Weekend Jolt: NR’s Biggest Stories of 2022

Dear Weekend Jolter,

It's that time again, when I climb up to the attic and rummage ...

WITH JUDSON BERGER December 31 2022
WITH JUDSON BERGER December 31 2022

NR's Biggest Stories of 2022

Dear Weekend Jolter,

It's that time again, when I climb up to the attic and rummage through NR's trunks of news clippings for the biggest stories of the year.

I start once more with the customary caveat: Some gems will be missed, scoops passed over like so many unappreciated vats of pistachio ice cream. This will be entirely my fault. But omissions are the product of carelessness, not malice. That in mind, please read on for the Weekend Jolt's compilation of highlights from 2022. The criteria are opaque and ever-changing but generally factor in some combination of traffic and impact, with extra points given to exclusives and stories that contain multiple references to King Crimson.

In no particular order, the listicle begins . . . right here:

Looks Like Somebody's Been Reading the Site

This is the only editorial I'll include on this list, but NR's statement opposing not just the possibility of another Trump presidency but another presidential race with him as its focus generated a huge response. It was widely read — including by Trump himself, it would appear, considering he soon lashed out at NR, wishing for us to "die peacefully." We didn't. Here's that editorial:

Trump's success in imposing his fixations and candidate choices on the GOP played a large role in the GOP debacle in the midterms. This political backdrop raises the possibility that his low-energy announcement speech may be a damp squib.

Certainly, GOP voters should give up on the idea that Trump is a winner. After securing the GOP nomination with plurality support in 2016, Trump didn't exceed 47 percent in either of his campaigns, winning in 2016 with 46.1 percent and losing in 2020 with 46.8. This is, to say the least, a very narrow electoral path, and one must assume that with all that's transpired since 2020, Trump is weaker than in his first two races.

The party's position has significantly eroded under his hegemony. When Trump announced his first campaign in 2015, Republicans were coming off a historic wave election, which brought them to 54 Senate seats, and 247 House seats. Republicans then lost the House in 2018, lost the Senate in 2020, and blew a chance for large gains this year. Now, they are looking at 49 or 50 Senate seats, and a razor-thin margin of control of the House of Representatives. On top of this, Republicans had 31 governorships; they now have 25, and have lost crucial ground in state legislatures, too.

A lesson of the midterms was that association with Trump and "stop the steal" were liabilities, and no one is more associated with both of those things than Donald Trump himself. Democrats helped choose MAGA candidates that were eminently defeatable in GOP primaries this year, and nominating Trump — whom Democrats are pining to run against again — in 2024 would replicate this experience on a much larger scale.

Needless to say, Trump is a magnetic political figure who has managed to bond countless millions of Republicans to him. Many GOP voters appreciate his combativeness and hate his enemies, who so often engaged in excesses in pursuit of him. Once he won the nomination in 2016, they understandably voted for him in 2016 and 2020, given the alternatives. But the primaries won't present a choice between Trump and progressives with calamitous priorities for the nation, but other Republicans who aren't, in contrast to him, monumentally selfish or morally and electorally compromised. (And it should be added, won't be 78 years old if elected and ineligible to serve two terms.)

It's too early to know what the rest of the field will look like, except it will offer much better alternatives than Trump.

The answer to Trump's invitation to remain personally and politically beholden to him and his cracked obsessions for at least another two years, with all the chaos that entails and the very real possibility of another highly consequential defeat, should be a firm, unmistakable, No.

Everyone's a Critic

Sebastian Junger's piece for the magazine on the cancellation of the documentary Jihad Rehab should be required reading on the topic of how certain industries — entertainment being one — have granted far too much veto power to those who've done nothing to earn it. Cancel-mob politics, identity obsession, cowardice . . . it's all here:

One of the early critics of [Meg] Smaker's film was a Lebanese-American filmmaker named Jude Chehab, who had a brief conversation with Smaker at the Hot Springs Film Retreat in 2019. It was the first time that Smaker realized that her film might be controversial. "She hadn't seen the film," Smaker recalls, "but seemed unhappy that I — as a non-Muslim — was making a film about Muslims." After she saw it, Chehab went on to write on the TRT World website: "The only perspective needed is the Muslim one. . . . When I, a practicing Muslim woman, say that this film is problematic, my voice should be stronger than a white woman saying that it isn't."

Strangely, the only film listed on Chehab's website, I'm Free, Now You're Free, is about an African-American woman who had been imprisoned in the United States. (Chehab did not respond to an email seeking comment but later said that her conversation with Smaker was about the title, "Jihad Rehab.")

Despite contradictions and inconsistencies, filmmakers were electrified by the attacks on Smaker and quickly piled on. "And she's gonna make millions when Apple or Amazon or Netflix buys that doc," Mustafa Dustin Craun wrote on Twitter. "Who funds these films?" asked Violeta Ayala. "An entirely white team behind a film about Yemeni and South Arabian men, a very complex issue framed by white ppl . . ." 

Many of the women attacking Smaker belonged to a well-connected advocacy group called the "Brown Girls Doc Mafia" (BGDM) and were anything but outliers; the authorship principle had already come to dominate the doc world. Originally a resource for the more prosaic needs of independent filmmakers, the Brown Girls Documentary Mafia has grown to almost 2,000 members — some in prominent positions throughout the industry. The group never attacked Jihad Rehab or acted in any kind of organized way for or against anyone; it simply provides crucial support, resources, and affiliations for filmmakers. But some of its members have very strong views on social justice.

Embassy Row

Jimmy Quinn's been owning the China beat all year, and he got the pre-election scoop on a rather creepy China connection that was discovered inside the office of a Virginia rep:

A House Democratic staffer was fired after her outreach to other congressional aides allegedly on behalf of the Chinese embassy was revealed this week, National Review has learned. After an investigation found that the staffer had acted improperly, her boss, Representative Don Beyer, swiftly removed her.

"Congressman Beyer was totally unaware of these activities prior to being contacted by the House Sergeant At Arms," Aaron Fritschner, his deputy chief of staff, told National Review in a statement this morning. "As soon as he learned of them, he followed every directive he was given by security officials. The staffer in question is no longer employed by the office of Congressman Beyer." . . .

One congressional aide told NR that after he ignored several emails from Chinese embassy staff requesting a meeting about one of his boss's bills earlier this year, [Barbara] Hamlett, a 34-year veteran of Capitol Hill, called his office and then showed up in person, asking him to step outside for a conversation.

"So she comes to my office and asks that we step out into the hallway, and she says she is friends with the embassy and that they have been trying to get in contact with me," the congressional aide said, on condition of anonymity. She wanted to schedule a lunch. He agreed to coffee.

But when the aide showed up for the meeting in June, Hamlett didn't participate in the discussion. In fact, she sat at a different table with a female embassy staff member, NR was told. The aide then had a one-on-one discussion with a male embassy staffer, who was "talking about one of my boss's bills. They do not like it."

'Biden's Lost Marbles'

It's been a strange year of Biden-watching. The tangents, the fabrications, the gaffes all seem more unsettling, more disconnected from reality than they used to be. Jim Geraghty chronicled the president's "signs of decline" in this widely read magazine piece:

This fall, Biden has contended that the economy was "strong as hell"; claimed, off the cuff, that the situation in Ukraine was headed toward "Armageddon" (while no one else in the U.S. government seemed to know what he was talking about); insisted that his student-loan bailout was passed by Congress (it wasn't); claimed he had brought down the cost of energy (he hadn't, by any measure of any form, since the start of his presidency — electricity, natural gas, gasoline, diesel, heating oil); exhibited a long, odd pause during an interview with MSNBC's Jonathan Capehart; declared that John Fetterman's wife would make "a great lady in the Senate"; and, during remarks, appeared to forget that Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana had died in a car accident a month earlier.

He has boasted, "I got my start at one of those other HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities] — Delaware State University." Biden attended the University of Delaware, not Delaware State University. He has also claimed he "was sort of raised in the Puerto Rican community at home, politically," not specifying whether this was the Puerto Rican community of Scranton, Pa., or Mayfield, Del. Biden claimed he had talked to the doctors who "invented" "that insulin drug for diabetes." Both died before Biden was born.

The Crudité Candidate

This piece of pre-election reporting by Brittany Bernstein on the Pennsylvania Senate race — specifically on the views of voters in a county that went overwhelmingly for Trump in 2020 — turned out to be prescient:

Republicans and independents in Duncannon, Pa., are not all sold on Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz.

Among the Oz skeptics is George McKelvey, 50, whom National Review spoke to at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost on Monday afternoon. McKelvey offered to speak on behalf of a group sitting near the bar — where a sign with a bald eagle reads "this place is politically incorrect, we say Merry Christmas, one nation under God, we salute our flag and give thanks to our troops. If this offends you, leave." . . .

McKelvey, asked if he is registered with a party, pointed to his shirt promoting the Irish Republican Army.

Despite being a Republican and voting strictly party line in presidential elections, McKelvey said he does not plan to vote for Oz: "He might be a Republican but he's crooked. He's bad. He's a Democrat. He's not the right fit."

'Pandora's Box'

Over the summer, Caroline Downey did a deep (and kind of dirty) dive into the chat rooms of a trans youth organization, as discovered by a Brooklyn mom. We all learned some new vocabulary that day:

"I have been looking for a binder, but I have no clue where to get one? Does anyone know where I could get a reliable binder?" a gender-confused adolescent asked on TrevorSpace, the anonymous online forum for LGBT youth hosted by the well-funded and influential Trevor Project.

An adult user replied with a list of brands that sell binders, which are devices worn under the clothes to conceal female breasts, adding "I really recommend TransTape."

"If it's your first time I started with TomboyX compression tops," another adult wrote.

This is the startling scene Rachel, a Brooklyn mom with a gender-dysphoric child, discovered when she went undercover as a pre-teen in the chat, searching for resources for detransitioners. She found none.

Instead, she opened a "Pandora's box" of sexually perverse content, aggressive gender re-assignment referrals, adults encouraging minors to hide their transitions from their parents, and many troubled kids in need of psychological counseling. She shared screenshots of the chat with National Review.

Looks Like Somebody's Been Reading the Site (and Magazine), Part Two

This is not to highlight one particular article but an entire issue: "Overcoming 1619" from January. From Dan McLaughlin's magisterial overview of slavery's global history to Wilfred Reilly's essay on what Nikole Hannah-Jones left out of her widely challenged 1619 Project and more, this issue stands as a work of scholarship. The Times journalist, naturally, responded by simply sneering at it on Twitter. Dan McLaughlin then countered point by point, a response to the response you can find here:

My own contribution to the issue, on how American slavery fits within the global history of slavery, runs nearly 6,000 words and covers seven pages of the print magazine. Hannah-Jones could find nothing to say except to screenshot a single paragraph and grouse that it was "straight out of 1910."

Nowhere does she attempt to argue that a single thing in that paragraph is wrong, and she — like you, dear reader — is free to peruse my list of sources. It really is not even clear what she finds objectionable. . . .

I accept the implicit concession here: She has no basis to dispute anything I wrote, which is why she did not dispute anything I wrote.

That's just a taste. You can scroll through these other NR highlights from the year — including the magazine’s historic issue upon the fall of Roe — all while waiting for that blasted ball to descend:

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Covid Truths Come Out

Mark Antonio Wright: Why the Russians Are Struggling

Mary Eberstadt: What the Nurses Knew

Jimmy Quinn: Christian Detainee Who Escaped Xinjiang Camp Recalls Mysterious Injections: 'Everything Was Painful'

Christine Rosen: Kamala Harris Finds Her Level of Incompetence

Andrew McCarthy: Roe Was Never Law

Andrew McCarthy: Trump Makes His Indictment a Certainty

Tom Cotton: China's Shameful Olympics

Ian Schwartz: University of Virginia Students Abandon Jefferson's Legacy

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Extraordinary Vapidity of Kamala Harris

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Parents' Revolt

Charles C. W. Cooke: On 60 Minutes, President Biden Admits His Student-Loan Order Is Illegal

Ryan Mills: Democratic Operative Rewrote Pennsylvania County’s School Covid Rules, Data Show

Ryan Mills & Caroline Downey: Inside the Pro-Abortion Movement to Dox, Intimidate Supreme Court Justices

Caroline Downey: University of Wyoming Sorority Girl Speaks Out on Transgender Pledge: ‘He’s Just Calling Himself a Girl’

Dan McLaughlin: How the 2012 Election Deranged America

Dan McLaughlin: How Trump Cost Republicans the Senate

Ramesh Ponnuru: Never Again

Hollie McKay: How Life in Kyiv Changed in an Instant: 'I Feel Like I Am in a Dream'

John McCormack: American Abortion Laws Do Not Require Delaying Treatment for a Mother's Life-Threatening Condition

Luther Ray Abel: Seasickness and Splendor on a Sail to Michigan

Rich Lowry: Joe Biden Is Not Normal

Nate Hochman: MLB's Unseemly Support for Youth Gender Transitions

Nate Hochman: Exclusive: Federal Judge Vows to Stop Hiring Law Clerks from Yale Law School

Philip Klein: The $1.7 Trillion Omnibus Is a Scandal

Jay Nordlinger: One Ukrainian's Life

Kat Rosenfield: Why I Keep Getting Mistaken for a Conservative

Brian Allen: Arlington's Beautiful National Cemetery

Madeleine Kearns: Watch: Mother Berates Male Who Identifies as a Mother at the NCAA Swim Championships

Kevin Hassett: Is the Housing Bubble About to Burst?

Armond White: The Slap and the Apology: Will Smith's Most Important Performance

Christian Schneider: Soccer Is Unjust and Un-American

As always, thanks for reading, this year and, I hope, in the year to come. (And if you're hitting that paywall still on the articles above, have we mentioned the benefits of a digital subscription?) Happy New Year, everyone.


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