5 Top Reads

Our Top Weekend Reads

A broken U.S. public sphere, QAnon’s resilience amid disappointment, and how to eavesdrop on policymaking conversations.

By , an assistant editor at Foreign Policy.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington on July 29, 2020. Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images

The United States has always lacked a single, universal public. But when popular media consumption was restricted to a smaller range of outlets with consistent editorial standards, it did have something like a public sphere. Now, instead of creating a new public sphere, Big Tech has colonized the existing one and shattered it into pieces.

Meanwhile, the QAnon conspiracy theory is far from dead. While some adherents have suffered a crisis of belief after Inauguration Day failed to bring the arrests of Democrats and supposedly disloyal Republicans, many are renewing their faith through promises of a hidden world that explains its failures.

And while in 2020 international attention focused on Italy’s plight as the epicenter of Europe’s initial COVID-19 outbreak, Rome has emerged in 2021 as the fastest-rising economic power in the wider Mediterranean region. In fact, the map of Italy’s commercial prowess now looks a lot like the first-century map of the Roman Empire.

The United States has always lacked a single, universal public. But when popular media consumption was restricted to a smaller range of outlets with consistent editorial standards, it did have something like a public sphere. Now, instead of creating a new public sphere, Big Tech has colonized the existing one and shattered it into pieces.

Meanwhile, the QAnon conspiracy theory is far from dead. While some adherents have suffered a crisis of belief after Inauguration Day failed to bring the arrests of Democrats and supposedly disloyal Republicans, many are renewing their faith through promises of a hidden world that explains its failures.

And while in 2020 international attention focused on Italy’s plight as the epicenter of Europe’s initial COVID-19 outbreak, Rome has emerged in 2021 as the fastest-rising economic power in the wider Mediterranean region. In fact, the map of Italy’s commercial prowess now looks a lot like the first-century map of the Roman Empire.

Here are Foreign Policy’s top weekend reads.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies remotely during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing with Big Tech companies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 28, 2020.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies remotely during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing with Big Tech companies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 28, 2020. Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

1. Social Media Finally Broke the Public Sphere

The internet was supposed to revive the public sphere. But thanks to the failure of politicians to act through meaningful legislation, Big Tech has come to dominate and shatter it, Joshua Foust and Simon Frankel Pratt write.


A QAnon sticker is seen on the back of a car

A QAnon sticker is seen on the back of a car in Los Angeles on Nov. 6, 2020.Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

2. QAnon Will Survive Yet Another Apocalyptic Disappointment

Nothing that QAnon conspiracists were told would happen on Inauguration Day actually transpired. But that doesn’t mean QAnon will disappear. Instead, with its visions of a hidden world, it’s likely to mutate further, Foreign Policy’s James Palmer writes.


Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on Nov. 24, 2020.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on Nov. 24, 2020.Mark Makela/Getty Images

3. From Foreign Policy Magazine to Biden’s Foreign Policy

The Biden administration’s foreign policy will ultimately be determined by the people who are a part of it. Their bylines throughout our recent archives offer a unique view into their ideas, concerns, and affinities, Foreign Policy’s Cameron Abadi and Allison Meakem write.


A view shows a private beach as a cargo and a container ship sail across the horizon at Venice Lido, Italy, on Sept. 7, 2020.

A view shows a private beach as a cargo and a container ship sail across the horizon at Venice Lido, Italy, on Sept. 7, 2020.Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

4. Italy’s Mediterranean Belt and Road

Rome has emerged as Europe’s fastest-rising economic power in the wider Mediterranean region. Its focus on commercial connectivity has achieved something akin to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Michaël Tanchum and Dimitar Bechev write.


Security barricades are set up on a street ahead of the inauguration of then-U.S. President-elect Joe Biden in Washington on Jan. 20.

Security barricades are set up on a street ahead of the inauguration of then-U.S. President-elect Joe Biden in Washington on Jan. 20.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

5. America Needs a New Way to Combat Disinformation Now

After 9/11, Washington formed a national commission that made the country safer. In the wake of the Capitol insurrection, it should look closely at what made that commission successful to fight online disinformation, hate, and harassment, Vera Zakem and Moira Whelan write.

Chloe Hadavas is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @Hadavas

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