John Powers

John Powers, the author of Sore Winners (And the Rest of Us) in George Bush's America (Doubleday), writes about culture and politics for Vogue and is critic-at-large for NPR's Fresh Air.

Recent Articles

The West Coast of Utopia: Kim Stanley Robinson and the Science Fiction of Hope

If any political ideal has taken a drubbing over the past hundred years, it’s surely the left’s vision of utopia. How far we’ve fallen from those lofty 19 th -century dreams—the classless society, the withering away of the state, the happy news from Nowhere. Merely to mention such hopes nowadays is to call up ghastly images of failure, not merely censors sharpening their scissors and babushkas queuing for bread but Checkpoint Charlie, the Gulag Archipelago, the Great Leap Forward toward the Killing Fields. Even glimpses of utopianism, such as the giddiness unleashed by the election of Barack Obama, now feel destined to end in disappointment if not crushing defeat. Avatar not withstanding, pop energy swung decades ago to the side of dystopia, which, rather than asking us to explore political possibilities, urges us to revel in the thrills of oppression—the balefully beautiful neon-lashed high-rises of Blade Runner , the sinister doppelgangers enforcing the illusions of The Matrix ,...

The Right Word

ConservativeSpeak has so infiltrated the language that we now need a glossary.

Back during the Soviet Union’s radiant past, the great Polish philosopher Leszek Koakowski once noted that part of what made communism so oppressive was that it left its fingerprints on everything—the economy, the military, the media, the arts, even the sciences. I sometimes think that’s true of today’s extremist conservatism, even if you have to think hard to come up with a famous artist who’s a conservative. Today’s right-wingers have their own TV network, their own branch of Congress, and their own Supreme Court (which unfortunately is ours, too). They have their own Jacobins in the Tea Party and their own shadowy financiers in the Koch brothers (who are presently, or so I’m told, attempting to wrest control of SPECTRE from Ernst Stavro Blofeld). They have their own science (Intelligent Design, global-warming denial) and even their own “stupid things,” as Ronald Reagan once famously called facts. They also have their own language—you betcha, they do—and they wield it with such...