What was 2011 for you? Matt Hall wraps up the topics that the sometimes bizarre US media took most interest in.
The death of Osama Bin Laden, as viewed in the 'Situation Room.' (AP)
In the U.S., news was dominated by Occupy Wall Street, Osama Bin Laden’s death, 9/11, attempted political assassinations, the Republican Party’s search for a Presidential candidate, the economy, and… pizza.
THE RISE OF OCCUPY
On September 17, around 100 people set up a camp in a concrete 'park' wedged between the former World Trade Center site and Wall Street in Downtown Manhattan. Why? Well, for a whole lot of reasons, it turned out. What became known as Occupy Wall Street morphed into a global protest mainly in opposition to perceptions of corporate greed and economic helplessness. Protestors may have had many scatter-gun issues, but at least they had them. Their cause was, ironically, promoted by often heavy-handed police tactics.
BIN LADEN IS DEAD
At about 1am on May 1, Sohaib Athar Tweeted that a helicopter was hovering near his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan: “Go away, helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter”. Athar was unwittingly Tweeting about the rotor blades of a helicopter from the U.S. Navy’s Seal Team 6 as a daring and brazen (and possibly illegal) special operations raid killed Osama Bin Laden, Public Enemy Number One. Bin Laden, it was revealed, had been hiding out all along right next to a military base in Pakistan. Hmmm. Complicated. But America rejoiced. So did the rest of the world. But most of all in New York City.
THE SHOOTING OF GABRIELLE GIFFORDS
On January 8, Representative Gabrielle Giffords was holding one of her regular meetings with constituents outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, when 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner approached her and shot her point blank in the head. Giffords, somehow, survived and is now walking a slow road to some sort of recovery. Six others did not including Chief U. S. District Court Judge John Roll and nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.
THE REPUBLICAN 'RACE' TO THE WHITE HOUSE
Depending on who you talk to, apparently President Obama’s popularity is at an all-time low, the economy shows no signs of recovery, and the U.S. is on a one-way express ride to Hell or Communism or, maybe even worse, healthcare reform. So you’d think the best and brightest Republican candidates would be lining up to challenge the President at the 2012 election with ideas and solutions that should make them a shoo-in for a landslide win. Instead candidates have included a billionaire who is not sure Obama was born in the U.S., a former pizza salesman accused of sexual harassment, a Texas governor who forgets his own policies, a Senator who linked mythical 'death panels' to healthcare reform and wants to outlaw minimum wage legislation, another who believes climate change is a hoax, and a serial adulterer launching a comeback. The potentially most-balanced (but possibly not electable) candidates are members of the Mormon Church. Good luck America.
9/11 TEN YEARS ON
September 11, 2011, was ten years on from that day in 2001, one which can be truly said to have changed the world. The killing of Osama Bin Laden almost six months earlier offered some kind of closure but the scars still live on in America’s psyche.
Hurricanes belong in the Caribbean, the tropics, or along the battered Gulf coasts or Florida. Not, dear weatherman, barreling toward the Empire Stare Building and finally dissipating somewhere over Canada in late August. Irene’s trail left 56 people dead with estimated damage of more than $7.5 billion.
AMERICA EXITS IRAQ
A mid-December ceremony at Baghdad’s airport marked the official withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, almost nine years after George W. Bush unleashed his forces on Saddam Hussein, his army, and millions of civilians. The cost in lives and dollars may be limitless. Approximately 4.500 American troops were killed in the conflict along with over 100,000 Iraqis, according to estimates. Weapons of Mass Destruction, the official trigger for the war, were never found.
IT'S THE ECONOMY STUPID
President Obama may have achieved much during his first term in office but his re-election will be judged on one thing: the disastrous economy. So far, Republican Presidential candidates have offered little more than hot air while Congress, a great test for Obama’s much trumpeted “bi-partisanship”, is a wreck of self-serving interest and tedious politicking that has disillusioned anyone outside Washington DC’s bubble (OK– and some in it). Yet the inability to get anything – anything! – done and the growing perception that Republicans stand for the rich rather than the middle class may see Obama win the unwinnable election.
PENN STATE SCANDAL
Americans love college sports for, among other reasons, its perceived honesty and youthful antidote to bloated professionalism. They also love loyalty and characters, just like the coach of Penn State University’s football team, Joe Paterno. Paterno, 85, was head coach from 1966 to 2011. He was fired not for poor performance on the field but because one of his long-standing assistants, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on child sex abuse charges. It has been alleged Paterno had some knowledge of Sandusky’s behaviour. Americans did not love that.
PIZZA AS A VEGETABLE
Perhaps 2011 can best be summarised by Congress officially deciding that pizza can be classified as a “vegetable”.