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27 December 2013

Laurie Penny: The 20 best online pieces of 2013

Laurie Penny selects her favourite online writing from the last 12 months

By Laurie Penny

This has been an extraordinary year for political writing, and almost all of the best of it has been online. Here, in no particular order of preference or importance, are 20 pieces that have made me punch the air, made me spin about in my seat, made me laugh and made me think. Of course, they somewhat reflect my reading interests:  tech writing, feminism and social justice, political smackdowns, pop-culture reviews. Some appear on personal blogs and some on professional news websites; some went viral and some didn’t get the attention they deserved. I’ve not linked to the New Statesman, or to my own writing.

After some thought about who and what to include, I selected the following links on only two criteria: first, they were only published online (although I bent this rule for a few great pieces that appeared in print too) and second, the quality of the writing is stunning. Then I shut the internet, took a pen and paper, and scribbled the names of all the pieces I could think of that really, truly, moved me. And here they are. Most of the best pieces this year have been written by women and people of colour. Make of that what you will.

1. Ta Nehisi Coates’ blog at the Atlantic: Coates has been my favourite online writer this year, bar none. If you haven’t come across his work yet, set aside an evening to binge-read the whole thing. You won’t regret it. 

2. What Doris Taught Us: Hannah Black on Doris Lessing for Dazed Digital

3. Letter Against Fear (unsent) by poet Sean Bonney for his blog, Abandoned Buildings 

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4. Chelsea Manning and the Two Americas by Quinn Norton at Medium. (NB. this piece was published the week before Manning came out as trans, so the ‘Bradley’ name is maintained).

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5. Book of Lamentations: This review by Sam Kriss of the DSM-V as a dystopian novel at The New Inquiry is the sort of smart, original piece of critical commentary that most print editors wouldn’t understand. It broke the internet and you can see why.

6. Getting Over It: Walter Kirn on the NSA spying revelations at the New Republic. ” I will always, when given the option, push Allow. I will hide nothing. But I will conceal everything. I will be a good American.”

7. Where Are All The Women?: Sarah Nicole Prickett on the claustrophobia of girl-world at Vice Canada

8. Yes, America Has Gotten Better About Racism, but It Really Doesn’t Matter, by Mychal Denzel Smith, one of my favourite MSM bloggers, for The Nation.

9. Cockblocked by redistribution: a pick up artist in Denmark by Katie JM Baker at Dissent.

10. Gratuitous Pictures of your Grief: Lindsay Zoladz at Pitchfork talks us through mourning in the digital age. Brilliant piece. 

11. Feminism’s Tipping Point: Kate Losse at Dissent on technology and the limits of “leaning in”. 

12. It Don’t Gitmo Better than This: artist Molly Crabapple visits Guantanamo Bay for Vice.

13. Eton, by Tim Maly. “The PM deployed the army to a protest, killing 25. You are one of the soldiers. Describe how you would work through your PTSD, shame, and guilt”. 

14. Short cuts: striking at Pret A Manger. Paul Myerscough on unionising fast-food workers in London and

15. Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child: Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern at the New Inquiry rip apart Tiqqun’s gross Theory of the Young Girl. An epic takedown. 

16. The Reign of Morons is Here: Charles P Pierce mic drops at Esquire on the US government shutdown. “We have elected a national legislature that looks into the mirror and sees itself already cast in marble. We did this. We looked at our great legacy of self-government and we handed ourselves over to the reign of morons.” 

17. I’m Daisy Coleman, the teenager at the center of the Maryville rape media storm and this is what really happened 
XOJane has pioneered a particular kind of confessional, intimate female narrative where the political forever collapses into the personal, but this piece bucks the trend hard and fierce.

18. Lindy West at Kinja , the internet’s best pop culture critic, has been killing it all year.19. Remember who the enemy is 

19. Remember who the enemy is K-Punk on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. When Mark Fisher isn’t trashing left intersectionality, he’s still damn good.

20. On Calling In by Ngọc Loan Trần at Black Girl Dangerous. This is the sort of social justice piece the internet does best – a deep-feeling and deeply political intervention into a type of debate that has edged towards the toxic in recent months.