Friday, January 1, 2016

Anti-Heroes of the Year (2015)

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, alleged mastermind of the Paris Attacks, drags Syrian victims behind his truck
This is the type of list you hope that, at some point, you will stop making. It's not a particularly pleasant one. It is, however, the detestable gift that keeps on giving. Now on our third installment, this year has been laden with anti-heroics: from human error to pure evil, misfortune to villainy. Without further ado, here is our 2015 list of Anti-Heroes.

10) Brian Williams

Oh, sweet deception!
For more than two decades, Brian Williams has been the darling of the NBC news family, anchoring the NBC Nightly Show and even collecting an impressive list of accolades along the way, including Time Magazine's 1997 100 Most Influential People in the World. Williams was the man: Hurricane Katrina, Indonesian Tsunami, Iraqi War- he was there.

Except for the times he wasn't. In February, Williams admitted to having fabricated an incident in which the helicopter he had been was forced to ground after being hit over Iraq in 2003.
He received a six-month suspension, but not before a spew of other embellishments came to light: no, he was not there when the Berlin Wall fell, and no, he did not watch a man commit suicide in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.
He has since returned to the air, but we are still struggling to fall for his yesteryear charm.

9) The Comments Section
Perhaps they have always been vile- we just never noticed. However, in today's heated socio-political environment, the comments section has become the bastion of all human filth. The most racist, sexist, homophobic, cowardly, and stupid narratives found a home, and are thriving in it.
Indeed, the comments section has surpassed genital enhancement commercials and letters from Nigerian princes as the most detested aspect of the internet.

8) The Hungarian Camerawoman

There are horrible people who remain contained because their normal lives limit their wretchedness to changing lanes without indicating and not having the decency to let you get ahead of them in line at the grocery store when you have two items and they have a cart-full. Then there are decent people forced to do wretched things in horrible situations.

But then there are horrible people in horrible situations.
The height of the 2015 global refugee crisis was punctuated by images and stories of babies dead at sea, political and social goodwill and the lack thereof. One image, however, became the face of the death of humanity. As a group of refugees fled through a field in Hungary, a camerawoman working for a news station deliberately sticks her leg out to trip a fleeing father carrying a child!
In what world is that okay? How does she justify that to herself?

7) Martin Shkreli (a.k.a Pharma Bro)

Earlier this year, Martin Shkreli's company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired Daraprim, a drug that, among other things, has been deemed a great stride in AIDS treatment. Immediately after acquisition, Shkreli hiked the price up by 5500%. You read that right. He hiked this potentially life-saving drug meant to combat a disease that plagues the world's poorest areas by 5500%.
When confronted about it, he made no attempts at concealing his douchebaggery, with responses like:

It’s a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders, I don’t expect the likes of you to process that.” and “There’s no doubt — I’m a capitalist.” Pretty much: Screw you, Pay me.

And while it is getting harder and harder to put faith in Karma, a sudden downturn in Shkreli's fortunes lends credence to the theory. On December 17th, he was arrested on securities fraud charges and has had one of his companies file for bankruptcy.

(Now this may not be the running narrative, but weeks before his arrest, Shkreli won the auctioned off Wu-Tang Clan album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for two million dollars. Thereafter, there was a public falling out with Wu Tang frontman RZA after the latter realized Shkreli's unscrupulous history, and Shkreli told RZA to 'show him some fucking respect'- literally the day before the arrest. He must have had it coming, because, as any real hip-hop fan will tell you, 'Wu-Tang Clan ain't Nothing Ta F' With.")

That's Karma Yo, Pharma Bro!

6) Donald Trump

He is hate personified. Enough said.

The only reason he's not higher on the list is because we're still hoping his rhetoric remains just that: That he doesn't the nomination and fades into hateful oblivion.

5) Bill Cosby

It is often toughest to digest when your demigods fall.

For decades revered as the most iconic television father of all time and especially representing a Black American family that captured the aspirational of many, Bill Cosby'a status was unmatched.

In recent years, however, his reputation has been dogged with murmurs of sexual assault by several women. The allegations came to public light after an October 2014 set by comedian Hannibal Burress in which he referenced them. Thus, this year, women by the dozens have stepped forward and leveled accusations against Cosby. While multitudes of his ardent fans remain resolute that the whole affair is a witch-hunt to tarnish his legacy, he is getting harder and harder to defend. He has admitted to obtaining quaaludes for the purpose of casual sex with several women in the past.
On December 30th, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The Cosby affair provides us a capsule into several identity issues that the U.S dealt with in 2015: race, sex, economic status, public image, and a legal system in which folks are increasingly losing faith.

4) Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundian President)
There's always one.
In recent years, Central East Africa has been the beacon upon the African hill. After years of torment, the nations of the region have made significant socio-economic and political gains. Rwanda's current economic gains and social stability make it hard to conceive that we are only two decades removed from the genocide, Kenya is growing into a technological titan and tourist resort, and Tanzania's president is shaking up African governance in ways that are a marvel to watch.

Enter Pierre.
In April, he announced he would be running for a third presidential term, despite the fact that the constitution has a two-term limit. The opposition rose up immediately and while Nkurunziza was out of the country, attempted a coup; which was immediately subverted by forces loyal to the president.
Ultimately, farcical elections took place in July and, would you imagine it, he won!

So, what's the big deal: despotic African politics as usual, right? Well, except that people are dying.
On December 11th alone, 90 people are reported to have died in clashes in the capital. Nkurunziza's utter villainy is revealed when, after the African Union recently declared that they would be deploying 5000 peacekeeping troops to the country, he threatened to fight them.

He threatened to fight the people deployed to keep peace in the volatile situation of his making.

3) Racist America

Tamir Rice. Confederate Flags. Donald Trump. Mosque efacings, Mizzou protest, Black Lives Matter. Baltimore. Sandra Bland. Cam Newton. Hulk Hogan. Walter Scott. Star Wars controversy.

You cannot turn anywhere without a reminder of the appalling state of race relations in the US.
I'd say I hope for a better 2016, but my optimism may be ill-placed.

2) Extremists
After topping the list last year, they're back. In all forms.
ISIS has not only continued to run havoc in Syria and Iraq (a large push behind the global refugee crisis,) but has been penetrating the international scene as well: recently with the attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead. As if that threat alone was not unnerving Nigerian Islamic extremists Boko Haram have pledged allegiance to ISIS. In April, al-Shabab militants massacred 147 students at the Garissa University College in Eastern Kenya. In the US, hate crimes against Muslims have tripled in the past two months alone, and Christian and Muslim militias have displaced a combined one million people in the tiny Central African Republic.

And Number One is...

Steve Harvey!*

No. I'm sorry. Here goes.

1) Dylan Roof

He could probably be counted among #2. or #3. But much like in hell, there is a special place reserved for Roof on this list.
On June 17, 21 year-old Roof walked into a Bible study at a predominantly Black church. As churches will do, he was welcomed ever so lovingly. He then went on to declare that he was there to kill Black people, and he did. Nine of them. Black. in Church.No remorse. Plead not guilty.
His website, 'The Last Rhodesian' featured a series of white supremacist paraphernalia.
Upon apprehension, word has it that Roof, decked unironically in handcuffs and a bullet-proof vest, was taken to Burger King for lunch. (juxtapose with Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland etc.)

There can be no worse example of a despicable human out of 2015 than Dylan Roof.

Mentions: Steve Harvey, Meek Mill, El Chapo, The Lion-killing dentist, Jacob Zuma, Rave, Symone, Hulk Hogan.

Who would have been on your anti-hero list? Comment Below...

(* The sheer emotion of writing the list got to the writer, and a little, albeit odd, levity was in order.)