I am Genius Hear Me Roar (So Why Didn’t I Win a MacArthur?)


Photo by Frank Vessia on Unsplash

In a stunning snub, the MacArthur Foundation once again overlooked Steven Clifford in awarding their 2020 “genius grants.” The Foundation’s continued disregard of Clifford, America’s preeminent public intellectual for over three decades, is baffling.  However, one MacArthur insider explained that, “This year white males received four of the 21 awards. Hey, enough is enough.”

The irony is that Clifford was the first person to call for straight white males to be prohibited from voting. Now that this position has become conventional wisdom and accepted by all but extremists, the MacArthur Foundation ignores the instigator.

Moreover, in his widely acclaimed posts on Post Alley, Clifford consistently scooped the national media by breaking momentous political stories such as President Donald Trump’s June 2020 “Freedom to Infect Initiative.” In an exclusive interview, Trump told him, “Freedom to Infect made America great. If our forefathers lacked the freedom to infect native peoples with smallpox, malaria, measles, and scarlet fever, we would all now be working for Squanto, Sitting Bull, and Elizabeth Warren.” 

Yet the MacArthur Foundation bypassed Clifford while honoring the author N. K. Jemisin for “Pushing against the conventions of epic fantasy and science fiction genres while exploring deeply human questions about structural racism, environmental crises, and familial relationships.”

If any author deserved a $625,000 genius grant it was Clifford who brilliantly addressed an astonishing variety of topics in books published in 2020 including:

Biography: Dan Quayle Reconsidered: Satan or Savior?

Cooking: A Soupçon of Umami: Cooking with Salvia

Health: Self Injecting Anti-Covid Disinfectants: Lysol, Clorox or Pesticides?

Human Behavior: Why Do Men Like Sex?

PornographyPom-Pom Girls Go Wild at The Zombie Jamboree

HistoryThe definitive three-volume history of Uruguay: Uruguay 1512-1838: What a Bunch of Losers, Uruguay 1839-1911: Era of The Jerks, and Uruguay 1912-2014: Not the Sharpest Tools in the Shed

Clifford stated, “I’m not bitter, but I could use the $625,000.” Reportedly Clifford suffered large losses in Fantasy League Politics because he wasted his first two draft picks on presidential hopefuls Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson.

Shunning Clifford is particularly perplexing in a year when the MacArthur foundation awarded 18 of its 21 genius grants to individuals who focused exclusively on Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

They are:

Isaiah Andrews, Econometrician: Developing robust methods of statistical inference to address key challenges between Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Sociologist, Writer, and Public Scholar: Shaping discourse on highly topical issues at the confluence of Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Paul Dauenhauer, Chemical Engineer :Developing new technologies for converting renewable, organic materials into chemicals used in products by Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Nels Elde, Evolutionary Geneticist: Investigating the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary processes driving Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Damien Fair, Cognitive Neuroscientist: Devising maps of network connectivity in individual brains that advance our understanding of how distinct regions communicate and develop in both Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Larissa FastHorse, Playwright: Creating space for Indigenous artists, stories, and experiences in mainstream theater and countering misrepresentation of Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Catherine Coleman Flowers, Environmental Health Advocate: Bringing attention to failing water and waste sanitation infrastructure in rural areas and its role in perpetuating Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Mary L. Gray, Anthropologist and Media Scholar: Investigating the ways in which labor, identity, and human rights are transformed by Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Ralph Lemon, Artist: Generating interdisciplinary modes of artistic expression for stories, emotions, memories, and identities about Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Polina V. Lishko, Cellular and Developmental Biologist: Examining the cellular processes that guide mammalian fertilization and opening new avenues for Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Natalia Molina, American Historian: Revealing how narratives of racial difference that were constructed and applied to immigrant groups a century ago continue to shape Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Fred Moten, Cultural Theorist and Poet: Creating new conceptual spaces to accommodate emerging forms of Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Cristina Rivera Garza, Fiction Writer: Exploring culturally constructed notions of language, memory, and gender from a transnational perspective of Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Monika Schleier-Smith, Experimental Physicist: Advancing our understanding of how many-particle quantum systems behave and connecting phenomena observed in the laboratory to a range of Beyonce and Jay-Z

Mohammad R. Seyedsayamdost, Biological Chemist: Investigating synthesis of novel molecules with therapeutic properties and expediting discovery of new antibiotics for Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Forrest Stuart, Sociologist: Challenging long-held assumptions about the forces that shape urban poverty and violence and bringing to light the lived reality of Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Nanfu Wang, Documentary Filmmaker: Creating intimate character studies that examine the impact of authoritarian governance, corruption, and lack of accountability on the lives of Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Jacqueline Woodson, Writer: Redefining children’s and young adult literature to encompass more complex issues and reflect the lives of Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Steve Clifford
Steve Clifford
Steve Clifford, the former CEO of KING Broadcasting, has written humor for Crosscut.com and the Huffington Post. He is the author of "The CEO Pay Machine."


  1. I know why you missed the MacArthur golden ring and sack of cash — You targeted and insulted Uruguay! I’ve been there and it’s a lovely place! No prominent statues of losers in the public plazas like in some of our cities. I read your history (sic) books and I don’t recall hearing from my pals down there that Uruguay’s march of progress is responsibly sliced and diced into the three eras you describe. Maybe you didn’t spend enough time on Google to find the right stuff… Better luck next time.


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