The Year That Was by The Morning News
The most important events of 2011 as told by writers and thinkers from around the globe
Marian Wang, Reporter for ProPublica
The Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who finally had enough and set himself on fire after he was slapped by a local government inspector. Bouazizi’s act—one that cost him his life—galvanized protests across the country that ultimately deposed the country’s dictator and inspired continued revolution in the region. It’s a remarkable reminder to me, as a reporter, that we spend so much time watching activity at the top—the supposed movers and shakers who all too often waste so much time playing politics—when the act of an ordinary person can also write history in a big way.
Matthew Newton, Editor of Annals of Americus
It turned out Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, biding his time watching lo-fi porn on a TV/VCR combo and snuggling up under a warm blanket. (Is that a universal remote he’s holding?) He wasn’t relegated to life in a cave as so many experts believed, or curled up in a hole somewhere like another baddie the USA flushed out. Instead, the man who orchestrated the deaths of thousands of Americans on that Tuesday in September of 2001, was living like an American teenager in the pre-internet era—bored, disconnected, and exhausted from masturbating. Until he was shot dead and buried at sea, of course. At which point Americans expressed their collective joy by going apeshit in the streets.
Jenna Wortham, New York Times Tech Reporter
Most important thing of the year: The retweet. 2011 was the year that retweeting became less about achieving value and followers and more of a new form of cultural and information currency—not unlike a viral version of the bit, self-propagating units of information (can you tell I’m knee-deep in James Gleick “The Information”?). We learned to self-select and spread the most important things we saw to others, creating a counterpoint to Twitter’s most-commonly referenced downside, narcissism, and turning it into a collectivist tool for creating a pulsing ecosystem of information bigger than each individually posted message…
Honorable Mentions: Talk That Talk, GIFs of the awkward girl in pink who dances in “Friday,” Nicki Minaj, Matt Cutts’ TED talk about breaking and forming new habits, the Horse E-Books Twitter account, the breakthrough of New York as a thriving tech hub, emoji, Reddit IAMA threads, Khan Academy/Codecademy and using the Web to reinvent education, Justin Bieber’s Instagram feed (srsly).
Julie Klausner, author of I Don’t Care About Your Band
A woman who weighs more than 120 pounds soaking wet was finally admitted into the “Women in Comedy” inner sanctum that we’ve been hearing so much about. When Melissa McCarthy hosted SNL it was almost as if it was okay for female comics, just like their male counterparts, to just be funny, not magazine-skinny, in order to succeed.