The Top Stories of 2018, According to the ToM Fam

oakland bbq lady

We know you have been waiting on pins and needles to find out who ToM’s Person of the Year for 2018 is.  We shall not give it to a bullshit category of person, such as “The Middle Americans,” “The Whistleblowers,” or “You” (seriously, wtf?).  This year TIME named 2018 as the 2018 Person of the Year.

Nah, nah, nah.  We’re going to be like TIME back in the day when it named dope individuals such as Uncle Joe Stalin and Adolf Hitler as Man of the Year.  ToM’s first inaugural Person of the Year is that singular personality who most represented America in 2018: the Oakland BBQ Lady.  Our hats off to you — if you please.

(This may be a no-hat-doffing zone.)

In any case, we asked our editors, contributors, readers, friends, and frenemies to tell us what they thought were the most important stories of the year.  Anyone who looks back on the full panoply of dazzling disaster over the last year – from Khashoggi to Kavanaugh – is bound to feel dizzy. (As one contributor noted: Parkland happened in 2018? Really?) But we tried to single out the signal events that historians may look back on as important in 2018, filtering the Jesse Singal from the noise. And though it was all pretty bad, it wasn’t all bad: we got AOC.


Christopher Staaf (Georgia State University): Not just the Parkland shootings but the reactions (David Hogg and others) and the counter-reactions to the shootings (FOX News claiming “crisis actors”, etc.)

Scott Ferguson (University of South Florida): Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal.

Walter Greason (Monmouth University): The Congressional elections — they returned the possibility of accountability in government. At the core of that story, though, the massive rise in citizen engagement since the 2016 election and the consequent surge in political corruption/voter suppression.

Amy Elizabeth Manlapas: Not in order: 1. Parkland Student Activism 2. Family Separation 3. Blatant Power Grabs from GOP (WI, NC, GA) 4. Rise of violence against journalists.

Erik Greenberg: I would suggest that one of the bigger stories is what we might call phase 2 of the Trump administration. Now that the adults (craven though they were) have left the room, he is unfettered and even more unhinged. If the last 2 months or so of 2018 are any indication, we are headed for still more dangerous and contentious times ahead. But at least we don’t have to deal with her e-mails, right? Whew!

Karen L. Cox (UNC Charlotte): Unleashed white supremacy that’s turned people into everything from hall monitors to vigilantes.

Sabrica Barnett: White people calling cops on black folks for doing mundane things.

Saira Mazhar: Climate change and environmental disasters.

Jason Tebbe (ToM Senior Ben Sasse Correspondent): Kids in cages, the rise of a mass youth-led anti gun violence movement, AOC as representative of a social democratic politics rising among millennials, American government inaction in the face of climate change, stolen elections, right wing populist nationalism in the West, statist nationalism in China and India, trade wars and general breakdown of the old international order, and the inescapable fact that America’s institutions have completely failed us.

Lauren MacIvor Thompson (Georgia State University): Oh boy. Hard to even sort through it. As a parent, the kids in cages thing kept me awake at night, followed closely by the Preppy Rapist they confirmed to SCOTUS. I couldn’t stop thinking about him sniggering while writing an anti-Griswold/Roe opinion.

Danny Burazer: Climate change on an unstoppable course to destroy the people that accelerated the warming.

Yuri Gama (University of Massachusetts Amherst): For me? The growing right-wing populist wave around the World. The election of Bolsonaro in Brazil fueled this wave in an unexpected way.

Romeo Guzmán (Fresno State): Anything by Aura Bogado.

Alex Cummings (Georgia State University): The Khashoggi murder seems like it might be more important than it seems at first. Yes, yes, the Saudis can starve 7 million Yemenis and no one cares, but a Western-affiliated journalist dies and blah blah blah.  But the ramifications may be serious for the psychotic kingdom, with a dithering and feckless chief patron in the US, a weakening grip on global oil production, and increasing isolation within the broader world.  Other big stories: Assad’s apparent victory in the Syrian civil war.  The reenergizing of a democratic socialist Left in the US, and at least some institutional check on the Orange Menace’s power.  And the continuing catastrophe in Puerto Rico, which was completely ignored by the US government and media in 2018 (except, of course, for my girl Alynda).

Aimée Castenell: Election mismanagement and stolen elections, particularly as we move into 2019, 2020 — people need to wake up and use these 2018 elections as instructive examples of future challenges.

Our friends at Age of Revolutions: The Gilets Jaunes movement is significant for the history of populism.

And our most-read stories of 2018:

  1. Erin Bartram, The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind, February 12, 2018
  2. Jason Tebbe, A Requiem for the Faculty Office, May 21, 2018
  3. R. Mike Burr, Mr. Burr Is Sick Today: Teaching in the Age of Mass Shooting, August 2, 2018
  4. Tyler Caffee, The Al-Askari Story: How an Iraqi Migrant Brought Soccer to Visalia, February 19, 2018
  5. Erik Greenberg, The Meme that Cried Hitler: American Alternatives to Hitler Hyperbole in the Age of Trump, August 14, 2018
  6. Jason Tebbe, The “Ground Zero Mosque” Controversy Was a Harbinger of Our Times, March 21, 2018
  7. Edna Diaz Ortega and Elaine Vollmer, Fresno City College Women’s Soccer: A Brief History, July 26, 2018
  8. Jason Resnikoff, The Bad Ivy: Columbia and the Long Struggle for Graduate Student Employee Rights, May 5, 2018
  9. Will Greer, The Nazi “Miracle”: Germany’s Unlikely Conquest of France, July 17, 2018
  10. Stanley Thangaraj, Our Family Values, and What We Truly Value, July 18, 2018