Each year we bring you the most-read stories of the year and a list of the stories with the most comments. There can be a fair bit of overlap: after all, the most popular stories can engender a lot of heated discussion and strong opinions. That was definitely true in 2020.
Like every year, there is a mix of topics on the list. But to no one’s surprise, many of the stories below involve actions by the most polarizing political figure of the year (decade? century?) in the United States: President Donald Trump. Whether it was the president catching COVID-19, campaign ads with Nazi-associated imagery, or firing the nation’s cybersecurity chief after a fair and free election, the things President Trump did got people talking.
So without further ado, here are the 20 most-commented-upon stories from Ars in 2020, alongside the highest-rated and most-insightful comments, as voted on by our readers.
On February 7 this year, President Donald Trump admitted in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward that the coronavirus was far more deadly than the flu even as Trump continued misleading the public about the pandemic’s severity. In another interview on March 19, Trump told Woodward that he was intentionally downplaying the virus’s severity. “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said.
Highest-rated and most-insightful comment, from Lee Hutchinson:
But let me ask you this. I mean, we share one thing in common. We’re White, privileged, who- my father was a lawyer and a judge in Illinois, and we know what your dad did.
Do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave to a certain extent, as it put me, and I think lots of White, privileged people in a cave. And that we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly Black people feel in this country. Do you feel—
No. You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States, state and local government officials mandated closures of nonessential businesses in an attempt to contain the spread. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was not a fan, as he decided to reopen his Fremont, California, plant despite a closure order from Alameda County officials.
Highest-rated comment, from grahamwilliams:
I really am curious at what dollar amount people tip over from “bold, capitalist innovator” into “moustache twirling bad guy” – because it seems to be a trend.
Most-insightful comment, from Edified:
Alameda County Population ~1,671,000 has had a maximum of 93 simultaneous hospitalizations which peaked on March 10th, currently 77 are hospitalized.
There have been 71 deaths total over the course of the pandemic, 23 in the age category 71-80 years old and 29 in the 81+ category and other cover related deaths.
Whatever you think this is intended to say, don’t get angry at the data.
2020 started with the United States assassinating Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Major General Qasem Soleimani. We managed to coax Ars alumnus Sean Gallagher out of retirement to opine on Iran’s possible responses to the US drone strike. Spoiler alert: Iran responded with cruise missile attacks against American bases in Iraq.
Highest-rated comment, from bthylafh
We had a treaty with Iran that they were abiding by, but we had to elect this chump who’s insanely jealous of what Obama accomplished.
Most-insightful comment, from adamrussell
The attack also killed Iraqi civilians.
In April, the Trump administration threatened to pull federal funding from community-based, drive-through COVID-19 testing sites. The funding program originally included 41 sites across the US, and many of those would’ve closed when funding ended, had the administration not changed course. The states were able to either continue receiving funding and support for the sites or take over operations themselves.
Highest-rated comment, from Pusher of Buttons:
Well you have to admit it’s a genius way to lower the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths provided you’re a total sociopath
Most-insightful comment, from Bongle
And we still have Bernie Bros who will vote for this idiot (or at least, not vote for Biden) because their guy didn’t win.
The good news is that there likely won’t be anyone making the mistake of assuming Biden will win and using that as an excuse to stay home like I imagine many Hillary voters did.
The bad news is that since Republicans as a group are taking the virus less seriously, they will be less dissuaded from voting by potential sickness if it’s still widespread in November.
Really bad news: the virus gives Trump et al lots of reasons to restrict voting in urban centers, while leaving it unrestricted in rural areas, which could create a huge swing. See what Milwaukee turnout was like in Wisconsin this week…
One of the themes of Trump’s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been to urge states and municipalities to lift restrictions on businesses as quickly as possible despite evidence that the pandemic was nowhere near under control. One of the first examples of this came back in April, when the Trump administration unveiled reopening guidelines, and Trump encouraged states to begin reopening “literally tomorrow.” Public health experts offered mixed reviews of the plan, with epidemiologists pointing out a lack of available COVID-19 tests and associated contact tracing.
Highest-rated comment, from Imbrium:
Before the news conference, he also called for citizens in several states with dem governors to rise up and oppose the stay at home orders. Not often you see a sitting president call for insurrection.
Most-insightful comment, from Imbrium:
Here is the data from those states:
Quick summary of increases in the past week:
OK up 53%
AR up 60%
NE up 74%
IA up 82%
SD up 205%