Growing up watching James Bond movies, I couldn't help but wonder, where are those guys? I know part of their M.O. is avoiding detection by shithead 11-year-olds in a movie theater, but nevertheless, I wondered. Where are all the surgically precise assassinations the world is so desperately in need of? I was a pretty cynical kid.
But all that cynicism has finally paid off ... in blood. Just as the Bond franchise hit the ropes in 2011, a bunch of nameless badasses kung-fu'd their way into Osama's compound, boned his secretary while surreptitiously taking her fingerprint for access to the command level, used a laser watch to cut a small circle in the ceiling directly above him, then kicked the door down and shot the part of his body encasing the brain with their powerful guns. Great plan, really. And what's more, they have to remain anonymous, allowing Internet wags everywhere to grossly misrepresent the details of their mission!
This attack on bin Laden's potato farm was a harsh blow on their food supply.
SEAL Team 6 gave me all I'd ever hoped for from my government -- that they'd dispatch a team of faceless professionals to kill people I hate. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Just like bin Laden! Oops, assassination zing! It's nice to know that even as we slide into Armageddon, our ability as a nation to find and kill the shit out of you remains unchecked.
And what a great team name. Admittedly, it's a bit of a rip-off of the team of six trained seals I used to tour with, but I'm not about to bring it up to them. Not that I could bring it up, because obviously only the members of SEAL Team 6 know who the others are, and we're really not supposed to spread the roster around or contact each other too much. Let's just say this: There are 14 Cracked columnists. Six of them update only sporadically, often with long gaps between columns. The other eight are NOT members of SEAL Team 6.
... but perhaps I've typed too much.
If there's one picture I want to remember the year by, this is it. Gabrielle Giffords, a woman who was shot in the brain, is positively glowing. The last time I heard of someone getting shot in the head and living to tell the tale, he became a hardened gangsta rapper. And while Giffords' rhyming chops remain to be seen, I'm pretty sure she's going to just continue on the path of recovering and being awesome. In a year full of earthquakes, tornadoes, Charlie Sheenish disasters and the end of the Harry Potter movies, this is what I want to remember. Life goes on.
In keeping with my theme of bullshit and the bulls that shit them, here's a bullshit move on my part: I pick Anonymous as my person of the year. Hey, Time magazine did it back in 2006. You're not holding me to a higher standard than Time, are you?
Yes, I know that Anonymous is a group, not a person, but in all fairness, they do present one public persona, one face and one mission statement.
That persona is "dangerous, irreverent asshole."
That face is this:
And that mission statement is: "I don't know ... fuck you?"
Anonymous fucks shit up because they can't think of anything better to do. And like so much of this year, that's as respectably badass as it is total bullshit. LulzSec were the most prominent aspect of Anonymous this year (even if they were only tangentially connected to Anonymous, the media still considered them one and the same), and their exploits, for better or worse, finally put some teeth in that irksome smiley face.
Among other things, LulzSec hacked Sony and released user account information, leaked contestant info from Fox and even crashed the goddamn CIA's website. They were perhaps the most effective, and certainly the most publicized, terrorist force of the year, and if you asked them toward what end they did all of it, they'd tell you it was "for the lulz."
And then they'd probably say something about mudkips.
That's apathetic, incomprehensible and borderline sociopathic. In short, it is a damned appropriate statement for this bullshit year. 2011 was the year the world asked:
"Why'd you burn that house down, son?"
And we all answered:
"Because it needed burning, sir."
In the NBA and NFL, great coaches can cause their opponents to lose after they play them. A well coached team may win or lose that particular game depending on how much talent they have, but their opponents then tend to lose their next game. That's because great coaches expose a weakness nobody has seen before -- one that subsequent opponents see and exploit. Donald Trump is the mainstream media equivalent of a great coach. He is a genius of manipulating national attention, regardless of how clearly we see through what he's doing and hate him for it.
That's still a terrible toupee, but it's the terrible toupee of a puppet master.
While Trump has had more obviously successful years before, this year he exploited the weakness in the mainstream media that would define the Republican primary. He may have dropped out before anyone was paying attention to the race, but he spent the first four months of this year creating the blueprint for the GOP candidates who have dominated the news in the second half of the year.
He invented what I'm calling the Trump Law of Media Manipulation, which states that if you make ridiculous enough claims with a straight face, the media will be forced to cover what you're doing as though it's legitimate. Therefore, if you don't really think you can win, it's better to make a splash while being entertaining and shameless than it is to be a coherent, serious politician.
This works because the modern media is built on a logical fallacy: that "fairness" involves covering both sides of a story even if one of those sides is profoundly stupid. It also doesn't hurt that the modern media is driven by ratings and clicks, so they will give the advantage to whichever side makes the more sellable story.
The plainspoken pizza mogul with no prior political can take the lead in the polls because he will make outrageous claims, outline Sim City-inspired tax plans and generally be entertaining.
"I am exactly as good at politics as I am at making edible pizza."
When that guy gets accused of sexual harassment, suddenly the old fat guy who helped create the Clinton sex scandal (a brief period in the '90s when it was Christmas for an entire year at major news outlets) becomes a front-runner.
Trump has always been willing to do whatever it takes to create a story, and that seems to be what defines whoever is "leading in the polls." He knew exactly what he was doing when he made the preposterous accusations about Obama's birth certificate that were later disproved. The version of that story that is currently being repeated by the popular media is that Trump lost when Obama showed his birth certificate and promptly killed bin Laden. The fact that Obama felt the need to disprove Trump's absurd accusations is what we should take from that story. It's certainly the lesson that the most successful Republican nominees up to this point seem to have learned.