Was 2015 the year bigotry returned to the mainstream? From Donald Trump's presidential bid in the United States, to the European right wing's backlash against refugees, it's hard not to believe bigotry isn't back in fashion.
Across the western world, we've identified seven key trendsetters who excelled in 2015 at being terrible. Bear in mind, this list is limited to people/organizations from the Western world who said lousy stuff. So no, the Islamic State group and Boko Haram don't get places on the list. The list also focuses on entities that did the most to distort public debate and make bigotry seem acceptable and mainstream. This means murderers and extremists not taken seriously by anyone struggled to make an appearance, as they generally failed to change broader society for the worse.
So before we all start getting nostalgic about the good times of the past year, let's take a moment to remember all the lousy stuff these terrible bigots did in 2015.
Center for Medical Progress, AKA: Those guys that made those bogus fetal tissue videos
Greatest achievement of 2015: Attacking women's rights in the United States.
The CMP videos convinced many people Planned Parenthood was selling aborted fetal tissue. | Photo: Reuters
The devastating impact of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) on the discussion of women's rights in the United States is difficult to understate.
In July, the CMP began releasing a series of heavily edited undercover videos they claimed proved abortion provider Planned Parenthood was profiting from the sale of aborted fetal tissue. The allegations stemming from the videos have since been thoroughly debunked, but the damage has already been done. The discredited videos prompted a wave of backlash against Planned Parenthood, including a slew of attacks on their clinics. In November, a self proclaimed “warrior for the babies” went on a shooting spree in a Colorado clinic. The attack left three people dead, including a woman aiding a patient, a police officer, and a war veteran who—after already being shot—used his last moments alive to warn others in the clinic. After being apprehended, the shooter echoed rhetoric that had been splashed over conservative media for months, stating, “No more baby parts.”
Britain First, AKA: Angry white people
Greatest achievement of 2015: Stoking irrational hatred of Muslims across the U.K.
Britain First is among the most abrasive organizations to emerge from the revival of the U.K.’s far right. | Photo: AFP
In recent years the U.K. has seen a crop of far-right, anti-immigrant organizations. Yet 2015 clearly belonged to Britain First (BF), one of the newest and most antagonistic far-right parties. The party has staged regular protests across the U.K. in opposition to Islam. During one protest, BF leader Paul Golding was accused of threatening to bury a pig at a mosque construction site, while his deputy Jayda Fransen once insinuated the party might want to hang anyone who stands in its way.
“We will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country … and by punished, I mean good old fashioned British justice at the end of a rope!” Fransen was reported to have stated on Facebook. Yet BF goes beyond mere Islamophobia. According to the reputable right-wing watchdog Hope Not Hate, “The party has doomsday prophecy where it believes civilization will end in bloodshed between Christians and Muslims.”
“To this end, the party has stepped up its efforts to antagonized Muslim groups,” the monitor has warned.
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, AKA: The reason nobody takes Australia seriously
Greatest achievement of 2015: The knighthood knightmare
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has managed to offend almost every corner of Australian society. | Photo: Reuters
No list like this could be complete without a mention to Australia's former prime minister, Tony Abbott. Before being deposed by his own party in September, Abbott managed to offend almost every section of Australian society. He offended Indigenous Australians by claiming the continent was “scarcely” inhabited before British “investment” (read: invasion). He angered troops when he responded to the death of a soldier by stating “shit happens,” described a prominent asbestos victim as “not pure of heart,” and enraged his own conservative base by reviving knighthoods—a move dubbed by many in the media as the “knightmare.” He was widely ridiculed in January, when he nominated Britain's Prince Philip for a knighthood. Among Philip's few contributions to Australia was a 2002 visit, when he asked an Indigenous Australian, “Do you still throw spears at each other?”
Yet Abbott was only truly in his element when it came to women. Even before folding the womens' ministry into his own portfolio, Abbott had already spruiked his female party candidates as having “sex appeal,” and previously warned during an interview it would be “folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas.”
Abbott finally met his match in October 2014, after he threatened to “shirtfront” Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian media responded by warning Abbott of Putin's martial arts repertoire.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, AKA: That guy you didn't realize is actually pretty mean
Greatest achievement of 2015: Accusing sexual violence survivors of supporting rapists
Prime Minister John Key. | Photo: Reuters
Australia's neighbor, New Zealand, saw its own prime minister engulfed in his own scandal in 2015. In November, a group of female legislators demanded Prime Minister John Key apologize after he accused them of being “on the side of sex offenders.” The comment was made after New Zealand's opposition criticized the government's handling of Australia's deportations of New Zealand nationals. The group of female legislators—many of whom are survivors of sexual abuse—called on Key to apologize a day later, they were ejected from parliament.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, AKA: The guy who has no qualms with using razor wire on homeless children
Greatest achievement of 2015: Being absolutely horrible to refugees
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pushed European debate on refugees to the right. | Photo: Reuters
Amid Europe's refugee crisis, one voice has stood out as unusually callous. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has overseen a massive border crackdown, including the controversial use of razor wire to keep refugees—including children—out of Hungary. The prime minister has used incendiary rhetoric to demonize refugees, including describing them as looking like “warriors” invading his country by force. Orban is now at the vanguard of efforts to vilify and torment people fleeing conflicts stemming from European imperialism.
Liberty Counsel, AKA: You never knew how much you hate lawyers, until now
Greatest achievement of 2015: Claiming Kim Davis is more noteworthy than Black Lives Matter.
Rowan County clerk Kim Davis has received the support of Liberty Counsel. | Photo: Carter County Detention Center Handout via Reuters
Remember Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who served jail time after refusing to issue marriage licenses? She single-handedly sought to battle a Supreme Court decision affirming the right of same sex couples to marry, and lost. While Davis herself is little more than a garden variety homophobe, the right-wing legal group that represented her is far more interesting. In December, Liberty Counsel actually suggested Davis should win Time magazine's person of the year.
Why? Because as Liberty Counsel said in a statement, “Who more than Kim Davis has influenced the news in the past year? Kim Davis inspired a nation and the world to fight for religious liberty when she chose a prison cell rather than sacrificing her conscience.”
Not Black Lives Matter (shortlisted at #4), for reigniting the fight for African American equality and shaking a nation. Not Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose government has negotiated a historic nuclear deal—a massive contribution to world peace. Nope, they preferred a clerk that held up marriages in her county for her own personal dummy spit.
Donald Trump, AKA: The reason that while watching the news, you now need to keep a barf bag handy
Greatest achievement of 2015: Turning the Republican party into a circus.
You probably saw this coming. | Photo: Reuters
How could billionaire and U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump not make an appearance here? As a staunch opponent of proposing actual policy, Trump's entire presidential campaign has been little more than a string of offensive statements. From labeling Mexican migrants “rapists” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, Trump seems to be on a mission to insult every migrant group he can. Even when speaking to the right-wing Republican Jewish Coalition, he couldn't help but pepper his speech with seemingly anti-Semitic jabs. In the past, Trump has been accused of claiming “laziness is a trait in Blacks,” and also lashed out at Chinese, claiming they “created” the “concept” of global warming to undermine U.S. industry.
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