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Based on a true story. Author, journalist, screenwriter, social justice bard.
BBC/Neal Street: on the Covid-safe set of Call The Midwife

Another summer, another lockdown. Last night, we watched a small, rowdy right-wing rally against our city’s latest, necessary quarantine order lollop along under our window, all of them hollering their ambient refusal to be inconveninced so that their neighbors don’t die.

There’s no neat slogan for how much hurts to be a person at times like this. Times when social trust is threadbare, and taking minimal care of yourself and the people around you feels like running up the down escalator, wearing yourself to exhaustion just to stand still.

This is not an essay about any of that.

This is…


Normal is never coming back. We’ve got to be gentle with each other.

Photo by David Boarder Giles.

This is a dispatch from another planet.

For millions of people, for the rest of this mad, sad year, the world will return in pieces. Instead of remembering lasts we will start counting firsts. The first day the kids went to school. The first time you went to a bar. The first time you went to a bar and it felt normal, as if normal were a thing you could lose and get back.

Normal is never coming back. Not ever. But the aftertimes are coming. Almost…


AOC tells it like it is.

Pain has no place in politics. That’s the rule. And it’s definitely the rule if people with political power have caused you pain. You don’t talk about your trauma. You don’t show the damage. You smile at your abusers. You make things comfortable. No matter what outrages are inflicted on you and people like you, you suck it up and you move on.

It’s been a month since armed white supremacists stormed the U.S. Capitol, but conservatives are already acting as if it was aeons ago. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is not moving on.

Ocasio-Cortez recently described her experience during the Capitol…


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

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?

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…


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…


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.


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. …


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…


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…

Laurie Penny

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