felt outside the Democrats’ ring of steel. …


What my evening with Milo told me about Twitter’s biggest troll, the death of reason, and the crucible of A-list con-men that is the Republican National Convention.

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Drew Angerer / Getty Images

ROS: Fire!
GUIL: Where?
ROS: It’s all right — I’m demonstrating the misuse of free speech. To prove that it exists. (2.68–70)
—Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

This is a story about how trolls took the wheel of the clown car of modern politics. It’s a story about the insider traders of the attention economy. It’s a story about fear and loathing and Donald Trump and you and me. It’s not a story about Milo Yiannopoulos, the professional alt-right provocateur who was just banned from Twitter permanently for sending racist abuse to actor Leslie Jones.

But it does start with Milo. So I should probably explain how we know each other and how, on a hot, weird night in Cleveland, I came to be riding in the backseat of his swank black trollmobile to the gayest neo-fascist rally at the RNC. …


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Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

‘Make America Safe Again.’

That was the theme of the opening night of the 2016 Republican Convention, with such luminaries as Duck Dynasty star Will Robertson taking the stage in place of Republican grandees who have steered clear of Trump’s toxic platform.

It raised the inevitable questions: safe from what? And safe for whom?

For people of colour, Native Americans, LGBT people, minorities, migrants and anyone with the presumption to be poor, this country has never been safe.

Americans are afraid. This is what I’ve learned since I stumbled off the world’s hottest inter-city flight on Saturday and into this terrifying theatre of the id. Almost all Americans are afraid, for a variety of different reasons, but the fear is the constant. The talk is not just of terrorism, but of terror itself, free-floating, of insecurity and humiliation for which the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, offers respite if you are straight, white and right-thinking. …


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That was the slogan on flyers at the Women Vote Trump fringe event at the Republican National Convention. And this was the scene a few minutes after the advertised start time. None of the people sitting down in this picture are Trump supporters. They’re all with the media.

By the time the event actually kicked off—half an hour late when it became clear that no, nobody else was showing up—there were, to my count, thirty-five people in the room. That included the six speakers, the organizers, volunteers and press.

This was somewhat awkward, as the speakers spent much of their time ragging on the ‘liberal media’ and its apparent trade in lies. After blaming Obamacare for wage stagnation, Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn launched into a diatribe against all cable news, calling CBS the ‘Clinton B-S Network.’ …


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Preliminary advice for web writers on managing the weird world of the dead-tree press

I am a web writer. Years after arriving in the weird little soap bubble of the British commentariat, I was still introduced as ‘a blogger’, and sometimes as ‘that blogger girl.’ This was despite the fact that I had a column at a national newspaper. The moniker came flavoured with a soupçon of suspicion — she’s one of those young shavers who are here to take our jobs, or change our jobs, or make our jobs less lucrative. Making the transition from web to print was some evidence of having ‘made it’ — evidence that I was a serious writer, or at least was to be treated as one on a probationary basis, until this monstrous regiment of web-loggers was sent back to the basement where we belonged, along with the spiders and roaches and Moorlocks and mouth-breathing libertarians. ‘Blogger’ was a slur. …

About

Laurie Penny

Based on a true story. Author, journalist, social justice bard. Contributing Editor at New Statesman. Other words: Guardian, Time, Buzzfeed, The Baffler.

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