Raw Story set numerous records this year for audience, and we thank you for that. Our readership is bigger than ever, and there were some stories in particular that really set our servers on fire.
Let us know in the comments which of these stories were among your favorites, and which stories you were surprised didn’t make the list. And then, in a couple of days, we’ll start all over again on the stories of 2015!
The Ferguson, Missouri police officer told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he had “a clear conscience” about firing a dozen bullets at the unarmed Brown, who Wilson said had reached into his police cruiser in an attempt to get his gun and then had later rushed him.
Jimmy John’s sandwiches is so competitive, they require high schoolers who make sandwiches sign contracts that prevent them from working for a competitor for two years after leaving their jobs. Owner (and noted big game hunter) James Liautaud must think he’s protecting state secrets.
Much of the country was shocked when a Staten Island grand jury returned no indictment in the death of Eric Garner. Here was a case with a clear video showing that a police officer’s arm was across Garner’s windpipe — which the autopsy found was Garner’s cause of death. But to add astonishing insult to injury, prosecutors who didn’t indict the cop who killed Garner did find a way to indict the man, Ramsey Orta, who videotaped the incident.
The Austin police department found itself scrambling to start an internal affairs investigation and issue statements to the press after a video leaked which caught a couple of officers admiring a young woman walking past their cruiser. One of the officers said, “Go ahead and call the cops. They can’t un-rape you,” and the other reacted by wondering if they’d left their video camera on. Oops.
There’s just something about Megan Fox — not the actress, but the home-schooler mom who can’t understand why anyone thinks evolution is a fact. A one-woman anti-science wrecking crew, she had herself filmed as she walked through the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, finding one display after another to be simply ludicrous. We could watch her all day.
By carefully studying the Babylonian and Sumerian languages for their intonations, singer Stef Conner worked with musical instrument historian Andy Lowings and came up with this stunning recording of what songs may have sounded like in the second millennia B.C.
Even in the realm of “cops behaving badly,” this video really stunned us. When a family was pulled over for a seat-belt violation, the passenger — again, we say the passenger — a black male named Jamal Jones was asked to produce ID. When he said he didn’t have ID with him (again, he wasn’t driving the car) and offered to show a document which explained why he didn’t have it on him, the officers freaked out, busted his window with a baton, tased him, and dragged him from the car. Hey, what’s wrong with a ticket, officers?
21-year-old reality TV personality Jessa Duggar explained in an Instagram post that it was while she was on a visit to a Holocaust museum when it occurred to her that millions had died all because of the theory of evolution. “I walked through the Holocaust Museum again today,” she wrote, “very sobering. Millions of innocents denied the most basic and fundamental of all rights — their right to life. One human destroying the life of another deemed ‘less than human.’ Racism, stemming from the evolutionary idea that man came from something less than human; that some people groups are ‘more evolved’ and others ‘less evolved.’ A denying that our Creator–GOD–made us human from the beginning, all of ONE BLOOD and ONE RACE, descendants of Adam. The belief that some human beings are ‘not fit to live.’” Whatever you say, Jessa.
Believe it or not, there are a few Catholics who are still steamed about the way Galileo and Copernicus upset traditional views of the heavens, and are still trying to convince people that the sun goes around the earth and not the other way around. One of them, a virulently anti-Semitic man named Robert Sungenis, helped produce a documentary that was going to soft-pedal these ideas by saying that man is still at the center of all things, and the filmmakers managed to land a few surprising figures to take part. Among them were big name scientists Lawrence Krauss and Michio Kaku, and most surprising of all, former Star Trek actress Kate Mulgrew agreed to narrate the film. After our story came out, Krauss and Mulgrew distanced themselves from the project, saying they’d been duped.
Marcus Jeter of Bloomfield, New Jersey was facing five years in prison until a police dash cam video surfaced which showed that he’d been telling the truth — he had complied with police during a routine traffic stop and it was the cops who had attacked him unprovoked. The officers had said that Jeter had assaulted them and had resisted arrest, and he likely would have gone to prison until his defense attorney learned that another police cruiser had been at the scene and he requested its dash cam video. When it proved that Jeter had told the truth, the two officers who assaulted him were indicted and another pled guilty to tampering. We can only imagine how many other times innocent people went to prison for lack of a video.
It all started as a depressingly routine scene you find anywhere in America, with a couple of police officers detaining a black man because he looked suspicious — and because he was walking in a white neighborhood. But then Jody Westby, a white woman and attorney who lived nearby, showed up, and on video told the police off and helped the man to his feet and led him away. “It was very interesting, in the sense of getting a picture of how black cops treat black people, and how humiliating it was for him,” Westby told the Washington Post.
When the state of Oklahoma allowed conservative Christians to erect a monument to the Ten Commandments at the state capitol, other groups argued for equal time. And leave it to the Satanists to make their point about religious freedom with the most fun. When they unveiled plans for a 7-foot stone monument to Baphomet with the goat-headed figure flanked by children, we could only marvel at the trolling genius of it.
In October, Pope Francis set off another bomb when he endorsed the Big Bang. Not only should Catholics embrace scientific explanations of how our universe got here, he said, but the church should also accept evolution and stop looking at the Bible as a science textbook.
Another one out of Austin — what’s with the police there? — a jogger jaywalked (imagine!) and was stopped by a couple of officers who asked for her identification. Not surprisingly, she didn’t have ID while she was on a jog, was dragged screaming into a patrol car. The incident was caught on tape, and the woman is heard shouting as she was dragged away, “I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t fucking do anything wrong. I just crossed the street.” Just another day in America.
We’ve run into some pretty hateful, bigoted homophobes over the years, but Arizona pastor Steven Anderson may be in a category of his own. Just a few weeks ago, he sermoned that if God’s will were only followed to the letter, gays would be executed, resulting in an “AIDS-free Christmas.” Seriously. Just get a load of this guy: “No homos will ever be allowed in this church as long as I am pastor here. Never! Say ‘You’re crazy.’ No, you’re crazy if you think that there’s something wrong with my ‘no homo’ policy.”
After Mediaite polled people at CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, Sean Hannity was voted worst cable news anchor, and it apparently didn’t sit well with him. He unleashed an all-caps outburst on Twitter, and then tried to pass of his rage as related to the shooting of two police officers in Brooklyn. Whatever you say, Sean.
Columnist Katie Halper struck a nerve when she brought a little truth to this year’s Columbus Day festivities. Going back to original documents, Katie selected a few choice quotes about what Columbus and his men got up to, enslaving natives, raping them, and otherwise spreading the word of God.
When some firefighters stopped in a Buffalo, New York McDonald’s after fighting a nearby blaze, Heather Levia, 23, wanted to give them their meals for free to thank them for their hard work. She used her own money to pay for $83 of food. But then additional firefighters arrived, and Levia, who was a single mom of twins, didn’t have the means to keep paying for meals. When she asked her boss and corporate headquarters if the restaurant could pick up the tab, they said no. Levia and her co-workers chipped in to cover the cost. But then the firefighters complained to McDonald’s that the workers had to use their own money, so the restaurant then fired Levia! (Because she’d used a curse word, the store said.) Understandably, readers were outraged.
As if he didn’t already cause enough trouble by bringing the new Cosmos (and all that science stuff) to the Fox network, astronomer and shit-stirrer Neil deGrasse Tyson apparently couldn’t let Christmas arrive without taking a few shots at the holiday. He must have known that he’d get some of the pious twitching with this beauty: “On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642” Sure enough, there was a backlash and it was entertaining to sample some of it. Later, NDGT said he never meant to insult anyone about their holy day. (Yeah, sure, Neil. And don’t stop. Never stop.)
After “Traditionalist American Knights of the KKK” leader Frank Ancona threatened that members of Anonymous taking part in the police brutality protests in Ferguson, Missouri would be “hunted down,” Anonymous responded with a statement of its own. The two sides had been sniping at each for a while. Ancona claimed in a conversation with Chris Hayes that he had been secretly communicating with local police, who, that implied, were sympathetic to the KKK. Anonymous, meanwhile, had embarrassed Ancona’s group by taking over its Twitter account. But then Ancona escalated things with his threat about hunting down Anonymous members. So in a video, the hacktivist collective struck back to make it plain that it wouldn’t be intimidated. “If you attempt to aid the police, just know that there are more of us out there than there are of you,” the video said. “But you will not know who we are. We are everywhere. We are among the protesters, and we are among you.”
In October, Keene, New Hampshire’s annual Pumpkin Fest turned into a riot of mostly white college students who had to be dealt with by local police firing tear gas. What made it a great story, however, was the reaction at Twitter to scenes of Keene rioters. Twitter users turned the pumpkinfest into an object lesson about the way police treated protesters in Ferguson, Missouri and other places where blacks agitating against injustice invariably get treated much differently than white rioters. Some samples of the satirical genius we found that night: “Where are the leaders in the white community? They need to speak out,” and “The pumpkin-consuming community needs to be loud and clear with their condemnation of this behavior,” and “How many of the defiant white youth causing mayhem & destruction come from fatherless families?”
Easily the most disturbing story of the year, in which we learned about human monster Kevin Davis, who was bored of life and so decided to kill his own mother. The details are horrific, and after he was sure she was dead, he then had sex with the remains. “I lost my virginity to a dead corpse,” he admitted to detectives. Completely without remorse, Davis said he would kill again. He’s been sentenced to life in prison in Texas.
Vyckie Garrison was a member of the “Quiverfull Movement,” which also includes TV’s Duggar family, famous for their reproductive prowess. The devout, Bible-believing members of Quiverfull take seriously the notion that a woman and her children seek spiritual salvation through her husband. But at some point, Garrison realized that she was a classic victim of domestic abuse, and not only at the hands of her husband, but at the man she’d given her life to for 25 years — Jesus Christ. Garrison’s step-by-step comparison of the Quiverfull life to the elements of an abusive relationship were part of a conference presentation she gave which was the source of this powerful article.
Tensions about how to talk about violence in the Islamic world boiled over in a memorable exchange during Bill Maher’s HBO show in October when actor Ben Affleck let loose against the show’s host. “It’s gross, it’s racist,” Affleck told Maher about his criticisms of Islam. Maher and atheist writer Sam Harris then defended their ability, as liberals, to criticize bad ideas. “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas,” Harris said. Affleck argued that Harris and Affleck were lumping Islamist radicals in with the vast majority of peaceful Muslims, but Maher countered that “It’s the only religion that acts like the mafia. They will f*cking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.” Maher was definitely right about one thing when he cut off the debate by saying that neither side was convincing anybody.
It started out as a tasteless joke on a novelty Twitter account, but when a Norfolk, Virginia school administer retweeted it, students at Booker T. Washington High were stunned. The tweet featured a photo of prom couples — each of them with white females and their black male dates — with a caption that read, “every white girl’s father’s worst nightmare or not.” Students walked out of class in November to protest — not, they said, to get the administrator fired, but to send a message about how hurtful the tweet was. Later, assistant principal Amy Strickland owned up that she was the one who had retweeted the photo, but claimed that she didn’t perceive anything racist about it. In a year of incidents that kept reminding us that we don’t live in a post-racial America, her reaction seemed just about perfect.