Welcome to the Weekly Dystopia: Here's what to expect
America is losing critical values. Read news, analysis and opinion why that's making us an unhappy place.
We live in strange times.
Read any number of news stories these days and you can see the dismal state of affairs. New developments are emerging that would have been laughed at as relics of the past and unthinkable today just a few years ago. At the dawn of this publication, we're facing the threat of nuclear war as Vladimir Putin, scrambling to defend his challenged gains in Ukraine, blusters over the possible use of Russia's atomic arsenal. The invasion itself marked the first time since World War II one European country marched into another to claim total dominion over it.
It's potentially apocalyptic in scale, but consistent with other major developments in recent years. The coronavirus pandemic dropped major industrialized nations, including the United States, to their knees. The plague brought about an enormous death toll and had a seismic impact many thought would be left to a bygone era given our current medical knowledge and advances. Making it worse was mass hysteria cultivated by a corporate media desperate for ratings without regard for any contextualization.
War, pestilence and death. Is famine around the corner? Another Horseman of the Apocalypse galloping towards us would be par for the course at this point.
It's not just the developments we're seeing in the news or experiencing in a political or societal level, but interpersonal as well. You can feel it, right? There's a tension within our communities, an atomization into loneliness brought about by any number of influences ranging from globalization, a growing sense of entitlement rather than individual responsibility and business interests that would like nothing more than reduce us to mindless producers and consumers.
The Weekly Dystopia is going to capture to all that. The media initiative, through our news, analysis and opinion, will try to make sense of these developments, why we're seeing them and how they fit into the grander view of our increasingly dystopic world.
A key theme I expect to emerge in this publication: Much of our current state of affairs (but not all) is the result of our society abandoning of institutions and values that have made Western Civilization safe and prosperous and, in many ways, the pinnacle of human history. Many of these concepts emerged in the Enlightenment, such as free speech, others have been more recent, such as an objective media that seeks to challenge existing narratives rather than perpetuate them. Somewhere in between would be the apparent repudiation of ideological plurality in favor of compelled group-think.
Here’s four core principles guiding the outlook:
America is fundamentally a good place — The ideals of freedom, democracy and liberty the country was built on — even as we may move further away from them — make America a unique and exceptional place. In the sadly too many times America hasn’t acted consistent with those ideals, that has been an exception to the values of the country, not the definition of it.
Ideological pluralism is a good thing — A national community where people are allowed to have different values goes hand-in-hand with principles of democracy. The correct view cannot be mandated amid diverging voices because truth is in the eye of the holder, or could be a synthesis of those truths that may emerge from ongoing discourse.
Western institutions and values are important to uphold — Traditions of limited government, freedom of discourse and a media that seeks the objective truth are long-standing traditions that previously have enabled ideological pluralism. Discarding these institutions and values as outdated puts the entire system in jeopardy.
America should have a premier role in global affairs — This one follows logically from the position America is a good place. Americans are charged with advancing democracy and freedom as part of a broader mission to preserve the world order. The prominent place, however, is now challenged by strategic competitors like China and Russia.
Many of my readers, remembering me from my work as an intrepid reporter for an LGBT news outlet that skewed heavily into progressive politics, may be surprised at the outlook I adopt here. Admittedly, the publication will likely seem more conservative, but that's totally consistent with my worldview and the place I've reached in my life's journey. As I get older, I have found a new appreciation for the world's great religions, which have been a source of solace for human civilization over the course of the centuries for a reason. Gender roles don't work for everyone, but they work for many, many people and can be a source of comfort and celebration.
But, then again, maybe the outlook here won't be all that different. The top issues for the LGBT movement in the heyday of my writing were access to military service, marriage and employment. How could anyone really deny those institutions are highly valued in the conservative movement? It was simply a matter letting LGBT people into them. (As an aside, those hard-won gains stand in stark contrast to the goals of the movement today. I'm increasingly skeptical of the movement that has animated my career for more than a decade.)
The retreat I see from important institutions also may not always align with conservative ideology. Take, for example, the Dobbs decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, which I would designate as a prime example of institutions backing away from values that have held our society together. Here, we have nine justices who have taken it themselves to reverse not just one, but two decisions in U.S. case law and, for the first time ever, rescinding a constitutional right granted to the American public.
I'm not against the Supreme Court reversing precedent or even superprecedent. (The historic rulings in favor of gay rights were among such reversals would never have happened otherwise.). But here, the different conclusions reached at different points in time aren't the result doctrinal development or a greater understanding of an issue. It's because there's a different nine justices on the bench. As such, the Supreme Court has dropped any pretense of being an impartial legal arbiter instead of political body, which should send a chill down anyone's spine. These justices, after all, are unelected officials who serve life.
One important housekeeping note: For the first 30 days after our debut, the Weekly Dystopia will be freely accessible. After that initial period, a paywall will go up requiring a paid subscription to access certain material.
I would like to tell my readers this publication will offer way to make things better, or issue a call to action on the way forward. I don't see that being able to offer that as institutions and values continue to be eroded. That's not stopping us, however, from getting a better understanding how we got here or commiserating with each other in our shared experience in this dystopic world.