As December closes it's common to see articles and programmes rounding up the experiences of the past 12 months, looking for ways to sum up the events of the year to give future historians an easier job. As we reach the end of 2011, many of these are talking about this as "The Year That Lots Happened".
Informative though that title may be, what may be a better way to sum up the past year would be "2011 - The Year Society Reached New Lows".
When we look back at 2011, what will we really remember? The Royal Wedding and the death of Steve Jobs will certainly stand out as two events that - for very different reasons - brought people together and demonstrated that there is still a spark of decency, community and affection amongst the populous. Other notable deaths - those, for example, of various enemies of the West: Bin Laden, Ghaddafi, Kim Jong Il - prompted less inspiring reactions. Some celebrated, not always in appropriate ways. Some took to their high horses to lecture everyone on why we should still honour and respect the passing of brutal dictators and terrorist plotters who sent thousands to early graves for their own pointless, selfish reasons. And most just made snarky jokes on twitter and facebook and forwarded them on to their friends.
And then we come to those other big stories of the year. Those stories that make you look at society and have to swallow the shame vomit crawling past your tonsils.
Phone hacking and super-injunctions. Two sides of the same filth encrusted penny. On the one hand we condemn the News Of The World and all of Murdochs minions for hacking in to phones, stealing voicemail messages and spreading the shit they find there all over their papers. How dare they go so low as to intrude on peoples private lives just to get a story. On the other we condemn those that take out super-injunctions to prevent anyone reporting on their secret affairs. How dare they try and hide their sordid lives from us.
When a celebrity tries to hide from what they've done and prevent their story being told in the press, we take to twitter in armies and rat them out so everyone knows who they are. When a journalist tries to find these stories using certain methods we force a 138 year old paper to stop printing.
This double standard isn't even the worst part. Look at the source of each of these issues. The stories that are being told or hidden from them. These aren't important. Super-injunctions aren't being used to hide political scandals. Phone hacking isn't being used to unveil paedophile rings. The biggest thing revealed by a failed super-injunction was that Ryan Giggs had sex with some girl from Big Brother. And we're all sitting at our laptops patting ourselves on the backs for being able to beat the system and spread this story around.
We completely missed the point. The story there shouldn't have been "Ryan Giggs had an affair and then tried to hide it from the public". It should have been "Ryan Giggs had an affair and then FELT THAT HE HAD TO TRY AND HIDE IT FROM THE PUBLIC because apparently we've decided as a society that who a footballer's fucking is something that we should all care about". And with the year being taken up by stories of these super-injunctions and phone hacking enquiries, it never seems to occur to us that maybe if we just grew the hell up and stopped thinking that this is the sort of inane, unimportant bullshit that we should focus on, neither of these things will be an issue. We forget that the people writing these stories aren't the evil ones, forcing us to pay attention to this crap - they work for us. We tell them we want stories of celebrities behaving badly and they oblige. This, right now, is the point where we should realise that we've gone too far and we seriously need to reassess the kind of stories we want.
But that's not happening. We're just going to keep finding new ways to get around injunctions, and force journalists to find new ways of spying on people just so we can find out who one of the droopy mouthed morons from Geordie Shore is banging behind the scenes.
And then we come to the final big story of the year which is, of course, the riots across the country. A time when, for seemingly no reason at all, great tribes of twats adopted a "Monkey See, Monkey Do" attitude across the country and looted, burned and trashed various city centres - proving themselves to be the stupidest, most awful piles of scum on the planet. The end of the summer was then spent trying to decifer just how this had happened, and what the point of it was. Were the riots politically motivated? Was it to make a socio-economic point? Was it out of necessity?
As it turned out, people were rioting because they were morons. The very worst of humanity rose up and rioted purely because someone had failed to realise that they should have been drowned at birth.
So that's 2011. We finally went too far with our addiction to idiotic celebrity gossip - and then continued. We recognised the behaviours of the worst of our journalists - and learned nothing from it. And we were terrorised by our own people - and were unable to catch them all, lock them up in the Jeremy Kyle studios and set the place on fire. We then sat back and allowed our television channels to fill up with nonsensical, intellectually offensive "scripted reality" shows, let the charts fill up with previously pleasant songs remixed in to garbled, robotic messes of sound and tweeted racist jokes about dead leaders.
2011 is the year that brought out the very worst in society, and all signs show that we're not planning on making ourselves any better in 2012.