The worst takes of the 2010s

The past decade had a lot of pieces that should have been left unpublished.

The worst takes of the 2010s

The past decade had a lot of pieces that should have been left unpublished.

The passage of time can be marked in many ways. Including by the worst posts. What follows is a list of articles, curated by the staff of The Outline, that shows just how warped our brains got in the last 10 years. We are sorry.

“The Underlying Tragedy,” David Brooks, The New York Times, Jan. 14, 2010

Brooks, the resident centrist of The New York Times, began the decade by claiming that Haiti deserved the catastrophe wrought by a massive 2010 earthquake because of the nation’s “progress-resistant cultural influences” — conveniently ignoring fact that the nation of Haiti exists because of one of the few successful slave rebellions in history, which rendered it a pariah among the international community and led to centuries of Europe and America fucking over Haiti out of racist spite.

You’ve got to hand it to him: despite knowing the world is complicated, Brooks believes the world is actually simple and that he, an enlightened centrist, is the one who’s figured it all out. Only a true iron man can be that deluded for that long. — Drew Millard, Features Editor

“The Talk: Nonblack Version,” John Derbyshire, Taki's Magazine, April 5, 2012

Former National Review staff writer Derbyshire brought his poison keyboard to the neo-reactionary Taki Magazine (at which Richard Spencer was once an editor) in order to give a “non-black” version of “The Talk” that black parents give their kids about how to deal with our nation’s systematically racist police force. Derbyshire’s “talk,” however, focused on telling white children about how reverse racism is real and black people are out to get them. It included lines like “Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally” and “If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.”

Fairly quickly, Derbyshire was fired by the National Review; but editor Rich Lowry still noted in the announcement that “Derb” was a “a deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer.” — Noah Kulwin, Future Editor

“How the cancer victim at the center of Breaking Bad justifies my skepticism of Holocaust survivors,” Anna Breslaw, Tablet, July 13, 2012

The ’10s provided no shortage of lazily constructed “how [pop culture product X] made me feel about [seemingly unrelated topical issue Y]” premises stretched into intolerable essays, but this Tablet take evoked far more disgust past the usual reactive eye-rolling. Consider that Breslaw opened with a shockingly callous description of her antipathy for Holocaust survivors — a group that included her grandparents — and an ugly, unavoidably antisemitic characterization of some of those survivors as “conniving, indestructible, taking and taking.”

That’s bad enough, but then she connects this to a surface reading of Breaking Bad protagonist Walter White’s villainous tendencies, in order to demonstrate how “we cling to the destruction done to us in the past as a justification for the destruction we will cause in the future.” To quote a commenter: “Anna… i think it you have certain unresolved issues which may or not be a derivative of your own personal upbringing and family history.” — Jeremy Gordon, Deputy Editor

“There’s Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre,” Megan McArdle, The Daily Beast, Dec. 17, 2012

You could line a wall with everything McArdle — whose opinions have appeared in Bloomberg View, the Washington Post,  The Atlantic, and more — has published this decade, throw a dart at it, and hit on something that could make this list. She is perhaps best known for her astonishingly callous reaction to the 2017 Grenfell Fire in London, in which she (really!) argues that yes, perhaps functioning sprinklers in public housing would save lives — but at what cost?

However, it’s her 2012 take on the Sandy Hook massacre that truly deserves this dishonor. You simply should not be allowed to write the following words and ever, ever be paid money for your opinions again:

“I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8 to 12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.”

Brandy Jensen, Power Editor

“Different Places Have Different Safety Rules and That’s OK,” Matt Yglesias, Slate, April 24, 2013

Hours after it was reported that a factory collapse in Bangladesh had killed hundreds of workers (the final death toll would rise to over 1,000), then-Slate columnist Matt Yglesias had this to say about worker safety in less wealthy countries:

“Bangladesh may or may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it’s entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different — and, indeed, lower — workplace safety standards than the United States.”

When people got mad at Yglesias for this take, he followed it up with another blog acknowledging that his “overwhelming personal response, as a writer and as a human being, is to be annoyed by the responses that I’m getting.” A few years later, he ultimately apologized for it. — N.K.

“Grillax, Bro,” Jacob Brogan, Slate, July 22, 2015

I have conflicted feelings about nominating this take for worst of the decade, because honestly it’s not terrible, and in some ways is very quaint to read, as a reminder of the fun and ultimately low-stakes things that used to set social media on fire in years past. However, what I will not do is opine, at length, about the conflicted feelings I have on this topic. I shan’t wring my hands about how burdened by guilt I am over this thing that perhaps I should feel bad about but will nonetheless go ahead and do. Because the true lesson of this bad take is not that grilling is sexist, but that some feelings are best shared in a group chat. — B.J.

“The Father-Führer,” Kevin Williamson, The National Review, March 28, 2016

Never Trump Republicans are congenitally screwed by the fact that Trump was and remains the most popular candidate/president among Republican voters in decades. Nevermind the fact that Trump’s largest base of support comes from well-heeled suburbs, the problem, per many of the Never Trump pundits, was uneducated and poor white people. Williamson, of the National Review, had this to say on the subject: “The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible.”

Williamson would go on to be hired by The Atlantic and then fired before he could start his new job, after many people pointed out that he had called for pregnant women opting for abortion to be prosecuted for premeditated murder. — N.K.

“Why Liberals Should Support a Trump Republican Nomination,” Jonathan Chait, New York, Feb. 5, 2016

Chait’s immensely confident take on why the Democrats should support a Trump nomination is a humiliating crystallization of the wrongheaded thinking that propelled him to the White House: he asserts that Trump would easily lose (wrong), that he might force the Republicans to rebuild their party (wrong), that his presidency would do less harm than a conventional Republican (wrong) and might even do some good (WRONG!!!), that Trump’s presidency might end up like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California governorship (wrong, and based on nothing besides “they were both celebrities”).

If I was this wrong, at this level of publication, I would probably re-examine all my fundamental assumptions about how people think. Three years later, Chait is still smugly wagging his finger about how things can’t be better, reminding us that nobody who makes this much money to fuck up that badly with zero self-awareness or reflection should be taken seriously about anything. — J.G.

Great take, Jon!

Great take, Jon!

“Hillary Clinton is more than a president,” Virginia Heffernan, Lenny Letter, Nov. 15, 2016

In the week after the 2016 election, I and everyone I knew were afflicted with a powerful sense of loss, and unmooring of experience. How had we thought about everything so wrong? How could we prevent the same error in the future? How could we pick ourselves up from the rubble, and build a more honest, cohesive political understanding? On the other hand was Heffernan, who pumped out this whatever’s-bigger-than-galaxy brain take for Lena Dunham’s newsletter:

“The presidency is too small for her. She belongs to a much more elite class of Americans, the more-than-presidents. Neil Armstrong, Martin Luther King Jr., Alexander Fucking Hamilton.”

[Takes the world’s longest bong rip while inhaling a dumptruck of cocaine] For sure, definitely. — J.G.

“Colin Kaepernick Is a Victim of His Own Supporters,” Jason Whitlock, The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2017

Jason Whitlock, since being run out of ESPN for completely botching the launch of what he called “Black Grantland” (now known as The Undefeated, sans Whitlock), has pivoted hard to bullshit grievance politics and is now an occasional contributor to the Wall Street Journal. In 2017, he argued that NFL teams didn’t want to sign “social-justice warrior” Colin Kaepernick because “an owner, general manager or coach runs the risk of being publicly vilified as racist depending on how his team uses the mixed-race quarterback.” Also, in an impressive showing of Galaxy Brain Disorder, Whitlock wrote that liberals should applaud NFL leaders for being job creators:

“The old white bigots running the NFL apparently control one of the few industries that grants black ex-cons a path to re-enter the workforce and excel economically. Given the felony-conviction rate, poverty and fatherlessness associated with young black men, you would think progressives would celebrate the league’s owners.”

— N.K.

The Incredibles 2, Reviewed: A Sequel in the Shadow of a Masterwork,” Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, June 18, 2018

Not a take, exactly, but a movie review that deserves mention for how New Yorker film critic Lane describes the relationship of the parents in the children’s movie, The Incredibles 2:

Take your seat at any early-evening screening of Incredibles 2 in the coming days, listen carefully, and you may just hear a shifty sound, as of parents squirming awkwardly beside their enraptured offspring. And why, kids? Because Mommy just leaned over to Daddy and whispered, “Is it just me, or does Mrs. Incredible kind of look like Anastasia in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey?’ You know, the girl in the Red Room, with the whips and all?” And Daddy just rested his cooling soda firmly in his lap and, like Mr. Incredible, tried very hard to think of algebra. As for how Daddy will react later on, during the scene in which Helen and the husky-voiced Evelyn unwind and simply talk, woman to woman, I hate to think, but watch out for flying popcorn.



“World War Two and the Ingredients of Slaughter,” Bret Stephens, The New York Times, Aug. 30, 2019

After it was revealed that Times columnist Stephens had emailed George Washington University's administration because a professor there called him a bedbug in a joke on Twitter, Stephens went nuclear in a subsequent column, implicitly comparing himself to Jews who were called bedbugs by Nazis in the Holocaust. If there was any doubt that Stephens was a world-class researcher for his own columns, let this tweet cast that out:


“Love Baby Yoda, I cannot,” Jeremy Gordon, The Outline, Nov. 19, 2019

Are you kidding me? Come on. — Leah Finnegan, Executive Editor