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TNR’s 10 Best Stories of 2021

Here are the stories our editors and readers alike loved this year.

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY DALE MAY; PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN VOSS/REDUX

How Tucker Carlson Lost It

By Alex Shephard

He once craved responsibility and tried to give a right-wing audience real news. They didn’t want it. And he adjusted with a vengeance.

COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

The Chilling Popularity of Anti-Vax Deathbed Videos

By Eleanor Cummins

Why are so many people drawn to stories and videos of the unvaccinated dying of Covid-19—and, at the final moment, wishing for the vaccine?

ILLUSTRATION BY JOAN YANG

The Incoherence of American History

By Osita Nwanevu

We ascribe too much meaning to the early years of the republic.

ILLUSTRATION BY SALLY DENG

The Myth of Regenerative Ranching

By Jan Dutkiewicz and Gabriel N. Rosenberg

The purveyors of “grass-fed” beef want you to believe that it solves meat’s environmental problem. But this is merely a branding exercise, not a climate solution.

ILLUSTRATION BY KELSEY DAKE

How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines

By Alexander Zaitchik

Through his hallowed foundation, the world’s de facto public health czar has been a stalwart defender of monopoly medicine.

ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN STAUFFER

The Radical Young Intellectuals Who Want to Take Over the American Right

By Sam Adler-Bell

They hate the establishment. They want to destroy the system. Meet the illiberal upstarts trying to remake conservatism.

YOUTUBE

The Troubled Insurance Sales Firm Behind Those Joe Namath Ads for Medicare Advantage

By Joanna Robin

Benefytt Technologies has been shaking off lawsuits and regulators for years. It’s now peddling Medicare Advantage plans to seniors—where if someone picks a subpar plan, the results can be disastrous.

UNDERWOOD ARCHIVES/GETTY

The End of Friedmanomics

By Zachary D. Carter

The famed economist’s theories were embraced by Beltway power brokers in both parties. Finally, a Democratic president is turning the page on a legacy of ruin.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY STACEY ROZICH

The Rise and Fall of an Herbal Viagra Scammer

By Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

An internet huckster got rich selling a sex enhancement supplement named Stiff Nights. Then the FDA sampled his wares.

DAVID LEVENSON/GETTY

The Madness of Naomi Wolf

By Liza Featherstone

The Beauty Myth author has gone from being a feminist icon to an anti-vaxxer banned by Twitter. But she’s always struggled with the truth.


Our Best Podcast Episode of the Year

ILLUSTRATION BY ZACH HAZARD VAUPEN

Rats on the Brain

By The Politics of Everything

In the pandemic, reports of rat sightings have risen dramatically. But is it all in our heads?