We're about to enter a new decade and as we roar into the 2020s, it's always fun to take a look back into the major blasts from the past 10 years. Maybe there are things we can learn to go into the future as better, wiser, more evolved human beings. After all, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, so let's go back and examine the major scandals of our time (in no particular order)!
10) Fyre Festival
Ahhhh, the Fyre Festival. This is (in my humble opinion) the funniest scandal ever - because it honestly was a case of unchecked douchebaggery getting a much-deserved comeuppance in the end. For those who might be unfamiliar with what went down, here's a VERY quick summary:
Essentially, a shady entrepreneur named Billy McFarland teamed up with rapper Ja Rule to throw a "luxury" music festival on a private island in the Bahamas. It was billed with an absolutely insane lineup of acts, there were promo videos of luxurious cabanas, gourmet meals, and crystal clear waters, all starring some of the hottest and most influential people on Instagram.
Turns out the ads were literally too good to be true - McFarland had failed to secure virtually any of the talent for the festival, the island they picked utterly lacked the infrastructure to host any kind of major event, and they'd already created so much hype that it was impossible to turn back. In the end, Fyre Festival ended up being a few stressful days for a bunch of rich kids who paid thousands of dollars just to get stuck in a tent on a beach with a cold cheese sandwich. It did make for some seriously FIRE memes though, as well as two documentaries!
9) The Government Is Spying on You...
Between the 1960 and 1970s, wiretapping of private citizens became so widespread that the Supreme Court eventually ruled against authorities conducting a wiretap without first obtaining a warrant. Unfortunately, the advent of new technology like smartphones, tablets, internet-connected appliances, etc., the definition of what's legal in the surveillance world has become severely muddled.
That's why it came as a shock (to some, at least) when NSA agent-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the United States government was spying on countless citizens who weren't really under suspicion of anything. The NSA was harvesting millions of online messages, emails, GPS location data, Yahoo and Google data, and even monitoring various gaming communities.
8) ... and so Are Tech Companies
Remember when we all thought technology was cool and fun? Google was just a straightforward search engine, Facebook was just a way to "poke" your freshman year crush, and Amazon was still mostly about selling books?
The problem with being a hero to the people is that you either die a hero, or live long enough to become the villain. While sites like Myspace died as heroes (I f***ing miss profile songs, alright?), the unholy trinity I mentioned above became the villains. Google and Facebook, in particular, started using their reach and influence to collect (or, at the very least, facilitate the collection of) all kinds of shady data on you, and collect they did.
The most noteworthy and recent example would be Cambridge Analytica, where a British think-tank that consulted the Trump campaign had built extensive personality profiles for 50 million Americans and used that data for "psychographic targeting" of ads. They collected this data via a third-party app called "thisisyourdigitallife," which had just 300,000 downloads... but leveraged a sneaky permissions clause that allowed it to collect Facebook data from you and your friends.
While Facebook correctly asserts that this is not a data breach, it's been widely agreed that it still constitutes a pretty serious privacy concern - as evidenced by the five billion dollar FTC fine Facebook had to pay out as a punishment.
That's just one example though: here's a whole list of other articles about Big Tech spying on you.
7) 'The Fappening/Celebgate' Data Leak
Speaking of your privacy, let's take a moment to remember that moment in 2014 when hackers leaked a MASSIVE trove of celebrity selfies, many of them nudes. The leaks, which were collectively dubbed "The Fappening," were initially believed to have been a breach of Apple's iCloud software, but were later revealed to be the result of phishing.
The hackers initially distributed the images via 4chan in exchange for BitCoin. Eventually, however, the images spread their way to other networks such as Imgur and Reddit.
Among the celebrities confirmed to be affected were: Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and her husband Justin Verlander, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jessica Brown Findlay, Kaley Cuoco, and Kirsten Dunst. Additional photos that were unconfirmed included the likes of Ariana Grande, Victoria Justice, and Yvonne Strahovski.
6) Sandy Hook
On December 14, 2012, a deranged gunman entered Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and murdered 26 people - 20 children and six adult staff - before killing himself.
Few significant policy changes towards the accessibility of mental health services and/or gun control have been made since.
5) The Afghanistan Papers
Currently running at 18 years and counting, America's war in Afghanistan and Iraq has been its longest one to date - with no end in sight, either. It appears to be unwinnable, and, as a bombshell leak of over 2,000 pages of previously classified documents from people involved in all stages of that conflict reveals, it might have always been that way.
On December 9, 2019, the Washington Post released a six-part series on the Afghanistan Papers - including interviews of intelligence officers, government officials, soldiers, locals, ambassadors, aides, and more - and exposed one searing truth: the American people had been consistently lied to, first by Bush and then by Obama. Everyone on the inside knew that the conflict was an absolute nightmare and no real progress would ever be made - but countless young men and women were still run through the meat grinder just to appear tough in the War on Terror.
When a similar set of revelations about the Vietnam War came out back in 1971, the public reacted swiftly and strongly. Sadly, between today's frantic media landscape and the fact that lack of a national draft means the Afghanistan Papers won't really affect people on the same level that the Pentagon Papers did back then.
4) Colin Kaepernick Kneels
During the 2016 NFL season, in the wake of several front-page stories about police brutality and misconduct against people of color, San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick began opting out of standing for the national anthem as a form of protest. Kaepernick stated:
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
After consulting with former NFL player and U.S. Army Green Beret veteran Nate Boyer, Kaepernick began to kneel during the anthem rather than just stay on the bench in order to show more respect to the armed services while still protesting injustice. This act of protest eventually became the subject of national news, even getting President Trump tweeting about it.
The backlash was enormous, with many owners feeling pressured to tell players to save their activism for off the field, while many players felt that it was hypocritical of the league not to care about an issue that affected the communities of so many of its players.
Kaepernick hit the free-agent market in 2017, but he remains out of the NFL despite insisting he's in shape and ready to go. Considering how many other QBs with way less ability on the field have been given a shot in his absence, it's hard to think his politics don't at least factor into the lack of calls coming his way. He recently had a small shot at a potential reconciliation with the league, but it was ultimately botched by both sides.
3) Donald Trump's Presidency
Since we just mentioned him, let's talk Trump. Love him or hate him, there's little denying that he's cast a pretty large shadow over the latter part of this decade, and has always managed to stay in the news for one reason or another. Whether it's his policies on immigration, his sometimes-misspelled late-night tweets, his alleged relationship with Russia, his tax returns, his impending impeachment, or any number of other things, it's safe to say President Trump has kept news writers on all ends of the political spectrum pretty busy (and made many memes - seriously, so many memes)!
They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so we'll just let this beauty say everything you need to hear:
2) The Man Who Didn't Kill Himself
Yes, I'm talking about Jeffrey mothaf***in' Epstein!
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who rubbed elbows with some of the world's most powerful men and regularly flew friends like Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Alan Dershowitz, and even Donald Trump in his private jet - a plane which was dubbed "The Lolita Express" due to the number of young girls that were also often on board.
Epstein was accused of grooming/trafficking young (often underage) women as sex slaves for himself and his wealthy friends, and former victims have claimed that wild orgies on his private island were also a regular occurrence.
The law eventually caught up to him, but it wasn't long before Epstein - a man with decades of dirt on some of the world's most powerful pedophiles, a man who allegedly had whole libraries of DVDs full of misdeeds and debauchery by the leaders of our planet - mysteriously "committed suicide" in his jail cell, which sparked several conspiracy theories as well as a whole lotta memes.
1) #MeToo Movement Brings Abusers to Justice
Perhaps one of the biggest, most defining features of this decade was the way that it brought justice to abusers and abusive patterns of behavior that had been getting swept under the rug for far too long.
The #MeToo movement was initially started in 2006 on Myspace by activist Tarana Burke as a way to empower other survivors of sexual assault, abuse, or harassment to break their silence. It gained worldwide traction, however, when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted about it in 2017 with the following message:
If all the women who have ever been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, then we give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem
Several other notable names like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence, Uma Thurman, and Ashley Judd joined in. This was simultaneous with some of the above names (along with many others) accusing Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse - a case that rocked the entertainment industry even though Weinstein's reputation as a predator was one of Hollywood's worst-kept secrets:
Several other heads rolled in Weinstein's wake, as the #MeToo movement spread like wildfire over Twitter and empowered more and more people to name their abusers.
Just a few years before all this, Bill Cosby - America's Dad himself - had also been charged with multiple allegations of sexual assault, and more recently we've seen R. Kelly finally get some real jail time for all the creepy s***t he's done with underage girls over the years.
It's safe to say that this decade has been a bad one for sexual abusers, and I'll definitely cheer to that!