Maybe it's because it's the new year and people are still drunk or hungover from the holidays or something, but there was almost too much stupid behavior in the news these last few weeks to handle. However in a month that saw a blatant attack on the right to have an opinion and proved once and for all that what militants fear most is not drone strikes or economic sanctions but being made to look like an ass, it's fitting that all three leading candidates relate in some way to freedom of speech.
1) Fox News Facts
You know you've done something particularly stupid when you spawn a new hashtag, and that's exactly what happened when self-proclaimed terrorism expert Steve Emerson appeared on Fox News. In certainly one of the most bizarre pundit appearances of all time, Mr. Emerson, who in his spare time appears to spray tan his own hair, managed to get through an entire interview without using a single fact, a new record even for Fox, and raising some serious questions about exactly what vetting procedures they use to select their experts, before the world realized as one that they obviously don't have any.
In this interview, which is far funnier than it ever should have been, Mr. Emerson claimed that the British city of Birmingham is entirely Muslim and a no-go area for those who aren't, which came as something of a surprise to its population of 1,085,400, (of which incidentally just 23 percent are Muslim) and causing even the normally restrained British Prime Minister, David Cameron to call him "A total idiot," representing a rare moment of a politician saying what we're all thinking.
Not yet finished, Emerson went on to claim that Muslim religious police in London regularly beat people who don't wear Islamic attire in the street, thus further surprising a population of 7 million Londoners who were still reeling from discovering that Birmingham had somehow become a caliphate without anyone noticing.
In his hometown Mr. Emerson may find a place called a library that contains many things that might help him bone up for his next interview.
2) A Newspaper Airbrushes out any World Leaders With Breasts.
The site of thousands being led through the streets by world leaders in support of free speech was a real high-water point culturally. However Ultra orthodox Israeli newspaper The Announcer felt that there were just too many girls present and decided to airbrush out the four visible women at the front for what it called, "reasons of modesty" and because it, "chooses not to depict women in the media in case it offends their readers." Which only goes to prove the Taliban don't have a monopoly on stupid attitudes toward women.
What's baffling is that these weren't Victoria's Secret models sporting a new range of all glass Bikinis, but the elected leaders of Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and the Mayor of Paris. It was also particularly cold in Paris that day so all four were buttoned up to the chin with only their faces visible, something which surely couldn't insult a Victorian Englishman, and they used to cover piano legs to prevent people getting funny ideas.
Luckily this ugly attitude remains a minority one, an Israeli commentator subsequently said. "They are not protecting women from leering men, or men from illicit thoughts. They are telling their community that women have no place in society outside the home. Which is very sad and very disturbing."
3) Saudi Arabia canes a blogger
One of the great things about blogging is that it lets anyone have a voice, (which can also be a real downside at times), allowing us to hear a cry from far and away, such as the one emanating from Saudi Arabia when it sentenced blogger Raif Badawi to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes to be dealt out in portions of fifty a week.
Badawi's crime was to blog about hypocrisy in the country's religious establishment, suggest that western legal systems work better, and that people have a right to be atheists if they so choose, opinions somewhat less controversial than those of your average Redditor, but which still led to him being flogged on a street in front of a baying crowd, which does lend some credence to his point about the local legal system. Protests continue to mount on this one, and have spawned the most darkly brilliant protest slogan in history, "Blogging is bad for your back."
The Saudi Government has since said they wanted to send a message.
They did and we all heard it, but it was probably not the one they intended.
Congratulations to all our finalists.
Dan Miles is the best-selling author of Filthy Still - A tale of travel, sex and perfectly made cocktails. Apart from that he has no special expertise whatsoever and is therefore looking forward to commenting for Fox News soon.