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The best long-form articles of 2021
I started this blog to produce content that I like reading: namely, long form content that dives deep into a subject. Here’s what I posted about 6 months ago, when I came back from a long hiatus from social media.
In a world where everyone is working at the surface, those who seek change must "dive deep."
Both of those words is key. A “dive” is not a sprint. It is a slow and methodical movement, through an environment that we are not naturally inclined to move through. It is hard; it is in many ways unnatural (we are not dolphins with fins); and it requires multiple attempts (and going back up for air) to find what you want to find. That is the nature of good work.
And it is not enough to dive a few feet. We have to go "deep." There are many people at the surface. A few who go a few feet down. But a vanishingly small number of people who dive deep, who seek understanding and evidence beyond what anyone else has seen, no matter how dangerous the waters are below.
So what are the best examples of diving deep?
Here are some of my favorites.
Nick Paumgartnen’s piece in The New Yorker, What Will Become of the Pandemic Pets?, is so much more than its title suggests. It goes into the psychology of an animal rights activist — including the dark side — and is one of the best examples of narrative journalism that I’ve read recently.
Natasha Lennard’s column in The Intercept, An Animal Rights Activist Saved a Sick Baby Goat From a Farm — and Faces Years in Prison, is one of the few pieces written about activism that looks at things from the activist point of view. Normally, the things we say and do are filtered through a mainstream lens. Lennard asks the question, what do these activists really believe? And does it with incredible power.
Glenn Greenwald is not just a personal hero but an extraordinary investigative journalist, with a powerful eye for fact and detail. That was on display in his piece, The False and Exaggerated Claims Still Being Spread About the Capitol Riot, that completely changed my mind regarding the events on January 6. The piece is a powerful example of why it’s important to go beyond the headlines. Because sometimes what you will find is very far from what the media is telling you.
Then there’s my friend Leighton Woodhouse’s piece on pigs during the pandemic. Someone needed to write the story, comprehensively, of what unfolded at slaughterhouses during COVID-19. Leighton did it, and did it powerfully, and showed a mainstream audience why veganism is not so extreme at all (once you see what’s actually happening in the slaughter industry).
This is just a small sampling, and I’m excluding books since they’re not available for free online (but if you’re interested, check out Damon Centola’s wonderful book on the science of change).
What about my own writing? I managed to average a blog post per day since I committed to Lisa that I’d do so. Though there were two days when the blog posts came late, which led me to update my promise to her to make it more ambitious: a book by the end of 2022. This is the year where I made a renewed commitment to writing, which was for a long time (and maybe still is) the primary way I contributed to the animal rights movement.
And, unsurprisingly, the most important thing I wrote was my remembrance of my little Lisa. She shook the foundations of my world when I adopted her. And she taught me so much, perhaps more than anyone in my life has ever taught me. In many ways, this blog is devoted to her (and to all the other animals I’ve loved in my 40 years on this Earth).
Thank you, Lisa, and thank you to all of you for reading. Stay tuned for more. The daily blog is ending, but hopefully what comes next will be even better.