When we look back at 2016, we’ll remember many things: all the mornings we woke up in the grips of a full-blown panic attack, stomach acid burning our throats, or the shattering revelation that one’s pubic hair can turn gray from stress. Besides that, though, we’re left with one, extremely important take-away: many people spent 2016 busily doing terrible shit and getting away with it.
Chief among them was Donald Trump, who somehow meandered off with a presidency he didn’t particularly want and for which he isn’t remotely qualified. But there’s a long list of other people—read: men—who spent the year doing overtly destructive things, ranging on a scale from domestic abuse to genocide (the scale was manufactured in Hell). And yet here they are, cruising towards New Year’s Eve, having pulled it all off.
There’s no moral lesson here. It’s just a really depressing list. Enjoy!
U.S. Government and Global Villains
Did the Kremlin succeed in swaying the American election in their favor and installing a straw-headed, bleary-eyed puppet who’ll dance to Putin’s every whim? Or does it merely look exactly like that in every way? Who can say?
Among the most atrocious and violent examples of Men Who Got Away with It is Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria whose regime has slaughtered nearly half a million civilians and rebels since the country erupted into conflict in 2011. Among the dead are tens of thousands of children and still there has been no major global intervention. The rebel stronghold in the Syrian city of Aleppo is near collapse. In its attack on the city, the Syrian government is doing little to differentiate between rebels and civilians, killing both at will. In mid-December, an evacuation attempt agreed upon by Assad’s government was canceled suddenly—possibly dooming 5,000 people—men, women, and children—to their deaths.
In a December 14 interview with Russian state television, Assad remarked that newly elected Donald Trump has the potential to be a “natural ally” in Syria’s fight “against terrorism.”
David Cameron forced the Brexit vote to happen, saying that he would enact the will of the people should they actually vote for Brexit, comfortable in the knowledge that nobody would ever vote for Brexit. Then they did, and David Cameron...quit his job, leaving someone, literally anyone else, to deal with the unenviable task of dismantling either the European Union, the United Kingdom, or possibly both.
Late last year, Wisconsin’s simpering union-buster Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race just before getting absolutely slaughtered. He wisely retreated from the national stage, allowing Ted Cruz to take his place as the country’s most reviled college debate team leader. This also meant that several Wisconsin district attorneys’ investigation into the network of political donors (including but not limited to the Koch brothers) Walker so adroitly navigates did not receive nearly the amount of attention that it might have, especially after a panel of conservative judges who were also implicated in the investigation stopped it in its tracks. The still-split U.S. Supreme Court then declined to take up the prosecutors’ appeal. The system works!
Actors, Singers, and Athletes
In early 2016, babe-turned-drunken whimsy clown Johnny Depp was accused of domestic violence by his then-wife, actress Amber Heard. Despite photographs of bruises and footage of Depp, drunk as a skunk, getting aggressive nearly to the point of violence, most media outlets seemed reluctant to take Heard’s side. While their divorce was settled in August, Depp has yet to pay her her settlement money (which Heard says will go to domestic violence charities). Despite all that, Depp remains the United State’s most overpaid actor and will have an integral role in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise. However, he did not, it should be noted, get away with smuggling his dogs, Pistol and Boo, into Australia in violation of the country’s biosecurity laws.
In the course of four years U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte went from idiot you hate to love to everyone’s worst nightmare of an entitled American tourist when, during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, he and fellow swimmers Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, and James Feigen lied about being held at gunpoint to cover up their drunk and disorderly conduct. In the aftermath, Lochte was barely given a slap on the wrist, going on to join the cast of Dancing with the Stars, publicize his engagement, and—like many a Bad Man—have a buddy-buddy moment with Billy Bush. Jeah, Ryan! You out-swam the consequences of your actions!
Dominating much of the culture coverage in early 2016 was musician Kesha’s failed attempt to cut legal ties with her record label Sony and Dr. Luke (real name Lukasz Gottwald), the producer who allegedly abused her “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally” throughout the years they worked together. It was momentarily rumored that Dr. Luke—who runs Kemosabe Records under the Sony banner—was being fired by Sony because of bad PR, but as of now, both Dr. Luke and Kemosabe remain in the Sony fold. Kesha, on the other hand, is still legally barred from recording new music outside of the Sony label.
Jabronis and Media Clowns
Daleiden made a series of misleading and profoundly false videos accusing abortion providers of selling “baby parts,” by which he meant fetal tissue, for profit. While no state investigations uncovered any actual wrongdoing, Daleiden did succeed in fueling a new wave of hatred: abortion providers said last January threats against them had doubled since 2010. After Robert Dear murdered three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood, he told police “no more baby parts.” And yet criminal charges against Daleiden and an employee, Sandra Merritt, were dismissed this summer. He continues to push debunked claims against Planned Parenthood and companies who work with them, and he probably will forever.
It seems like carrying a nine-year grudge and secretly funding a series of lawsuits against a media company to destroy it would be, I don’t know, stressful? A profound waste of time, money, and a shameful abuse of the judicial system? An exercise in pettiness and vengefulness so small-minded and sad it is, at times, literally breathtaking? But anyway, it worked: Thiel not only succeeded in shuttering our sister site, but created a durable blueprint for any future angry billionaire who’d like to destroy news he doesn’t like. And now he’s advising Donald Trump and awkwardly handshake-fiving with him. That, too, has worked out surprisingly well!
While we’re here, though, you know what doesn’t work? Desperate measures meant to forestall one’s own mortality, like, say, harvesting the blood of the young. There’s no suing away the gaping maw of the grave that awaits each of us. But nonetheless, happy holidays! Sorry we didn’t get you a gift, but we did consider it.
Ammon Bundy and his cohort took over a federal facility in Oregon for over a month at the beginning of this year, holding it by force, harassing federal officials and threatening to violently rebuff any attempt to dislodge them from their temporary home. Not long after the final arrest was made—with only one militant killed—federal prosecutors brought a hastily assembled case against Bundy et al. that they ultimately, humiliatingly lost. Bundy, his friends, and his family still face federal charges in Nevada relating to a similar standoff that took place in 2014, but for now, at least, his stature as a folk hero to the proliferating militia movement is secure. “We will continue to stand,” he said in October. “It was our duty to stand. We did it peacefully. We did it legally, and the jury’s verdicts confirmed that.” That is not actually what the jury’s verdicts mean, but also it doesn’t really matter.
It is true that former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes was forced out of his job after a staggering series of sexual abuse and harassment allegations from women who’d worked for him. But he was given a downy golden parachute of $40 million on his way out the door and has faced no criminal charges. He’s named in several civil suits, but might not even take much of a financial hit: Fox settled Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit against him and the company, paying her $20 million. The Trump camp is denying reports that Ailes is being considered for a position in his cabinet, but truly, nothing would be more fitting to cap off a truly spectacular year of getting away with it.