LONDON — Another year is beginning — the festive feast has been eaten, presents are all unwrapped and the New Year hangover is raging.
You could draw inspiration from clean-living social media types and make this a time of resolution, abstinence and grueling workout classes. Or you could face facts: 2017 was pretty pants, and 2018 looks little better.
This list isn’t about obvious candidates: no Presidents Trump, Putin or Erdoğan here. Poland and Catalonia both featured last year, so don’t get a repeat mention, but are both still thorns in Europe’s side.
Here, in no particular order, is a guide to the people with the potential to make it all schiefgehen (go wrong) that little bit faster. Don’t write in, it’s just for fun (or do; we’re always happy to hear from you).
1. Arlene Foster
Ruining things is pretty much the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) modus operandi. So far, they’ve got a cool £1 billion to prop up Theresa May’s government, at a time when the NHS and local services across the U.K. are feeling the pinch. Next, they shoved a massive spanner in the Brexit talks by throwing their toys out of the pram just as the deal on the first phase of negotiations was agreed.
Foster declared “any form of regulatory divergence” separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. was unacceptable, so we’ll look forward to them legalizing abortion and gay marriage ASAP, right? Dream on.
There’s every chance the DUP will continue their cantankerous behavior this year: After all, this is a party that hates fun so much one of their members objected to Rihanna strutting her stuff in a local field.
Blue and orange might be complementary colors, but not when it comes to government.
2. Guy Verhofstadt
The Belgian MEP may have mastered the art of the soundbite, but he needs to be wary of overplaying his hand as the European Parliament’s “chief Brexit negotiator,” as he keeps being referred to, despite the body having no formal role in Brexit negotiations until a vote at the very end.
If there’s one thing the Parliament is good at, it’s taking a tiny crack in a political process and gradually hammering a wedge into it to expand its own power — see attention-grabbing but ultimately meaningless votes on Brexit in 2017. MEPs do, however, have the power of veto over the whole thing.
Verhofstadt risks becoming a mean-spirited Flemish Santa Claus in 2018 by repeatedly bringing up associate citizenship, giving great hope to British Remainers. As each new petition does the rounds — anyone with a British relative living near the Mediterranean is invited to sign one every couple of weeks — the chance of this happening remains basically zero, because of EU law (which would probably require a treaty change) and numerous practical details (including who pays).
Guy, don’t be that guy: Stop writing checks your democratic mandate can’t cash!
3. Satoshi Nakamoto
Nobody knows the true identity of the person who invented blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin and cryptocurrencies worldwide. It’s not this Mr. Nakamoto, it’s not Craig Wright and it’s definitely not Kanye West — he took legal action against Coinye, a cryptocurrency that used his likeness.
But whoever started all this, bitcoin and its ilk are sounding more bubble-tastic than a champagne party in a hot tub full of popping candy.
Either the bubble bursts and loads of people lose their crypto-cash, or it doesn’t, and we have another year of technobores ruining parties by explaining at length how an Initial Coin Offering works and telling us we must get involved by giving them our real-world cash ASAP.
Either way, 2018 is ruined. So be ready to move the conversation on with a quick “Yes, but what about other, more practical uses of blockchain technology — can I tell you about the Swedish Land Registry?” Conversation owned. Thanks, Satoshi 😉
4. Meghan Markle’s royal handler
Meghan Markle is the most exciting thing to happen to the House of Windsor this century.
Obviously, the British royals have something of a mixed record with American divorcées but Meghan seems happy, confident and successful. She has worked with World Vision Canada and as a U.N. women’s advocate — great CV points for a truly modern princess. And, as far as one can judge by her engagement pictures with Prince Harry, they are 😍 totes in lurve 😍.
Which means if she gets assigned some hufty-bufty, dry-as-dust royal protocol enforcer who makes her conform to the traditional simpering, silent, pretty princess role, that person will definitely be ruining 2018. Let Meghan be Meghan!
5. Ajit Pai
For Europeans, net neutrality is old news: In 2016, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications came up with a set of guidelines based on EU rules agreed in 2015, which stipulate that every European must be able to have “access to the open internet and all content and service providers must be able to provide their services via a high-quality open internet.”
But #plottwist, the internet is global — and you won’t believe what America did next!
At the tail end of 2017, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai decided that, y’know, the free and open internet which has transformed how the world lives, works, shops and socializes, is done.
What comes next? We’ll find out in 2018. Critics’ concerns include an eventual fracturing of the internet, with speed advantages for websites willing to pay, providers acting as gatekeepers and an end to unfettered access to the web.
On the other hand, they might just be being melodramatic — it could also mean ￪￪￪￪ERROR PLEASE TOP UP YOUR ACCOUNT TO CONTINUE READING CONTENT ON THIS NON-BUNDLED WEBSITE￬￬￬￬
6. Rupert Murdoch
One of the biggest successes on the London stage last year was James Graham’s “Ink,” a compelling staging of how young upstart Rupert Murdoch took over the Sun newspaper, and the decades of upheaval in the global media industry that followed.
This will likely be an equally dramatic year offstage for the Australian media mogul: As the FT pointed out, in some respects Rupert “has more direct involvement now than he has had in years” in running his media empire.
Firstly, it will be fascinating to see how Walt Disney’s purchase of the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s business pans out: Does that mean Lisa Simpson and Princess Leia will now be official Disney Princesses? Please, no.
Secondly, what does that mean for Murdoch’s attempt to acquire the 61 percent of British TV company Sky that he doesn’t already own? The bid is still with the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority.
And thirdly, despite discussions about who will succeed Murdoch rumbling on for years, the New York Times is calling the Fox deal his “King Lear Moment.” With a global media industry undergoing fundamental shifts as revenue models, structures and products are disrupted at every level, could Rupert Murdoch shake up 2018, ruining it in the process? You betcha.
7. Silvio Berlusconi
Murdoch isn’t the only octogenarian media mogul with the potential to make 2018 that little bit worse.
Italy will go to the polls on March 4. Each of the main parties is expected to win between a quarter and a third of the vote, so the winner may struggle to form a government, possibly plunging the country into a period of protracted uncertainty. Merda.
And the most likely kingmaker to emerge from certain versions of that situation? Signor Bunga Bunga himself. Doppia merda.
Obviously, in the land that invented opera, all this relies on vast amounts of drama and complicated subplots. For a start, Berlusconi can’t run for office: a 2013 conviction for tax fraud currently bars him from standing for election. He’s appealed to a higher authority — no, not Count Almaviva. The European Court of Human Rights is currently deliberating.
But whether or not he can, he’s launched a massive campaign to win over older voters, and there’s every chance he might end up in a position of authority. “Could Italian voters really hand power back to a man widely viewed in the rest of Europe as either a buffoon or a crook?” posits the Economist. Well, if you have to ask the question …
8. The #MeToo Backlash Brigade
2017 marked a turning point in the way we talk about the sickening scale of sexual harassment. Time Magazine celebrated the silence-breakers. From Salma Hayek’s revelations about Harvey Weinstein to the daily grind of sleazy treatment faced by female workers in the restaurant industry, a light was shed on the grim reality that many women face at work.
Many people have been shocked by stories that came to light in recent months. They have taken a moment to pause and think about how they treat their fellow humans and the way power is structured in society.
Others have decided to double down on the attitudes that enabled abusers to get away with it for so long.
“We’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is … the preponderance of men I’ve worked with who don’t do this kind of thing,” Matt Damon said during an interview recently. Yes, while we’re at it, how about a nice box of chocolates for everyone who managed not to murder anyone?
To what extent these people can ruin 2018 will become apparent at the Oscars in March. Casey Affleck won Best Actor last year for his role in “Manchester by the Sea,” so according to tradition, he should announce the Best Actress winner this year. There’s already a petition for him not to do this, in light of previous sexual harassment accusations.
This year is the real watershed moment. Will Hollywood show the world how to sweep everything under the carpet, again, or will the culture of sexual abuse — which hurts men as well — finally be tackled? Because this is one franchise people are sick of.
9. Chris Froome
It’s hard work being a cycling fan. It’s not like watching 90 minutes of soccer, with a couple of goals deciding the winner. Understanding the Tour de France is complicated, and by the time you’ve dedicated several hours every summer afternoon to watching the TdF, the Vuelta, the Giro and maybe made the trip out from Brussels to watch a few classics on cobblestones in the rain, it’s basically a full-time job.
On top of all that, every few years cycling fans have to go through the painful realization that riders who created those mythic moments on the Champs-Elysées or inspired their awe on Alpe d’Huez were up to their eyeballs on performance-enhancing drugs. Having watched the Festina Affair unfold, and Lance Armstrong go from heroic cancer survivor doing cameos in Owen Wilson films to a cheat and a liar, can peloton-watchers face another circuit?
A joint investigation by the Guardian and Le Monde showed Chris Froome failed a drugs test during his victory in the Vuelta a España in September. The four-time Tour de France winner admitted that he had upped his dose of a drug used to treat asthma during the race — but insisted he had not broken any rules.
If things unfold badly in 2018, it would definitely ruin the year.
10. Smart Speakers
“Alexa, can you ruin 2018?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t rewind a song.”
OK, they aren’t technically people, but they certainly have a personality.
Apple’s Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home — is Google too cool to have a name or something? — are making our lives easier in a thousand tiny ways. One of this year’s most popular Christmas gifts, they help with shopping lists, tell us the weather, play fantastic party tunes … 2018 will be all about having a virtual PA and helpmate in the home.
The machines are already happily talking to each other. Just look at this Christmas Day tweet.
My aunt got a google home for Xmas & she already has “Alexa”. This morning we were messing around with the google home and asked, “okay google what do you think of Alexa” and it answered “I like her blue light” and from across the room Alexa turned on and said “thanks”. im scared
— allison (@AllisonCalhoun1) December 25, 2017
Are we going into this uncanny valley without thinking it through? Yes. Do we know how it will end? No.
11. People who drive SUVs in cities
The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. Improved public transport networks combined with open data are making getting from A to B in an urban environment easier than ever (research by Deloitte shows that the release of open data by London’s transport authority, TfL, is generating annual economic benefits and savings of up to £130 million a year). Electric and hybrid vehicles contribute to improving air quality in cities. Bike-share schemes are taking off globally, reducing the barriers to entry to cycling.
And yet, the SUV is due to conquer new terrain in 2018. Not terrain they are intended for — the great outdoors — but, instead, city streets worldwide. According to the Economist’s “The World in 2018,” for the first time over half the sales of new cars worldwide will comprise of SUVs and their close cousins. Ferrari is possibly going to make one, presumably for anyone with zero taste and a spare quarter-of-a-million pounds lying around.
SUV drivers will insist they are safer, but how is throwing children out the doors in the middle of the road on the school run because they can’t park their Chelsea tractors on a crowded city street safer for anyone?
12. Almost anyone involved in the US midterms
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell anticipates a “knock down, drag out” 2018 midterm election for Republicans, who will campaign with a historically unpopular president in the White House.
Democrats are divided over whether to impeach Trump or not.
America’s current extreme political divisions and confirmation bias on both sides mean former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s aphorism — “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts” — more relevant than ever.
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