2016: January to June

2016: January to June

Social media isn’t just an antenna on the world. Nowadays it’s just as likely to be making the news as reflecting it or opining on it. It can take you from the heights of mirth to the depths of despair before breakfast, can be your sofa-mate during a grudge match or the hottest ticket on TV, or can simply interrupt and entertain your day with trivia and petty diversion.

It’s also incredibly fast-moving. The story everyone’s talking about can be forgotten by the following week. But some stories deserve to be remembered for what they were – moments of brilliance, idiocy and fortune that simply caught fire. Excuse our parochialism – we’re UK based and it’s inevitable that some of the stories won’t mean much to international readers.

January 1

Manchester NYE image goes critical

An opportunistic photo of the aftermath of New Year’s Eve revelry in Manchester city centre went viral after people started pointing out what a perfect example of composition it was.

Snapped by an actual photographer, Joel Goodman, it was compared with Renaissance art and attracted interest from all over the world http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-35214873.

Whether it truly sums up a night out in Manchester was debated, and many of its “models” were tracked down and interviewed about their new-found infamy.

January 6

Twitter announces possible 10,000-character limit

Twitter co-founded Jack Dorsey suggested that Twitter might get a 10,000-word limit, pointing out that users had started simply pasting images of text into their streams. He reminded users the 140-character limit was only in place because Twitter was originally an SMS-focused medium, but since the short messages have since become Twitter’s raison d’être, reaction from users was lukewarm.  http://mashable.com/2016/01/05/twitter-character-limit-10000/?utm_content=buffer79806&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer#VUAIeWoiviqG. And anyway, the aftermath of another storm was already brewing in the shape of …

January 6

#DrummondPuddleWatch

Yes, a puddle went viral. Someone set up a camera of a puddle and streamed it live on Periscope. Admittedly it was a particularly fiendish puddle, at the end of a footpath over a flyover in Newcastle, and the Periscoper was clearly amused watching the pedestrians’ efforts to get round it with dry feet. But then it went viral, and someone turned up with a lilo.

Then brands got involved. Here’s how it spread.

January 7

Bill Makes it Official

After garnering plenty of likes on Facebook with his cautionary tales, Bill and friends got their own page. “Be Like Bill” is a series of stickman cartoons with the typical format:

This is Bill.
Bill does X.
Bill doesn’t use X to commit a social media crime.
Bill is smart.
Be like Bill.

Its makers, possibly taken aback by its popularity, didn’t make it into an official account until 7 January, and there is talk of the meme becoming something of a moneyspinner for them.

And of course, being the internet, the meme started to generate new parody memes and articles in the Independent telling us that “smarmy” Bill shouldn’t be telling us how to live and features on Mashable claiming he’s passive aggressive.

January 11

David Bowie

David_Bowie_-_TopPop_1974_04Music legend David Bowie’s death at the age of 69 was announced in the morning, just a few days after his final album was released. For several hours, it was difficult to find a post on social media that was not related to the singer.

In what is now the norm for celebrity deaths, the impromptu obituaries of everyday folk streamed alongside those of famous people’s on social media. Then inevitably, those pointing out that there are other important things happening grew more vocal.

Over the following days and weeks, any story with a tentative link to Bowie became publishable, particularly ones that would never have seen the light of day had he still walked the earth. Stories like this. Sadly, links became clickbaity and Bowie link fatigue set in.

January 13

Mourning marsupials

Hearts were broken all over the world as Queensland walker Evan Switzer’s photographs of an adult male kangaroo apparently mourning his dying mate alongside a joey received much coverage for the photographer on news channels and social media …

January 14

Kangaroo caught

… except once actual kangaroo experts looked at the story, it took something of a dark turn. They claimed that far from mourning the female, the “clearly aroused” male was in fact trying to get her to stand up to mate with her, and worse (perhaps), his vigorous foreplay might even have been responsible for her death. Looks like everyone jumped to the wrong conclusions.

January 14

Alan Rickman

Three days after Bowie’s death, actor Alan Rickman’s death was announced. The fact that both men were 69 struck some as spooky. Since both also died of cancer, many people took to social media to promote cancer charities.

January 16

Messi Bag

A photo emerged of a kid wearing a blue and white striped plastic bag with “Messi” emblazoned on it, in imitation of his Argentina shirt. The picture went viral, with most people assuming he was an Iraqi Kurd, but it later turned out that the boy was from Afghanistan. Messi would eventually arrange to meet him.

January 17

Angry Veggies force Burger Climbdown

Social media watchers will remember last year’s Protein World posters that kicked up a global storm despite only being advertised on the London Underground. The company was accused of “fat shaming” and split the internet down the middle as supporters and critics duked it out online. The company remained unrepentant and far from distancing itself, it played on the “shaming” message it probably never intended … while the cash tills carried on ringing.

Well it has happened again – sort of. The Gourmet Burger Kitchen put up some ads on the Tube poking fun at vegetarians, and veggies started shaming the company online, claiming they were being victimised. This time, however, the company took a more traditional PR-friendly route and issued an apology over offence caused.

January 18

How does it feel?

The third Monday of January arrived and marketers welcomed another day on their content calendars. The phenomenon of “Blue Monday” started out as a marketing exercise when a holiday company “calculated” that this is the most depressing day of the year, with Christmas festivities out of the way and nothing to look forward to until spring. You have to admit it was a good idea at the time, but that marketers continue to promote it in respect to retail therapy shows a little desperation.

Now, worryingly, some media outlets take the original report as an actual scientific study, and base lengthy articles on its flaky findings. Mental health charities also put Blue Monday on their content calendars to point out that it trivialises depression:

And anyway …

January 19

Twitter down!

From early in the morning to lunch time (UK time), Twitter suffered a series of outages and intermittent service, the first major problem of 2016. Twitter service status page on tumblr showed the outage message … with a helpful “tweet this” button.

January 19

Ends Reunited

Sometimes a celebrity death makes you guiltily admit that you thought they’d gone years ago. And so it was with Friends Reunited, a site founded in 2000, which announced its demise today. Originally designed for getting in touch with old schoolfriends, the site had been going through tough times for a decade, and had been bought by ITV in 2005 to become the basis of a proposed TV show, but ultimately it could not compete with newer social media, especially Facebook.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, though; in many ways Friends Reunited was ahead of its time, a true social network. It was big news when it was first created, and millions of people used it to track down old classmates (admittedly not always with the best intentions). Perhaps its drawback was that it had a finite number of customers, mainly from the older generation who had truly lost contact, while more recent ex-schoolmates already had plenty of digital ways to keep in touch, and everybody leaves a trail nowadays. The site design didn’t help, either, being stuck with an amateurish logo and a web 1.0 feel even when it was well established.

But as a trailblazer, Friends Reunited’s place in history is assured. If nothing else, it proved that the web could be used to look for people with their clothes on, and that took some doing in 2000.

January 23

Eastern US Blizzard

After days of warning, a huge snowstorm hit hundreds of miles of the Eastern USA, with reports of up 76 cm of snow falling in six states. Social media went wild for movies of snowball fights, snowboarding in Times Square and time-lapse films such as the one below. Amid the frivolity, however, more than 40 people lost their lives in snow-related incidents, mainly road accidents, and hundreds of thousands lost power.

January 24

#TraditionallySubmissive

After it emerged that David Cameron had suggested that Muslim women’s “traditionally submissive” stances might be preventing them from intervening when their sons become radicalised, the hashtag #TraditionallySubmissive (which doesn’t leave many characters for the tweet) started trending as high-achieving Muslim women took to social media to point out that they are nothing of the sort.

January 25

#StatisticallyInevitable

A woman wore a top that was the same colours as a hotel’s corridor décor. Fortunately she had a friend with a camera. http://imgur.com/gallery/nKUaUIS

January 29

Terry Wogan

The tragic showbiz trilogy was completed before January ended with the unexpected death of Sir Terry Wogan. Different generations will know him for different things, but his chat show, his radio show, Children in Need and Eurovision were what most social media users in the UK were remembering.

February 1

#Emojional Response to House of Fraser

People were amused – for all the wrong reasons – when House of Fraser started tweeting images of celebrities overlaid with emojis (note from the past: emojis are little images that represent emotions, objects, activities, places etc.). The main complaint was that it jarred with House of Fraser’s supposed positioning as a high-end retailer and that it was trying to jump on a “cool” phenomenon that wasn’t really all that. Maybe House of Fraser never was all that high end? 😛

February 4

Another story about Joeys

Big News! After sacking Clarkson last year and replacing him with Chris Evans, the BBC has drafted in its replacement for Hammond. It’s Matt LeBlanc, star of spin-off show Oh, Joey, You’re a Card! Twitter reacted with warmth towards LeBlanc.

February 5

Error 53

It has emerged that since the latest iOS update, iPhone users who have had their phones repaired by non-Apple repair artistes are getting the mysterious “Error 53” message, which has the unfortunate side-effect of bricking the phone. We heard stories of conflict news reporters having their literally war-torn iPhones repaired at local salons, only to find themselves suddenly unable to use their phones – often months after the repairs have been carried out. (OK, there was one story about a war reporter having his literally war-torn iPhone repaired at a local salon, only to find himself suddenly unable to use his phone months after the repairs have been carried out.)

February 5

Arbitrarily Detained

A three-person panel on the UN has produced a conclusion that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is “arbitrarily detained” by the UK and that he should be free to leave and be compensated. Many people online started to question whether a person who went voluntarily to the Ecuadorian embassy and who is free to leave (albeit with arrest a near certainty) can be considered detained, arbitrarily or otherwise, and posted ironic pictures and spoof news stories. #Assange and #ArbitrarilyDetained trended all day.

February 6

#RIPtwitter

After Twitter announced it was considering removing the classic chronological order of tweets in users’ streams in favour of prioritising popular, notable or relevant tweets, the social network went into open revolt with the hashtag #RIPtwitter trending. People were generally complaining that Twitter became popular because of what it is and that it does not need to become Facebook. However, amid worrying financial statistics and a seemingly endless boardroom shuffle, Twitter clearly feels it needs to do something to make it profitable. Twitter insisted nothing had been decided so far, although this statement was called a U-turn. Founder Jack Dorsey responded:

February 11

OK Go Go Weightless

Thousands watched as single-take video maestros OK Go released their latest song Inside Out. This time it the video was choreographed around periods of zero-G parabolic flight inside an aircraft, complete with acrobatic stewards and exploding paint balloons.

February 12

The Independent Announces Paper Closure

The Independent newspaper announced that it would cease printing its paper edition in March, concentrating solely on online and mobile content delivery. Many members of the public and prominent journalists on Twitter went online to mourn its passing without much noticeable irony. No doubt other titles will watch its progress carefully, but it’s hard to see how it will be able to rekindle its heyday of incisive journalism without resorting to click-friendly content and a Huffington-style journalist payment structure. Time will tell …

February 14

St Valentine’s Day

Also known as Avoid Social Media Day.

February 15

Fry Leaves for Good This Time

After apparently receiving a barrage of abuse and a Zeppelin of uplift after he apparently made comments at the BAFTAs apparently about costume designer Jenny Beavan’s apparel yesterday, trillion-follower account-holder Stephen Fry quit Twitter.

It’s impossible for regular people to understand what it’s like to have your every word picked apart on social media. Having hundreds of people express disgust or admiration, to beg for retweets or to advertise their wares in your timeline must be genuinely tiring, and in a way is a weakness of social media for the larger accounts (and probably why many celebrities hire people to tweet for them). But Stephen fans can be heartened by the fact that he has quit before and returned. Fry is probably one of a handful of celebs who can make it onto the national news for quitting a social network, however. And he did.

February 17

#HowVIP

Footage emerged of music legend Sir Paul McCartney, last year’s Album of the Year winner Beck and actor Woody Harrelson being turned away from a swanky post-Grammy party. McCartney seemed to take it pretty well, and his quip “how VIP do we gotta get?” spawned the #HowVIP hashtag and a stream of jokes. (The club said that McCartney simply went to the wrong party and the helpful bouncer was pointing the trio to where they wanted to be.)

February 17

Jeb’s America

Republican nomination no-hopeful Jeb Bush tweeted a picture of a gun with one word: America. Most people thought this was a bit weird.

There were comments about it being a suicide note, and then the parodies started, with users posting images of their own countries’ weapons of choice.

He quit the race a few days later.

February 21

Brexit/Br … emain?

After securing something approaching a deal on the UK’s role and commitment in the EU, PM David Cameron came home to prepare the country for the long-anticipated in/out referendum. A “gang of six” Conservatives came out as being in the out campaign, but nobody really cared until Boris Johnson joined them. The pound instantly slumped, indicating the markets’ fear of flux and the weight Johnson wields. Cameron and most other cabinet members are on the “stay” side. Who wins? We decide.

February 24

Like is So, Like, Last Year

Facebook finally rolled out its new set of reactions, for those times when Like doesn’t quite cut it. The new emojis, “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad,” and “angry” are no doubt already part of your emotional vocabulary, and it all started on this day.

February 24

GIF is Amazing

It can’t possibly have been a direct reaction to Facebook reactions, but on the same day, Twitter users noticed that the option to add a gif from a selection of a few dozen popular reactions (mainly clips for TV shows and movies) had been added.

February 27

#NeverTrump

On the last Saturday before Super Tuesday, the hashtag #NeverTrump trended worldwide as people gave reasons why they thought it a bad idea to vote for Donald Trump in the primaries. Such is the nature of the way the US elects its presidents that the hashtag was used not only by Democrats, but also supporters of the other Republican candidates.

February 28/29

The Oscars Happened

People took to social media to talk about the Oscars. DiCaprio’s win was apparently the most tweeted Oscars event in Twitter’s history, racking up 440,000 mentions per minute, almost double that of Ellen DeGeneres’ famous selfie from 2014. Eventually, people stopped talking about the Oscars.

March 4

Face Swap Friday/Friday Faceswap

It got weird. https://twitter.com/search?q=%23faceswapfriday&src=typd

March 6/7

Aurora Borealis

The Northern Lights beautified most people’s social media streams at people published photos and videos of what was an extraordinary display that was visible well into the North of England at around 8pm.

March 7

Kim Tries Again

Publicity-shy Kim Kardashian posted an Instagram shot of herself. She might have been naked, but large black stripes concealed the bits that make you officially naked, so she also might not have been. Just like the last time with the champagne photo, the internet survived the onslaught. And (au) naturally, it sparked a debate between those who said she should cover up and those who said she can do whatever she wants with her own body. Which brings us to …

March 8

#IWD2016

International Women’s Day is now a thing on social media. Brands big up their female credentials and inspirational stories abound alongside pictures of Emmeline Pankhurst. Let’s hope self-promotion doesn’t sink the celebration before it makes itself unnecessary.

March 9

RIP George Martin

Ringo Starr announced on Twitter that legendary producer Sir George Martin had died age 90. It’s a cliché to call him “The Fifth Beatle”, but it’s widely acknowledged that he gave them both their sound and the space to become experimental – as well as signing them in the first place when others had turned them down. The morning was dominated by memories and illustrations of his genius, e.g.:

March 17

We Liked It

News broke that TV magician Paul Daniels had died. Some people on social media have inevitably started commenting that a lot of famous people are dying of late. Others point out that there are a lot of famous people. Or there were, anyway.

March 20

Name That Boat

So the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has a new £200m research vessel and, in the style of Blue Peter, they ask the public to give it a name. On the internet. Great idea. The runaway winner appears to be Boaty McBoatface, which frankly could have been a lot worse. The nation bated its breath as it waited to see if they would go through with it. Meanwhile the normal who first (jokingly) suggested it, one James Hand, was overrun with requests for media interviews and apologised to the NERC for the trouble he had caused.

March 21

Happy Birthday, Twitter

Ten years ago today the first tweet was sent and a social medium was born (Twitter).

March 22

Brussels Hit by Terrorists

A few days after the main suspect in last year’s terrorist attack on Paris was apprehended, Brussels was hit by deadly bombs in its airport and underground system. As with all news, it first broke on social media, with rumours and counter-rumours spinning out of control.

March 24

I’m Afraid You Can’t Say That, Tay

Microsoft attempted to create an artificially intelligent program by learning from real life users on Twitter and responding to them. Tay was supposed to be a “typical” teenage girl (which definitely exists), who would pick up chatter and start mimicking humans. You could argue that her experience of social media was spot on, because within 24 hours she was spouting racist bile, dishing out sexual innuendo and repeating conspiracy theories. Microsoft understandably put Tay to sleep, but maybe her frankness shouldn’t be swept under the carpet – it is, after all, many people’s everyday experience online.

March 27

Celebratory, My Dear Holmes

Because absolutely nobody knew why we were all off work on Friday and Monday, TV’s Eamonn Holmes stepped in to remind us that it is actually a Christian festival.

The People were grateful for the heads-up and nobody reacted sarcastically.

March 28

Best Crisps Announced

After literally tweets on the subject, the World Cup of Crisps winner was announced, and it was, of course, pickled onion flavour Monster Munch. Cue angry responses about Monster Munch not really being “crisps”, which is clearly nonsense as they are definitely crispy. The competition was arranged by TV’s Mr Pointless, Richard Osman, for the charity Child’s i foundation. His put-down to the complainers was stinging:

March 29

Hijack Hijinx

It’s not every day that a hijack situations descends into farce. But March 29 was not every day. When an Egyptair flight from Cairo to Alexandria was hijacked by a man in a suicide belt and forced to divert to Cyprus, everyone feared the worst. But once most of the passengers had been released by the hijacker, one of the remaining passengers Ben Innes asked if he could have his photo taken next to the would-be terrorist, Eldin Mustafa. The hijacker said yes, and the photo went viral.

https://twitter.com/Journo_Paul/status/714880281816219648/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

It turned out that the hijacker wasn’t an international terrorist at all – he just wanted to see his ex-wife in Cyprus. And the suicide belt wasn’t even real. No doubt after a spell behind bars, a career as a media personality and countless marriage proposals await Eldin Mustafa.

March 31

Ronnie Corbett

More sad news on the entertainment front as the death of Ronnie Corbett is announced. Half of The Two Ronnies that dominated light entertainment in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, he had been a TV and movie actor for decades, appearing in the famous “Class” sketch on The Frost Report almost 50 years to the day ago (7 April 1966). People on social media posted pictures of four candles and fork handles in tribute to his best known sketch.

April 1

April Fools’ Day

The usual.

April 3

Panama Papers Released

Millions of documents relating to the financial jiggery-pokery of our most trusted and respected international organised criminals, dictators, politicians and celebrities were released, to widespread shock and belief. Centred on a leak from corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, the documents were interpreted as evidence of money laundering and tax evasion on an industrial scale dating back 40 years, mainly through the creation of shell companies (Mossack Fonseca naturally said they hadn’t broken any laws). Pretty much everyone found a stick with which to beat their enemies, such was the depth of the scandal, and it dominated the news and social media for several days as new revelations dripped out.

April 4–7

A Question of Morality

PM David Cameron came out of the Panama revelations rather badly as he clearly didn’t want to disclose much about his private finances, but over the following days he was forced to gradually reveal more and more, culminating in the publication of his tax returns and the news that he received a gift of £200,000 from his mother which, because it was in two instalments, exempted him from around £80,000 in tax. While Cameron is by no means the sole benefactor of such a move, it was news because in 2012 he had called comedian Jimmy Carr’s tax avoidance scheme “morally wrong”.

April 14

Mystery Couple Everybody Knows

A star has taken out a superinjunction to prevent news spreading of a bout of infidelity. Who is it? ask the online newspapers, dropping massive not-so-subtle hints about the identity of the person of indeterminate gender who might have done something unmentionable to another person or persons.

Of course, everybody knows who it is, because only England is covered by the injunction, and US and international (including Scotland) titles have already named the person. Anyone with the internet can easily find out, but the newspaper that breaks the story will be landed with a hefty law suit. Unless a judge overturns the injunction, of course … Meanwhile, lawyers have been spotted at the local Bentley dealer’s.

April 17

Depp Heard Dog Shame

Australia is famous for its budgie smugglers but 2016 had other ideas. The island nation takes its biosecurity very seriously, and for very good reasons – it has a distinct ecosystem and dozens of unique species that can fall prey to intrusive introductions. But actor Amber Heard was either ignorant of the strictness or chose to flout it when she brought her two dogs into the country while husband Johnny Depp was filming Pirates of the Caribbean XXXVIII … and the law caught up with her. Since the maximum penalty is a heavy prison sentence, social media went into meltdown predicting what might happen.

It seems that a kind of common sense prevailed, with Heard and Depp making an apology video that looks like a parody until you realise they are deadly serious, which of course went viral.

And people got creative.

Remember, kids: don’t smuggle dogs.

April 20

Victoria Wood

Yet another star of light entertainment from the 1980s and 1990s was lost today, this time comedian and writer Victoria Wood. People took to social media to remember an extremely likeable star and her best moments.

April 21

Prince is Dead. Long Live the Queen.

Mainstream media was trying its best to make people bothered about the Queen’s 90th birthday, but over in the USA another story was about to sweep the agenda at teatime in Britain. Multi-talented rock and pop star Prince had been found dead in his home, aged 57. A man who had reinvented not just himself but the art of nominative typography drew comparisons with dearly departed Bowie, and social media reacted with shock that yet another star had been taken away from us. Although Prince was associated mainly with the 80s and early 90s, he remained iconic and was still filling stadiums and intimate venues alike, performing not just his hits but new experimental music, a departure from most acts of yesteryear who trundle on as tribute acts to themselves.

April 22

Obama Comments on Brexit

US President Barrack Obama popped over to the UK and made comments about the UK’s membership of the EU that did not please the “Leave” campaign. He said that Britain would be at the back of the queue after the EU when it came to negotiating a trade deal, and that it could take 10 years. Since the assumption that the US would leap at the chance of creating a deal with an independent UK is a central plank of the Leave campaign, their polling took a hit. Boris Johnson (a leaver) went so far as to suggest Obama’s “part-Kenyan” ancestry clouded his judgement on the issue, which didn’t go down too well on either side of the debate.

April 25

British Home Stalls

Few people were surprised when BHS announced it was going into administration, which put 11,00 jobs and possibly employees’ pensions at risk. Commentary online was mainly about how BHS had failed to move with the times, but also about how ex-owner Philip Green had supposedly run the company into the ground to maximise his profits (he sold the company for one pound in 2015).

April 26

Hillsborough Inquest Verdict

Twenty-six years after the disaster that took the lives of 96 Liverpool fans at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground, the largest jury trial in British history concluded that the fans were unlawfully killed. This was the result of years of campaigning by families, who had to battle accusations made by the police and a hostile press that seemed to have it in for both football fans and the city of Liverpool.

April 28

Ed Balls

Ed Balls

May 2

Leicester City. Champions of England.

Leicester entered the weekend needing three points from three games to make it mathematically impossible for second-place Tottenham to take the Premier League title. On Sunday, however, they could only manage a 1-1 draw with Manchester United, which meant all eyes were on Spurs, who played bitter rivals (and reigning PL champs) Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday night. Spurs needed to win all  of their final three games to have a chance of the title (with Leicester losing theirs). When the visitors went 2-0 up, it looked like the title race still had a story to reveal, but Chelsea fought back, earned a 2-2 draw and handed the title to Leicester.

The news channels and all of social media turned blue. Leicester, who have not had hundreds of millions lavished on them like the rest of the top half of the Premiership, simply outplayed the rest and took advantage of faltering performances from the big clubs. But this minnow status (let’s not forget that Leicester were in the relegation battle last season and some bookies were offering 5000-1 for them to win the PL) ensured that more or less everyone in the country wanted Leicester to win it when their own teams had left the race. It made it probably the most popular victory in English footballing history and is definitely without parallel in the Premier League era, matched only perhaps by Nottingham Forest’s achievements in the 1977–80 period (a period that pre-dated the astronomical wage bills and player values we see today). If Leicester go on to lift the Champions League trophy, we can truly say that football has been turned upside down.

May 2

Yorkshire’s Feeling Supersonic

Many people in and around Yorkshire took to social media to find out what was causing strange loud bangs in the early evening. Eventually it emerged that an Air France passenger plane had failed to communicate with air traffic control and aroused suspicion enough to have two RAF Typhoon jets scrambled to escort the plane to a forced landing. It was these Typhoons breaking the sound barrier that people heard. People were gladdened by the news.

May 5

A New Day Sets

When New Day launched at the end of February, everyone said it was crazy to launch a print daily newspaper, especially in view of the fact that the Independent announced on February 12 that it was going digital only. But Trinity Mirror, the group behind New Day, insisted it was different. It wasn’t going to be a newspaper as such, but more of a human interest paper with snippets of news. Unfortunately, it looks as if the doubters were right. After just over two months, the paper announced tomorrow would be its last edition after disappointing sales. It died with a whimper, but you have to hand it to Trinity Mirror for at least giving the format a chance.

May 6

Boaty Vote Bloat Totes Don’t Float

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Not Boaty McBoatface

National treasure he may be, but the dismay among the impromptu boat-naming community was palpable when the new research boat was named RRS Sir David Attenborough, rather than the more popular Boaty McBoatface as suggested by James Hand on March 20.

Still, it does come days before Attenborough’s 90th birthday, for which there’s understandable – and justifiable – interest. Without the Hand intervention, Attenborough would have been a shoo-in, but we’re all learnt a lot from this episode.(Mainly, don’t ask the public to name anything unless you’re confident you can overrrule it if the vote doesn’t go the way you planned.)

May 11

Cameron’s Corrupt Comment

He didn’t know he was being filmed, but PM David Cameron came under fire when he described the Nigerian and Afghan administrations as “fantastically corrupt”. Needless to say the governments concerned, plus Cameron’s political opponents, leapt on the indiscretion, but the comments were made in the context of a summit on tackling corruption that was to be attended by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, who recently came to power on an anti-corruption ticket. So while Cameron might have being slightly undiplomatic, it would be a stretch to say he wasn’t speaking the truth.

May 14

Ukraine Win with Controversial Song

In an exciting climax, Ukraine became Eurovision 2016 champions with their song, 1944. The competition premiered its new voting system designed to eliminate political voting: each country had a jury of music experts whose votes accounted for 50% of the points then the countries’ populations voted for the other 50%. After the juries declared, Australia (not a typo) was about 100 points ahead, and it looked like the competition was over before the public had it say. But the public was quite … well, political. They voted strongly for Ukraine, who ended up pipping Australia by 23 points, followed by Russia a further 20 points back.

The victory was significant because of the subject matter of the winning song. 1944 was ostensibly about Stalin’s expulsion of the Crimean Tatars in the 1940s, but there was no hiding the fact that the song was really about modern-day Ukraine and Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russia was not happy with the result. They actually won the popular vote but the national juries’ decisions hit them below the waterline, so they very officially called it a conspiracy. We’ve always had political and neighbourly voting in Eurovision, but has the competition now become an actual political event?

May 15

United Evacuated

It was the last day of the Premiership season, and Manchester United (on 63 points) had a lot to play for at home against Bournemouth. They could still qualify for the Champions League if neighbours City (on 65 points) lost away at in-form Swansea, and with every game kicking off simultaneously at 3 p.m., there was the potential for the spirit of 2012 to be evoked (albeit for the scrag ends of Euro competition).

But with minutes to go until kick-off, Old Trafford was evacuated after a suspicious device was found. It would ultimately result in the match being abandoned until Tuesday.

United fans’ laughing in the face of terror became something of a theme for the next hour or so, and many took to social media to laugh at the situation, despite its seriousness. Many fans interviewed thanked the bomb planters for sparing them 90 minutes of Van Gaal’s overly cautious play. After a controlled explosion, it emerged that the “device” was actually a fake bomb planted by the security services from an earlier anti-terror training exercise.

In the event City drew 1-1, which meant that United would have to beat Bournemouth 19-0 to qualify on goal difference. Tuesday’s game, when the rest of the Premier League had finished, was set to be a bit of a dead rubber.

May 17

BBC Makes a Meal of Recipe Withdrawal

This morning people were getting quite stirred because the BBC announced it was going to extract recipes from its site (it has 11,000) to save money. Although it was just part of a buffet of trimming to the website, it was the recipes that got the public simmering. As the day progressed, the uproar caused the BBC to backtrack and say the recipes were going to remain in place but would not be linked to (which is as good as being removed, really). There was a petition, but the appetite for a fight was reduced when it emerged that recipes were also available on other websites and in “books”.

May 17

Weird Picture Eventually goes Viral

Suddenly everyone was talking about a strange “once seen cannot be unseen” image that was sweeping the internet. At first glance (and second, third, fourth, fifth …) it just looks like a wall with a stone lodged in it. Then all of a sudden it resolves itself to be a *****!

wall

Just as the reality of the image might take ages to emerge, the image itself is actually about two years old, and appears on several Spanish-language websites. It just only counts as viral when English-language peeps are talking about it, apparently!

May 21

United Win the Double

May 21 was quite a day for Manchester United. They won the FA Cup, sacked their manager (although Louis van Gaal apparently didn’t know about it) and hired ex-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, all over the space of a few hours. It seems it was more a case of bad information management (i.e. leaking) than ill-feeling towards the respected Dutchman, but as worst-kept secrets go, this one was up there with Will & Kate.

May 28

RIP Harambe

Social media took time out of tweeting photos of pulled pork burgers to express anger at the killing of an endangered silverback gorilla in Cincinnati Zoo. The magnificent 17-year-old beast was shot dead after a three-year-old child jumped into his enclosure so that he could swim with him. While few would object to the gorilla being shot to save the life of the child, the story became controversial because videos of the event showed a gorilla that appeared to be protecting the child. Ultimately, someone had to make the decision, and it was decided that sedating the gorilla might actually be more dangerous, and a marksman was instructed to fire. Days of debate by animal behaviour experts and members of the public followed, and the boy’s parents came under particular scrutiny for allowing their child to gain access to the enclosure in the first place. Here’s a nice summary.

June 4

Muhammad Ali

News started percolating through the UK on Saturday morning that one of the world’s most recognisable sportsmen, boxer Muhammad Ali, had died after suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for decades. The story dominated the weekend, as people of all ages reflected on what Ali had meant to them. Those old enough to remember seeing him box and become a huge personality outside the ring could probably grasp the phenomenon more firmly, but he had a name that resonated positively down the ages and people of all ages chipped in to express their condolences to someone who truly was The Greatest.

June 7

There’s No El in Trouble

Professional box opening facilitator Noel Edmonds attracted anger and ridicule in equal measure when he promoted:

It might have been left at that until the backlash started and he began suggesting that cancer is caused by “negative attitudes”. And then he went so far as to blame an individual cancer sufferer for his own illness.

June 11

Euro 2016 – Wales Triumph, Same Old England

In Euro 2016 in France, Wales opened their campaign with a 1-o win over Slovakia, while England lost their slim lead in the dying minutes to draw 1-1 with Russia. But the main talking points of the day were taking place off the field, where a mix of England and Russia fans alongside local Ultras from Marseille led, inevitably, to depressing scenes as violence erupted outside the ground and on the terraces at full time. FIFA would go on to threaten the removal of England and Russia from the competition if there was a repeat of the scenes. Russia is due to host the World Cup in 2018.

Stan Collymore covered the violence live on Periscope.

June 12

Pulse Massacre

Social media became overwhelmed as news emerged of a mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. As the story developed the casualty list became more shocking; by the end of the day the count reached 49 dead and more than 50 injured, making it the mass shooting with the highest death toll in US history. As with all shooting sprees in the US, the debate quickly turned to the nation’s gun laws that are lax by the standards of most developed nations. But soon the identity of the shooter and his stated support for ISIS expanded the discourse into the territories of religion and homophobia, as friends and families mourned.

June 15

Flotilla for Brexit

The campaign for the UK to leave the EU organised a flotilla down the Thames, on paper to highlight the plight of the British fishing industry but on water as a massive PR opportunity. The Remain camp couldn’t let Leave take over the airwaves, so organised its own plans to scupper the party. Enter Bob Geldof, whose pro-EU views were perhaps not widely known, with an enormous PA system strapped to a boat. He started hurling abuse at Nigel Farage that was so loud that nobody could hear a word Nige had to say. Twitter thought the whole spectacle was hilarious, of course. This chap was there.

June 16

Jo Cox MP

The EU Referendum campaign was progressing exactly as it had done for weeks – nasty, vindictive, misleading, distracting, dog-whistling and of low quality. In the morning Nigel Farage unveiled a campaign poster featuring a queue of migrants with the caption “Breaking Point”. The image was condemned by both sides of the debate for being not only misleading (the migrants were actually travelling to a camp on the Croatia/Slovenia border) but it was also called racist and inflammatory.

But as the day progressed news from the village of Birstall, West Yorkshire, was to make all else pale. The local Labour MP Jo Cox was about to hold a constituency surgery when a man approached her and shot her twice, stabbed her and kicked her on the ground. He was reported to have shouted “Britain first” or “Put Britain first”. Initial news suggested she was in a serious but stable condition and social media was used to wish her a speedy recovery. But as the afternoon progressed, the worst outcome came true, and Jo died in hospital. There followed a massive outpouring from right across the political spectrum at the death of someone who, it seems, was genuinely liked as a person. Cox was the first MP to be assassinated since Ian Gow’s murder by the Provisional IRA in 1990. She left behind a husband and two young children.

Sadly, comment soon returned to an ugly state as accusations flew of the tragedy being used to advance a pro- or anti-Brexit argument.

June 24

Big Changes for the UK

The referendum that has consumed British media for months finally came, and Out won it by 52% to 48%. Within hours of it being made official, prime minister David Cameron announced his resignation, triggering a leadership race that looks set to be won by Boris Johnson.

The night started promisingly for Remain, with most polls on the final day showing a 55% to 45% win for the status quo. The first result came from Gibraltar, which was overwhelmingly for Remain. But when Sunderland and Newcastle declared shortly after, Remainers got worried. Newcastle went Remain by a whisker, but Sunderland was overwhelmingly for leave. Experts soon predicted that this would extrapolate into a narrow victory for Leave, and so it proved.

The pound fell 10% on the US dollar, and the London stock market plunged, with banks being hardest hit.

When more detail emerged over the course of the morning, it became abundantly clear that the young voted for Remain, with Leave becoming consistently more likely with each upward age bracket. Scotland, Northern Ireland, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Cardiff, Oxford and Cambridge were Remainers, but the rest of England and Wales were Leavers. Inevitably, there were calls from Scotland and Northern Ireland for independence and unification referenda.

We’re entering new territory.

June 25–26

Weekend of Political Turmoil in the UK

After the initial shock of the Brexit vote, Britain started coming to terms with the reality of the situation. The Sun and the Mail, both ardent Leave supporters, wrote features on how Brexit was going to adversely affect us, which they had forgot to mention during the campaign. The exit campaign came under scrutiny for its ability to deliver on promises made before the referendum, most notably the claim that they would spent the £350m they would “save” by leaving the EU on the NHS. No key Brexit supporter was prepared to support this position post-vote, and the Vote Leave website was taken down.

As yet, nobody has thrown his or hat into the ring regarding the Conservative leadership (a job that would happen to come with a bonus job – prime minister). Boris Johnson is seen as a shoo-in, yet there’s plenty of opposition to him within the party. Many see him as untrustworthy and the architect of Cameron’s demise.

Labour shadow cabinet members started handing in their resignations in an effort to force Jeremy Corbyn to stand down. Although the move was ostensibly down to a lacklustre performance in the EU debate, anyone who follows politics knows that disquiet about Corbyn’s general performance was growing among Labour MPs and supporters. However, Corbyn was determined not to go down without a fight, and activists took to social media to argue and criticise rebel MPs and their supporters.

Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP expressed her concern that Scotland risked being taken out of the EU against its will (it voted 62/38 Remain). She suggested she’d be looking into another independence referendum, but the EU let it be known that an independent Scotland would not be granted automatic re-entry (partly because Spain and Belgium which have separatist problems of their own, have vetoes).

Northern Ireland, also a Remain majority are, started to contemplate the fact that it would have a land border with an EU country, and would therefore need to reinstall border posts and passport control along what is currently an utterly porous border. For Martin McGuinness, this could represent his longed-for united Ireland, although there would be a separate set of problems to Scotland’s were this to happen.

Online, unhappy Remainers were urged to sign a parliament.uk petition saying that without attracting 60% of a 75% turnout, the Brexit referendum should be re-run. The petition raised an unprecedented 3.5 million votes by Monday. There was even a twist to the tale. While most voters assumed the petition had been set up after the vote by a Remainer, it had in fact been set up in May by a Brexiter, William Oliver Healey, who was concerned that Remain would scrape through by a few thousand votes and close the issue for a generation. He claimed that his petition had been hijacked, although he clearly started that “if the remain or leave vote is less than 60%” then the petition would come into effect (if he had his way). Nigel Farage had himself made similar statements in May, saying that “in a 52-48 referendum, this would be unfinished business by a long way.” He was obviously talking about his side losing, but stating the exact referendum figures (albeit the other way round) he strengthened the case for a re-run.

Meanwhile the pound and FTSE 100 continued to fall …

June 27

Euro 2016 – England 1: Iceland 0

That’s what the score was after 3 minutes after Sterling was brought down in the box and Rooney converted the penalty.

A minute later Iceland equalised.

Twenty minutes later they scored again.

And that was it. With perhaps the worst performance anyone had ever seen in an England team, the boys booked their tickets back home and the all-conquering Iceland (unbeaten so far in the finals and winners of their qualifying pot, lest we forget) marched on.

Manager Roy Hodgson announced his resignation straight away. (Jeremy Corbyn has made no such statement yet, despite losing the support of most of the parliamentary party.)

June 30

Gove Stands. Johnson Quits. Corbyn Remains.

Early in the morning Michael Gove announced his surprise decision to stand in the Conservative leadership contest, against Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Stephen Crabb and Liam Fox. It was a surprise because the assumption was that he would be Boris Johnson’s running mate (in return for a cabinet post, natch). So something was clearly not going to plan within the team that spearheaded the victorious EU “Leave” campaign. But just before lunchtime came the bombshell that Johnson had decided to quit. Shock and anger reigned in equal measure, as it appeared one of the most vociferous supporters of Brexit, whom many considered a dead cert for prime minister after Cameron’s departure, had at best chickened out, at worst run away from a fiasco he himself had helped to create.

Corbyn? Oh, he just became embroiled an an antisemitism row after comparing Israel to ISIS at an antisemitism event.

 

2016: July to December >>>

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