Top Posts of 2016

By Doctor Comrade

Two years of Handsy Comprehensive Exam. I said last year that I was grateful for our audience, and I have only grown more grateful as more time has passed. I feel incredibly fortunate to see our traffic grow each month, our posts reach a wider audience, and more readers engaging with our content. I'm also happy to see that many of our older posts--especially the top posts from 2015--have continued to be read and have stayed relevant. But I'm also very proud of the work we produced this year, so it's with great pleasure that I present our top posts of 2016.

1. Screaming into the White Abyss: What I Learned from White Supremacist Twitter

Millions of Americans genuinely believe that Donald Trump, a fascist, would make an excellent president, and so they find themselves either sympathizing with or aligning with white nationalists and white supremacists. I spent a significant amount of time engaging with white supremacists on Twitter, learning firsthand about how they view their place in the world and why they find fascism so appealing. I asked, "why are Trump’s followers so scary? It’s because they have fallen victim to the fascist impulse: the appealing idea of 'making America great again,' as in taking back power from the Democrats, the immigrants, the blacks, the women, the UN, and the Chinese.... The Third Reich and Imperial Fate of Rome are ideals of racial, nationalist, and moralist hegemony, which American neo-fascists have embraced in the twenty-first century in their utopian visions for the US."


2. Two Forms of Segregation: How Transgender Discrimination is Similar to and Different from Racial Segregation - Problematic Thoughts Episode 08

In a clear act of transphobic segregationism, North Carolina overturned local ordinances that allowed transgender people to use restrooms in accord with their gender identity. The LGBTQ rights struggle has been widely compared to the African-American civil rights movement of the 1960s, and it's hard not to see the parallels between minority groups fighting against dominant cultural norms and legal rules that prevent them from having full equality: in effect, the legislature and governor have codified "men only" and "women only" restrooms similar to the "whites only" restrooms of the Jim Crow South.

However, there are important differences between this law and Jim Crow laws that underscore why the struggle for transgender rights is taking place over private spaces. In general terms, many Jim Crow laws affected black people's access to public accommodations, like schools, train cars, water fountains, and restaurants. Similarly, these anti-trans laws are a form of de jure segregation because they codify restrictions that affect access to public accommodations by forcing trans people to use facilities they do not want to use. The result is also de facto social segregation, where trans students may be afraid to attend school, trans people may avoid going to restaurants or other public spaces because they don't wish to go in the wrong bathroom, and trans women may avoid socializing with cis-women. But these laws differ from their racist predecessors in one important way: LGBT people can hide in plain sight, people of color cannot. That's what makes this kind of discrimination particularly insidious: it calls for an unprecedented level of government surveillance.


3. The Cuckolding Obsession: Why Has "Cuck" Become a Right-Wing Buzzword?

Our language is awash in terms men use to criticize, undermine, or call into question the sexuality and masculinity of their peers, like fag and faggot, beta, homo, queer (though it has been reclaimed by LGBTQ activists), poof, tranny, and others. But one new term has captured the right-wing imagination and become the default slur deployed by many right-wing activists: "cuck," short for cuckold. Its recent usage indicates that right-wingers are particularly insecure about their masculinity, their place in the world, and the burgeoning multicultural society that is forming around them.

In American right-wing discourse, "cuck" has largely replaced "fag" in many ways (though "fag" is far from dead). Particularly, it appears like you can call someone a "cuckold" on the air and in serious print, but you can't call someone a "fag" anymore. Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart have been using the term "cuck" to attack both conservatives and liberals for being weak or unmanly, yet it seems unthinkable that either Limbaugh or Breitbart would dare to use "fag" anymore. Of course, "cuck" fits into a long lineage of homophobic, racist, and sexist attacks on political opponents.


4. Donald Trump's Repulsive Beliefs

A far-from-comprehensive list of disgusting, racist, xenophobic, sexist statements and beliefs of Donald Trump. The list covers war crimes, warmongering, endorsements from white supremacists, racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, support for violence, and other terrible things.


5. The Commodification of Queer Bodies

The decision of two Florida hospitals not to charge victims of the Pulse massacre for medical expenses tells us about what kind of tragedy is required for healthcare to be affordable in this country. The Pulse attack was undeniably an appalling act of terror against a vulnerable population, and it left 49 people dead and 53 others injured. It has become politically expedient to treat the Pulse attack as a talking point, in the name of altruism, in the name of fighting "radical Islam," and in the name of protecting LGBTQ people from foreign hostility. The support shown for the Pulse victims, the fear of Islamic terrorism, and the increasing national support for LGBTQ acceptance made the Pulse massacre an opportunity for Islamophobic reactionaries and capitalist opportunists alike.


6. Three Historians Debate Hillary Clinton's Credibility Gap

I discussed with two historian friends of mine Ezra Klein's article on why Hillary Clinton is so misunderstood. The conversation largely focused on Clinton's oscillating approval ratings, her inability to convince white working-class voters that she genuinely cares about them, and the incongruities between her foreign and domestic policies.


8. The Police Are Being Infiltrated by White Supremacists

I attempted to compile a list of all recent incidents where members of police departments around the US were exposed as white supremacists. This came on the tails of a report from the FBI that declared that white supremacists have specifically targeted law enforcement departments with the intent of carrying out white supremacist violence. I discovered at least sixteen separate instances when the KKK or other hate groups infiltrated the police or military.


7. The American Flag is the Lapel Pin on the Enforcers of Injustice

Colin Kaepernick's well publicized protest against police brutality and racial oppression has drawn the ire of numerous critics, who have called him disrespectful, unpatriotic, anti-American, and anti-veteran. But in these criticisms, I see nothing but thinly veiled racism on the part of white reactionaries who demand unending loyalty and subservience from a man of color. The language they use to criticize Kaepernick is truly Orwellian: they demand patriotism and respect toward the flag because the flag is a symbol of the Republic, and they do not see the irony in attacking Kaepernick's free speech and freedom of conscience.

Perhaps it's because of white privilege. Kaepernick's detractors think he's abusing the flag of the country that has so graciously granted him the right to protest in the first place. As if to ask, how dare he criticize this great country, which made him so successful? For their part, these critics seem to have no perspective on what the American flag symbolizes to many people, in this country and in others. To many people, it's a symbol of freedom and prosperity. To others, who have witnessed oppression carried out by those who march under that flag, the flag is anything but a symbol of freedom.


9. Discipline and Sexuality in Post-Colonial Criticism: Michel Foucault's Enduring Legacy

French theorist, philosopher, and historian Michel Foucault is the most frequently cited scholar in the humanities. For historians, particularly, Foucault’s formulations of power, discourse analysis, and genealogy have been foundational for cultural and social history, not only methodologically but also as a means by which to address modernity. Seminal studies on insanity, the social sciences, intellectual history, the penal system, and sexuality have in many ways defined how power is analyzed by historians and practitioners of cultural studies, gender studies, queer theory, and post-colonial scholarship. But Foucault’s work is highly problematic and flawed: it is overly general, Eurocentric, and unempirical (or anti-empirical). Though many post-colonial thinkers may have moved on from Foucault, his gravitational pull is inescapable. This is not to say that Foucault inaugurated all post-colonial scholarship or even made it possible; however, his gravitas in the humanities demands a broad and liberal reading of his oeuvre in order to understand how numerous Foucauldian concepts have appeared and continue to appear in post-colonial work. Thus, Foucault informs not only how post-colonial historiography was and is written, but also how historians can view post-colonial theory as it is applicable to the discipline of History.


10. What Does Trump's Election Say About Democracy?

59.7 million Americans decided an openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, fascist monster will be our next president. 59.7 million Americans decided that, despite his dozens of scandals and gaffes, Donald Trump should be the leader of the armed forces, federal judiciary, executive agencies, and the sole representative of American foreign policy. Democracy is not dead in America, but it is dying. And it's not merely because a fascist was just legitimized by the American electorate. Rather, democracy is dying because there are two distinct Americas, and they do not trust each other, and they do not empathize with each other. It is clear that everyone who voted for Donald Trump refused to hear the pleas of their fellow Americans, who begged to be protected from fascism and state violence promised by Trump.


Thank you all so much for reading. I hope 2017 is much better. - DC