Sitting down to catalog all my complaints about the online world in 2014, I desperately wanted to orchestrate a way to put Taylor Swift at the top of the list.
Earlier this year, Swift took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to moralize on the future of the music industry, writing, among other things, "It's my opinion that music should not be free." Now, I believe there's room for a wide spectrum of views on funding models for and access to art and culture, but there was just something so hypocritical about Swift's remark, considering that, at around the same time, she released a free interactive app based on her single "Blank Space." How was it free? Because it was sponsored by American Express.
So, here you have the artist whom Forbes named the third richest celebrity younger than 30 being subsidized by the debt industry and telling her young fans that they should spend-spend-spend. What's worse is that the entire 360-degree, immersive music video is set on a Downton Abbey-class estate—chandeliers, ponies, hunting hounds and champagne at dinner—further glorifying opulence for its own sake.
Then I shook it off. This year has been just so polluted with gruesome behavior on the Internet that I can't even.
OK, maybe I can even, just not politely. This hater was gonna hate, and as I tallied up the number of times I yelled "Fuck you" at my computer screen, I realized that Taylor Swift was nowhere close to the top.
For my cathartic pleasure, and hopefully yours, here's a whole lot of profanity for the three most detestable Internet phenomena of 2014:
3. Uber: For the last year, I've been extolling the virtues of Uber, the popular app-based service that lets you order rides from everyday people driving their own cars. I can't stand taxis. The little TV screens that you can't shut off make me sick. The often-reckless driving makes me sick. The smell of stale cigarettes makes me sick. And the way that the taxi medallion system monopolizes the industry and exploits workers makes me sick. As a substitute, Uber was a joy to use.
But then this year, a whole lot of bullshit came out about the company, including dirty corporate tricks, failures to conduct sufficient background checks and suggestions by an executive that it would be appropriate to hire a team of opposition researchers to dig into the personal lives of journalists. That last one would've been enough, but then there was a lawsuit over Uber drivers refusing rides to blind people. When one driver did pick up a blind person, the driver allegedly put the person's dog in the trunk. Fuck you, Uber. Now I have to ride in a car with a pink fucking mustache.
2. Gamergate: Despite the disgusting amounts of online harassment against women the Gamergate meme has generated, there are those who continue to push the idea that it's all about ethics in video-game journalism. This is just the biggest piece of disproportionate bullshit of the year (seriously, just compare the length of the Wikipedia page to that of, say, any other historical event). Never mind that many of the allegations brought forward have been debunked; in San Diego's journalism community alone, there have been far, far worse ethical trespasses. (How many reporters now work for the government agencies they used to cover? How many times has U-T San Diego put its publisher's pet projects on its front page?)
Let's not forget, this whole thing started with one of the most asshole-ish acts of the year: a jaded guy publishing a vindictive narrative about his game-developer ex-girlfriend's romantic history. Fuck that dude.
1. Islamic State: Years ago, when I was in grad school, I watched the entire Daniel Pearl beheading video for a final paper. It was pixelated and jumpy, but watching his captors saw through his neck was one of the most traumatic scenes to ever to touch my retina. I haven't been able to bring myself to watch in full any of the gory beheadings from Islamic State this year, but they are widely acknowledged to be higher production value, due to a more Internet-savvy level of extremist recruits.
Whether it's a recruiting tactic or a form of psychological warfare, these videos have turned social media into a battleground. I'm not for censoring this stuff (at the very least, journalists need to be able to access these videos); I'm for countering ugly speech with more speech. So, here's my cluster-F-bomb strike: Fuck you, Islamic State. Fuck you to the ninth power. Fuck you with a gravy boat. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.