It's all well and good to celebrate the people who rocked the world in 2011.
But it's a lot more entertaining to remember the people who blew it.
People do a lot of stupid things all the time. We’re human.
But then there are moments — singular, profound moments — of stupidity that actually seem to lower the collective intelligence of the entire human race.
There were many of these in 2011, and all so painful to witness, that we at GlobalPost found it impossible to rank them.
Therefore we present, in no particular order, the top 10 dumbest moments of 2011.
Herman Cain didn’t abandon his bid for the Republican presidential nomination because of this gaffe. But maybe he should have. The former pizza-chain exec floundered his way through a question that should have been pretty easy to handle: Do you agree with President Obama on Libya?
Pretty easy, of course, if you were aware that a NATO-backed rebellion in Libya had just unseated and killed one of the longest-serving and most well-known dictators in recent memory.
Herman Cain, apparently, did not know this. And so, he said this instead:
More from the "Top 10 Dumbest Moments of 2011":
Poor Rick Perry. It feels cruel, sometimes, to pick on some of these GOP presidential nominees for not seeming to know anything. Herman Cain said himself he had “all this stuff twirling around in my head” when he was asked about Libya.
It’s hard to cram for interviews about foreign policy. We get it. Sometimes you can’t remember which one Gaddafi was, or what Obama did about him. Sometimes you draw a complete blank.
But when you forget your own talking points, that's another level of stupid altogether.
Harold Camping, who ran a regular radio program, told everybody the world was going to end on May 21, 2011.
He said this after a popular book he wrote, called “1994?” incorrectly predicted the end of the world.
And he still really, truly believed it was gonna happen this time. The problem? His followers believed him, too. They said good-bye to their families, they abandoned their children. Some had dedicated their lives and spent all they had to get out the word and persuade people to repent.
And they waited to be zapped into heaven. Everyone who wasn’t going to be saved, of course, was going to die a miserable, fiery death as the world crumbled.
Guess what happened.
Harold Camping, radio host and failed doomsday predictor, said he was “flabbergasted” when the world didn’t end on May 21, 2011.
Things should have ended right there. But instead, he realized that when he thought God said he was going to Rapture the believers in May, God actually meant to beam them up on Oct. 21, 2011.
Guess what didn't happen.
The smartest thing Camping's ever done may have been to retire from the prophecy business.
Don't drink the Nescafe
When Libya’s uprising first began, Muammar Gaddafi’s response was not only to stand firm, as the other leaders have done during the Arab Spring.
He found a really creative way to explain the rebellion: Al Qaeda was drugging
the young men of Libya.
"Their ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe," said Gaddafi. "You people of Zawiyah, stop your children, take their weapons, bring them away from Bin Laden, the pills will kill them," he said. "Leave the country calm."
They’re two of the most powerful men in the world.
You’d think US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy would be smart enough not to trash-talk their peers in front of a microphone
Because even if you think it’s off, if you say something dumb, the mic will definitely, always
"I cannot bear [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, he's a liar," Sarkozy told Obama, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on, enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation.
"You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you," Obama replied, according to the French interpreter.
This would not be a list of dumb moments if it didn’t include at least one stand-out comment from Charlie Sheen, former
star of the inexplicably popular "Two and a Half Men," and admitted drug user.
Sheen’s implosion began earlier this year, when he did some interviews that involved a whole boatload of crazy. He insulted his producer, Chuck Lorre, called for an investigation into what really happened on 9/11, compared himself to an F-18, and declared himself not not “bipolar,” but “bi-winning.”
Also, his veins apparently ran with “tiger blood.”
But his "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not An Option" tour fizzled out, and people lost interest in #winning. Sheen said in September, his first interview since the implosion that he’s “clean” and has no regrets. Except maybe
for telling everyone about his tiger blood.
Here, a compliation of his greatest, dumbest, hits:
Berlusconi's choice words
It’s hard to choose the dumbest thing that Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy, said or did in 2011. Was it the bunga bunga parties he liked
to throw with prostitutes? (Allegedly!) Was it his fervent
support of fellow bunga-bunga-er, the erstwhile Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi?
We’re going to have to go with the phrase he used to describe the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
the comment during a phone conversation Berlusconi was having with the guy the prime minister relied on to provide prostitutes for his bunga-bunga parties, according to the Independent.
So what did he say about the woman who holds the fate of the euro in her hands?
In English? It's Berlusconi.
Usually, when incumbent leaders order their minions to steal elections, they try to make sure that nobody’s watching.
That didn’t work out so well for United Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party.
Amateur cellphone videos captured what appear to be multiple instances of questionable behavior. But this one, starring the chairman of the electoral commission, is probably the dumbest.
The man sits there changing ballots until he realizes he’s on candid camera, then tries to play it off like he’s just stacking papers.
According to the New York Times, Valentin Gorbunov, the head of the Moscow City Elections Commission, confirmed that's what happened.
If you don’t speak Russian, a partial translation per the NYT
“A big hello to you,” says the cameraman, Yegor Duda, a 33-year-old volunteer election observer. “This is a violation of the criminal code. The chairman of the electoral commission is filling out ballots. Everything has been captured on the video camera,” he said.
And here's the election official himself.
Denial in Damascus
As the Syrian uprising continued, month after month, Syria President Bashar al-Assad had been pretty quiet even as his forces murdered what the UN says is now more than 5,000 people. Even as reports of sadistic torture and the targeting of protesters’ families emerged.
And then, recently, he broke his silence with one of the most delusional interviews in recent memory.
Al-Assad didn’t try to deny that there was violence in the country, or even that much of it was being perpetrated by his own armed forces. Instead he went with
the Detached Dictator excuse: "There was no command to be killed or to be brutal," he said. "You don't feel guilty when you don't kill people."
Assad presides over one of the most tightly controlled police states in the world. In addition to the security forces he controls, he has a widespread network of civilian informants. His people have their own name for them — the awainiyya
, or watchers — because that’s exactly what they do
Yet he’s still a little fuzzy on the details of this particularly bloody Syrian uprising.
By now, Assad should understand that this is not going to end well for him. It may take months, or even years for him to go. But the uprising has gone on too long, and has too much momentum, for it to fail now. Pretending you have no idea what’s going on? Definitely one of the dumbest moments of 2011.