It may be the most creative way to quit a job in American history.
A baby had been crying since take-off. Two female passengers had been fighting about overhead bin space since boarding in Pittsburgh. As soon as the Jet Blue plane touched down at JFK, one of the women hopped up to grab her bag. Never mind that the fasten seatbelt sign was on. Never mind that flight attendant Steven Slater had repeatedly told her to wait until the plane taxied into the gate. She told him to go sleep with himself and whipped out her suitcase, accidentally whacking him in the forehead. And that’s when Steven Slater lost it.
He stormed back to the intercom system. He cursed out the passengers before grabbing two brews from the drink cart. He then ripped open the emergency exit, bounced down the emergency slide to the tarmac, and drove home.
Steven Slater is no longer employed by JetBlue Airlines. He has, however, enjoyed the fruits of 15 minute celebrity. He was offered a reality TV show. He even made a (heinous) rap video.
Slater’s eruption was hardly the stuff of Rosa Parks, but he struck a chord with many as a working class hero. He’s a totem of a disillusioned American working-class sick and tired of the same old in 2010. 138,000 people liked the Steven Slater Facebook page within 48 hours. Republicans evoked Slater’s grand exit in a campaign ad to mirror Democrats bailing from President Obama.
Steven Slater had the audacity to do what every annoyed employee has only dreamed of. He wasn’t going to take it anymore. He’d been patient. He tried to be civil. But nothing changed. It just got worse. So enough already, Steven Slater said. Enough with the forced smiles. Enough with the whiny passengers with too much baggage for overhead. Enough with corporate. Slater said he died a little on the inside the first time he had to charge a passenger for a sandwich. Enough with the same old.
If 2008 was the year of Too Big To Fail and 2009 was ballyhooed as the year of Change, 2010 was More Of The Same. The recession is only over to economists and Wall Street. Firms are back to record profitability, but the unemployment rate still hovers around 10 percent. Our troops are still in Afghanistan and will be for another four years.
Historians may look back 2010 as another driftless year of the American Empire. A wasted year where a paralyzed Congress squabbled over semantics and swallowed up the once-promising Obama presidency. Meanwhile, China quietly passed Japan as the world’s second largest economy and bought up vast swathes of Africa and the Middle East.
Now, it wasn’t all bad in 2010. One billion people tuned in to see the 33 Chilean miners rescued after 69 days entombed 2,000 feet underground. Myanmar’s beloved politician Suu Kyi was released after 15 years under house arrest. Drew Brees and an unthinkable onside kick right after half-time delivered New Orleans a Super Bowl title five years after Katrina. The BP oil spill, while tragic, was not nearly as devastating as feared. Turns out the Gulf of Mexico is far tougher than we gave her credit for. We had the World Cup and even a Winter Olympics we forgot about. And, of course, there was Season 2 of ABC’s “Modern Family”.
2010 was an especially good year for these guys:
2010’s Person Of The Year: Julian Assange
He’s the second most wanted man in the world. He has divulged more confidential documents than the rest of the world press combined. Not bad for a pale, 39 year old hacker.
Julian Assange moved 34 times by the age of 14. A quarter century later, he is even more nomadic. The most connected man in the world lives a rootless existence. He says he resides in airports and has virtually no material possessions, save for his Australian passport.
He doesn’t have a red button but an all-powerful Touchpad on his laptop. Assange orbits the globe with the power to sink politicians, companies or wars with a key-stroke. He is an information “terrorist” who deals in official government memos, not bullets. He sets their own words back on them for all the world to see.
Assange is the purported founder of WikiLeaks.com, the website that released more than 250,000 State Department cables. He gave us the seedy underbelly of American foreign policy. We saw beyond the glossy press releases and photo-ops and peered into how the American Empire works backdoors. The cables exposed our diplomats’ raw, unfiltered feelings about the rest of the world.
A few of the revelations are disturbing: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered the State Department to spy on the UN. Washington tried to bargain off Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Belgium like poker chips . Saudi Arabia wanted the U.S. to bomb Iran.
But nothing is veritable Abu Ghraib bomb-shell material. The cables are more embarrassing then they are enlightening. They are the juicy tidbits of diplomats’ water cooler talk: Qaddahafi always travels with a “voluptuous blonde” nurse. German chancellor Angela Merkel is boring and “rarely creative”. And, unsurprisingly, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is “vain” and should not be Italy’s Prime Minister.
Russia’s blustery Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is steamed our diplomats see him as the “Batman” to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s “Robin”. But Putin is an exception not an example. Most foreign leaders and diplomats have brushed aside the cables. We knew this already, they shrugged. We’ve called each other worse.
Hillary Clinton has stoically maintained the State Department will “get through this”. But deep down she knows it will never be the same. She will never be able to look French President Nicholas Sarkozy in the eye the same way again after he knows the State Department thinks he’s thin-skinned.
Interpol placed Assange on the wanted list last Wednesday. An international manhunt is underway for Assange over alleged attacks on two women during a lecture stop in Stockholm this August. Justice Department lawyers are pouring over the 1917 Espionage Act to see how they can arrest him.
Sarah Palin wants Assange hunted down like Osama Bin Laden. And to many, Assange is a terrorist. He deals not in car bombs but information dumps. Assange similarly hopes to topple Western governments. But he seeks to implode them from within. As they tell it, WikiLeaks will force governments to clamp down and centralize to keep their secrets within. But the governments will ultimately topple under their own Orwellian Big Brother weight and “more open forms of governance” will emerge.
The debate about Julian Assange is a debate about: have we reached a point of too much information? Yes, WikiLeaks will clean up American embassies. Heads will roll. His alleged “terrorism” is truth. He’s simply releasing the real story of tales the government doesn’t want you to know. He’s the savior for the X-Files Truth is Out There information hounds.
But there’s the other side. The peril of no secrets. Hillary Clinton argues Assange put lives at stake by releasing the cables. The Pentagon points out Afghan families are mentioned in the cables. The Taliban knows who and where they are, and they will hunt them down. Their lives are at risk because Assange clicked the button. The cables will inevitably serve as an anti-American recruiting tool for al Qaeda and splinter cells across the globe.
WikiLeaks has next set its sights on a major U.S. bank in early 2011 (probably Bank of America). Assange has already warned the event will unleash an investigation of Enron-esque proportions.
Governments and companies have never had to reckon with a force like Assange before. He is a rogue truther who can reach billions with a click of a button. And even if Julian Assange is arrested or disappears under mysterious circumstances, he will not be the end. The next wave of younger and better hackers will take his place. Nations and corporations must accept a new, more transparent world order. A world order where anything they say can and will be used against them.
For striking fear into the heart of every crooked politician and banker. For showing us the gift—and the curse—of too much information, Julian Assange is 2010’s Person of the Year.
Runners-Up: This 8 Year Old Break-Dancer
Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Before the debate was: should the European Union let Turkey join? Now it’s: why would Turkey even want to?
John Boehner: The Republican comeback kid is tough as nails. It’s what happens when you grow up with eleven siblings and one bathroom. Boehner’s down-to-Earth, folksy candor is what happens when you start working at the family bar at age eight. He was the first in his family to go to college, and this January he will be the first in his family to become Speaker of the House.
Since becoming House Majority Leader in 2006, the perma-tan John Boehner shook off President George W. Bush’s legacy and revived the moribund Republican party. He recast Republicans as the party of tax-cuts for all and small government versus President Obama’s sweeping Big Government plans. Boehner deployed the filibuster and hard knock gamesmanship to cut short Obama’s honeymoon and bring the president to his knees.
You can question his methods. Boehner has been closely linked to lobbyists. He infamously once handed out checks on the House floor back in 1996. But you can’t argue with his success. With his war chest and folksy charisma, John Boehner has the White House in his sights. Bathroom lines shouldn’t be an issue. The White House has 35.
The 33 Chilean Miners: For reminding us to never give up.
Snoop Dogg: Snoop Dogg tried to rent Liechtenstein to film a music video. “California Gurls” was on repeat all summer. And he recently penned his latest hit “Wet” for Prince William’s bachelor party. The Queen was unavailable for comment.
Tim Lincecum: He has the goofiest pitching delivery in baseball, looks like a grown-up version of the little kid in “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”, and throws the filthiest curveball on Planet Earth. At age 26, Tim Lincecum has already racked up 2 Cy Young awards and cemented himself as the best pitcher in the game. The Freak’s “alternative” lifestyle has further endeared him to certain San Francisco’s fans. Last Fall, Tim Lincecum picked up a marijuana citation. This Fall? The World Series trophy.
Lady Gaga: Because school recitals will never be the same…
Honorable Mention: Justin Bieber, Brazil, Drew Brees, Stephen Colbert, Kevin Durant, James Franco, “Inception”, Steve Jobs, Kim Kardashian, The Old Spice Guy, Sarah Palin, The Situation, Spanish athletes, Mark Zuckerberg
The 2010 Year In Language
“Oil spill” was the most searched term on Yahoo in 2010. The nearly as unfortunate “Justin Bieber” was #8.
“Refudiate” was 2010’s word of the year, according to The New Oxford American Dictionary. The word was made famous by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Palin wanted the Obamas to “refudiate” the NAACP’s assertion that the Tea Party was racist. She tweeted the word again days later in connection to the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Scholars maintain “refudiate” is a cross of “refute” and “repudiate.”
2007 Quote Of The Year: “Don’t tase me, bro!”
2008 Quote Of The Year: “Yes, we can!”
2009 Quote Of The Year: “There’s an app for that.”
2010 Quote The Year: “Don’t touch my junk!”, in response to TSA pat-downs.
The Other Top Quotes Of 2010
“Refudiate. English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it.” – Sarah Palin, the former half-term governor of Alaska turned reality TV star, likening herself to William Shakespeare.
“Are you serious?” – Lindsay Lohan, after a judge sentenced the diva to 90 days in jail for violating her probation stemming from a 2007 drunk driving charge.
“F— my victims. I carried them for 20 years and now I’m doing 150.” – Bernie Madoff
“I’ll do my f—– best.” – Lady Gaga, asked if she would limit her coarse language in her next show.
“I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” – LeBron James, on The Decision
“This is a big f—— deal!” – Joe Biden on the passage of healthcare reform
“It’s better to like beautiful girls than to be gay.” – Silvio Berlusconi, after a 17 old girl reported unbridled “bunga bunga” orgies she saw at his mansion.
“I was with God and I was with the devil. They fought over me but God won. I think I had extraordinary luck.” – Mario Sepulveda, one of 33 Chilean miners
“Dude, you have no Koran” – Skateboarder Jacob Isom after saving a Koran from a book burning
Top 3 Tweets Of 2010
3) Newark’s mayor Cory Booker after Jersey Shore star Snooki tweeted about getting a ticket.
1) Buffalo Bills WR Stevie Johnson, blaming God, not his hands, after dropping what would have been the game-winning TD catch.
Check back next week for the 2010 Losers Of The Year and see the 2010 Half-Year In Review.