The staff picks: biggest moments of 2015

With 2016 already a week old, we've had a bit of time to process the events of 2015. It was an up and down year full of both tragedies and triumphs. Devastating terrorists attacks such as the ones in Paris or the shooting at Umpqua in Oregon sent shockwaves through society while the legalization of gay marriage represented a huge push for human social progress.

We made a deal with Iran, lightened restrictions with Cuba and had two foreign dignitaries address congress. We were introduced to potential presidential candidates that include a socialist Larry David, a brain surgeon on quaaludes and that guy from "The Apprentice." Oh and Hillary Clinton ate at Chipotle.

While it would be nearly impossible to touch on everything of note that happened in the last year, we had the staff each pick a moment that stuck out to them in 2015.

Jon Stewart leaves The Daily Show

Nik Lucaj, Editor-in-Chief

August 6, 2015 marked the end of the Jon Stewart era on Comedy Central. For 16 years the fierce critic of mainstream news media charmed America with his acerbic commentary on American politics and the way it was covered. He was also the news source for the bulk of a generation that would otherwise have soaked in their apathy toward anything political.

He had an ability to scrub away all the extraneous pieces of an issue leaving just the pith in a very clear-minded and uninhibited way. Rarely shouting or becoming angry like most political “pundits,” he could often convey everything that he felt with a single look. And he was funny the entire time.

While, for the most part, a left leaning liberal, Stewart criticized both sides with equal derision. He revolutionized the way politics is covered and made news anchors have to think twice before spewing unsubstantiated gibberish.

He was able to host guests such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Ali Allawi and still never take himself too seriously. His main goal was to entertain and inform, but mostly entertain — and that’s what he did.

His show also served as the platform that launched many successful careers including Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, Steve Carell and John Oliver.

While we haven’t seen the last of Stewart — he recently signed a four-year deal with HBO — his departure leaves a giant hole in the heart of mainstream television. While Trevor Noah does a fine enough job of leading the show, Stewart’s shoes may prove far too big to fill by anyone not named Jon Stewart.

Kanye West Debuting “All Day” at the BRIT Awards

Jacob Hirsohn, Arts & Entertainment Editor

If I were to make a list of the top five pop culture moments of my life, the name Kanye would appear at least three times. The time I left my body watching him perform “Paris” with Jay Z four times in a row at the infamous Watch the Throne Tour. The time actual tears came out of my eyes watching him perform “Coldest Winter” as artificial snow came down on his mask-obscured face at the Yeezus tour. The time I experienced joy I had never felt before when he did a surprise performance of “New Slaves” at the 2013 Odd Future Carnival.

Somehow, Kanye’s performance of “All Day” at the 2015 BRIT Awards made its way into this canon despite the fact that I watched it unfold on YouTube instead of in the flesh.

Kanye’s debut performance of “All Day” was a molotov cocktail thrown into the middle of arguably the weakest year of his career. Bursting through the haze of middling singles lacking any trademark Kanye qualities, it wasn’t enough that “All Day” is a pretty great song. Kanye decided to use his five minutes on stage to create some sort of flamethrower-laden Mad-Max-set-in-Chicago dystopia.

The best performances can make you feel like you’ve traveled through time and space to be there. “All Day” transcends that, and makes you feel as though you’re in the Kanye-led mob, getting low, staying low, and waiting for your turn to shoot a flamethrower. In a year where Kanye missed at almost every turn, it was life-affirming to see him command the universe again, even if it was only for five minutes on YouTube.

The legalization of gay marriage

Grace Gardner, Opinion Editor

One year ago, the Supreme Court decided to take on what the New York Times called “one of the great civil rights questions in a generation” — whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage.

Honestly, I didn’t think it would pass. Obergefell v. Hodges seemed like a long shot in our country which can’t quite seem to detangle itself from Christian values.

Despite my pessimism, I watched for weeks as headlines regarding the upcoming decision rolled across my computer screen, and I was not alone. Gay rights became the epicenter of America’s never-ending equality problem.

I had a girlfriend during the months the trial was taking place. For those of you who have never been in a relationship with someone of the same-sex, there is (was) this sort of understanding that you weren’t going to get married, which was kind of bizarre. Relationships are generally based on the premise that, someday down the road, you might decide to legally bind yourself to the other in the name of love and whatnot. However, up until the point of the court decision, that had never been an option for same-sex couples. You were left in this limbo-land of loving someone in this weird, under-the-rug way that the state wasn’t going to recognize. And for couples and people coming to terms with their sexuality, that was really, really hard. It’s an absolute trip to think that after decades, mine will be the last generation in America to have felt that sentiment.

In June of 2015, the Supreme Court put marriage on the table for everyone. Whether the country was ready or not, it passed. The fact that the state now recognizes same-sex marriages as legitimate changes, well, everything. This was a thumbs up to gay couples and people everywhere. Families with same-sex parents no longer have to be considered alternative or making “lifestyle choices”. Gay kids can now grow up without worrying if they’ll ever be able to officially marry the person they love. To an extent, Obergefell v. Hodges essentially normalized homosexuality. Last year will go down in history as a crucial year for civil rights and a monumental step in the direction of universal equality.

WHAPITYWHAPITYWHAPITY: The Awakening of a New Fan Obsession

Alexander Melendez, Multimedia Editor

For an entire decade, a household franchise lay dormant, sleeping away the onslaught of fandom criticisms and passionate woes over their beloved galaxy far, far away. Yet, when news broke of Disney’s acquisition of George Lucas’s most profitable and idolized film universe for a whopping $4 Billion, the cries of fandom were still burned by the infamous prequel saga’s titular characters. Images of a young, bothersome Anakin Skywalker and a bumbling Jar Jar Binks were permanently engraved in cinema history as one of Lucas’s gravest missed opportunities as a visual storyteller. This left Disney and every fan of Star Wars unsure of how to reboot another three-film trilogy with a new cast of characters to helm the franchise.

Now with release of 2015’s top grossing film, easily dethroning Universal’s Jurassic World, Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ newest and most loved character capturing audiences is an unknown Stormtrooper with an undying allegiance towards the First Order.

With the release of The Force Awakens, fans were enamored not with the choices for the series’ leads, but rather with a nameless, loyal Stormtrooper armed solely with a shock baton holding about one minute of screen time. Having only spoken one word throughout the entire film, the unknown Stormtrooper’s now immortalized shout of, “TRAITOR,” serves as the foundation for the internet’s newest obsession and plethora of humorous memes. Cleverly named, “TR-8R,” after his vengeful outburst towards John Boyega’s Finn, appearances of the loyal Stormtrooper’s stylized baton theatrics were showcased on major social media outlets such as Reddit and Imgur within a few days of Episode VII’s commercial release.

Since J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Wars franchise, TR-8R has become a rather unexpected fan favorite and is now forever cemented along the greats of 2015’s internet meme-hood, alongside Shia LaBeouf’s “JUST DO IT!” and Drake’s infectious Hotline Bling dance. Holding an undying allegiance to a malevolent government order and letting out a harrowing, rancorous outcry, TR-8R reflects the spectacle of 2015: a year long hype train for one of cinema’s most popular franchises to resurface after a decade hiatus just for an unexpected and unknown stormtrooper to WHAPITY his way into our hearts.

FIFA Corruption Scandal

Josh Shure, Sports Editor

As an American sports fan, the talk of corruption is merely classified as conspiracy theories and alleging that American sports leagues are involved in any would be simply ludicrous. However, in 2015 the FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit uncovered what might go down as one of the largest corruption stories in the history of sports.

In May, the international sports community was left in awe when U.S. federal prosecutors indicted more than a dozen top FIFA officials on charges of corruption. The emergence of these allegations put pressure on then President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, to resign from his position. However, after remaining in power, he was suspended in October and eventually banned for eight years in December by the FIFA ethics committee.

To understand the allegations better, one has to understand how the governing bodies of soccer operate around the world. FIFA is the ultimate authority over international soccer. It governs over six continental confederations. Each continental confederation has its own president and governs over the countries on that specific continent and each country also has their own governing body and president. So there are a lot of soccer officials around the world.

These allegations originally stemmed from investigations, which started years ago, into the corruption of top officials in North and South America. Among them, were claims that Nike bribed officials back in 1996 to be the sole provider of gear to the Brazilian national team and that Germany and South Africa gave bribes to secure bids for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, respectively. The prevalence of these bribes to top officials in soccer around the world have now raised suspicions of similar dealings in regards to the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups that were awarded to Russia and Qatar.

With all the allegations that have been made about the corruption in FIFA, pay close attention over the next year to the progress of the investigations into the bidding process for the two upcoming World Cups, specifically in regards to Qatar. Even though this scandal is scarring the reputation of FIFA, hopefully it won’t damage the integrity of such a beautiful sport.

The effect of student activism on election politics: emboldening their opposition

Adam Robert Thomas, News Editor

Like every year, 2015 had so many different stories and events that it can be very difficult to narrow things down to a single solitary element or moment. In fact, it’s a little bit impossible if you want to talk honestly about any sort of larger context. So what I’m going to do instead is talk about a trend I’ve noticed and the many moments that indicate it. That trend was that of the political left overreaching and granting the political right new purpose, fire, and likely power in the coming years.

The primary stories that represented this took place on college campuses. From Professor Melissa Click shouting, “I need some muscle over here,” on the University of Mizzou’s campus quad in order to forcibly remove a student journalist to the shouting of, “Be quiet,” and, “. . . it is NOT about creating an intellectual space,” to Yale professor Nicholas Christakis by student Jerelyn Luther who was unwilling to listen to his pleas for moderation, 2015 became the year when student protests devolved into often incoherent rage.

Combined with the deluge of editorials and stories taking the sides of the students at a number of media outlets, such rage has allowed conservative media a very easy PR victory for the last several months. Being able to point out that student activism over Halloween costumes and often unsubstantiated hate crimes has been spiraling out of control and turning into thuggery that’s directly hostile toward the first amendment has allowed sites like Breitbart to paint the right as the new counterculture against an authoritarian left.

This is an image that has been aided by the ascendance of Donald Trump. Even on the right, most thought his presidential campaign was a joke at first, and were sure that his often inflammatory remarks would have caused him to burn out months ago. Instead the opposite has occurred, and Trump has been gaining more and more momentum in the last several months.

Even if his campaign does end during the upcoming primaries — something that often happens with firebrands that lead the pack early, as it famously did with Howard Dean in 2004 — the fact is that the Republican base has been electrified by his run. That moment at the third Republican debate where he and rest of the nominees led a charge against the moderators has allowed even more conservatives to be emboldened with the idea that they’re leading a counter-cultural charge against a hostile, leftist-controlled media.

The point in history I am most reminded of is the late 1960s. Back then there were a lot of student protests too. They shouted and got angry over many issues that would likely feel familiar to students today. And what, in the end, did their shouting accomplish for the highest office in the land? Richard Nixon getting elected president — mostly by a large swath of American conservatives who came out in record numbers because they felt that the leftist political activists were going too far, primarily demonstrated to them on national TV through student protests.

I’m not saying that history is going to repeat itself here. But if I were working for the Democratic campaign machine, I’d be doing my best to reach out to college activist groups across the nation, and try getting them to shut up for a year until the election is over.