The year formerly known as 2016 was portrayed as one long conspiracy theory.
In a year of game changers and upsets – politically, socially and technologically; expert predictions were no longer trusted because the actual outcomes continued to blindside. Some would have you believe that the Earth had literally shifted on its axis in 2016… oh wait, it really did.
So what happened?
The British electorate voted to end a 43-year membership of the European Union, dubbed ‘Brexit’, and Donald Trump shocked the world by winning the race to become President-elect of the United States of America; both results defying prior predictions by experts and pollsters.
Many large British retailers declared better than expected sales results for 2016. The Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund both conceded that they’d been too pessimistic with predictions for the UK economy following the EU referendum result, which saw a swift U-turn in growth forecasts. The credibility of the experts’ predictions was open to widespread criticism.
International diplomatic efforts struggled to address the continuing war in Syria between Russian backed Assad solders, opposing rebel fighters and the radical militant group (the so called) Islamic State /Daesh. With calls to intervene, there was confusion all around as to which side to support, if any. David Cameron’s attempts in 2013 and 2015 to get parliamentary approval for military intervention, backing the Syrian rebel forces, were vehemently thwarted by the likes of Caroline Lucas (Green Party) and Jeremy Corbyn (Labour). Both of whom did a subsequent U-turn at the end of 2016 calling for the British government to intervene.
Confused? Me too.
Paranoia and tensions escalated further between Russia and America over allegations of state sponsored hacking during the 2016 US election; with exchanges reminiscent of the Cold War, the incumbent US President, Barrack Obama, proceeded to expel 35 Russian diplomats from the United States. Public confidence would be tested further in early 2017 with unverified reports of a British intelligence services memo, apparently claiming the existence of an FSB (Russia’s spy agency) dossier on the ‘perverted conduct’ by President-elect Trump. Naturally, Mr. Trump’s chose to retort directly via Twitter, declaring this to be a ‘fake news’ story.
Accusations of scaremongering and misinformation were rife in 2016, with social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Buzzfeed accused of pedalling fake news stories – which also saw main stream media outlets repeatedly reporting unverified claims and stories as if they were fact.
If the apocalyptic predictions of Pastor Ricardo Salazar weren’t enough to make the human race question its mortality, the Grim Reaper kept us on our toes. 2016 saw an empirically large number of high profile deaths from David Bowie to Prince; Carrie Fischer to Alan Rickman – the trending hashtags just kept coming. However, even the Grim Reaper couldn’t kill off the fake news stories, which saw Sony Music publicly apologising to Britney Spears after their official Twitter account was apparently hacked. The hashtag #RIPBritney trended worldwide on Twitter.
Technological advancements continued to fuel paranoia amongst the masses in 2016, with Amazon announcing that they’d completed the first tests for an autonomous drone delivery system, raising fears of widespread criminal hacking and aviation collisions.
Elon Musk continued his campaign in the race to innovate commercial space travel, successfully landing the SpaceX reusable rockets at sea. However, this wasn’t without incident when “an anomaly” caused one the rockets to explode upon test fire. It destroyed an on-board satellite belonging to Facebook, intended to provide remote parts Africa internet access. A war of words ensued between Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and competing company United Launch Alliance, with unverified accusations of blame and sabotage.
The launch of the ‘affordable’ self-driving electric Tesla Model 3 car was also eclipsed by controversy following two fatal collisions involving the self-driving Tesla Model S in China and Florida. Further scrutiny followed, with the announcement that Tesla Motors Inc. and SolarCity Corp were to merge. Tesla declared its intention was to reposition as a clean-energy company; however, critics pointed out that Musk is chairman of both companies, and that the financially struggling SolarCity is run by two of Musk’s cousins, leading to speculation that this deal is nothing more than a bailout exercise.
Following a year plagued by untruths, distrust and discontentment, it didn’t come as much of a surprise to many when the Oxford Dictionaries declared ‘post-truth’ the Word of the Year 2016. The BBC documentary HyperNormalisation, produced by British filmmaker Adam Curtis, explored the long and complex global events that led up to the present day ‘post-truth’ situation, declaring:
“Welcome to the post-truth world. You know it’s not real. But you accept it as normal.” 2017 has begun with the usual influx of predictions; what we’ll wear, what we’ll eat, what we’ll buy – it’s business as usual, right? Watch this space… for you maybe ending the year in space.
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