2009 has been a frightening year for news. Month after month, we’ve been hit with stories that have made us fear for everything from the lives of college students and the politics of foreign nations to the future of race relations and common courtesy. In recognition of Halloween, here’s a countdown of the five most terrifying, horror-filled moments of news in 2009 … so far:
5. Rep. Joe Wilson Screams ‘You Lie!’ at President Obama During Speech
Rep. Joe Wilson shocked many observers during Obama’s presidential address on health reform this September when he shouted, “You lie!” after the president stated that health care legislation would not provide free coverage for illegal immigrants.
“It really does tell you how low we’ve sunk when it comes to common courtesy,” said Norman Ornstein, a political scientist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in an interview with ABC News.
“This is not something we’ve seen before during a presidential speech,” said Ornstein. “Yes, we’ve had booing and hissing, but yelling in the middle of a speech ‘you lie,’ that’s something different.”
The most stunning aspect of it all came in the days following the incident. The Republican congressman raised in excess of $1.5 million in the week after; a strong indication of support from conservative Americans for the disrespect shown towards their President.
4. Campus Killings Run Rampant
A Yale University graduate student’s body was found stuffed inside a wall in a medical research building on campus. Annie Le’s was a diminutive student, 4-foot-11 and around 90lbs. Her on-campus killing triggered fear among Yale students, as well as among other graduate students.
“She just went to campus the same way I do everyday, and she was killed” said Latia Wade, 24, a graduate student at Columbia University. “I go to class at night and I assume that I’m gonna come back, but she didn’t, so maybe I wont.”
A month later, Jasper Howard, the 20-year-old cornerback for the University Of Connecticut’s football team was stabbed to death outside of a school-sponsored dance on campus.
Taken together, the two campus killings engendered fear among college community’s everywhere, creating concern that campuses were no longer safe places for their young chargers.
3. Outbreak of Violence After Iranian Elections
Despite international predictions of an electoral upset and Iranian calls for change, Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won re-election in June’s presidential elections and scores of protesters took to the streets as opposition members disputed the results.
The Iranian government responded by releasing the Basij, a parliamentary group composed of policemen and ordinary citizens, to suppress rioting using pepper spray, batons, and guns.
Described by the New York Times as the most intense violence in a decade, the protests left many dead. Conflicting reports from the Iranian government and human rights organizations in Iran estimated between 27 and 150 unconfirmed fatalities.
Iranian authorities closed universities in Tehran, blocked web sites, blocked cell phone transmissions and text messaging, and banned rallies. The protest cast doubt on the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s electoral victory, and more significantly, on the legitimacy of Iran’s democracy.
2. New York Post Cartoon Said to Depict Obama as Dead Monkey
A police officer flanked by another officer was depicted after having just shot a monkey lying in a pool of its own blood in the New York Post in February.
In a cartoon released by the New York Post in February, a police officer stands over the dead body of a monkey he has just shot, as another officer is shown as saying, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.””
The response to the cartoon was venomous, as many accused the author and the Post of portraying the President as a rabid chimpanzee, tapping into the long-standing racial metaphor equating blacks with monkeys.
Al Sharpton responded, saying, “Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?”
1. Harvard Professor Arrested; Suspected of Breaking Into His Own Home
One of the nation’s pre-emiment African American scholars, Henry Louis Gates, was arrested on the front porch of his home in July, accused of disorderly conduct. Cambridge police received a call from a neighbor, stating Gates’ house was being broken into. When police arrived on the scene, the Harvard professor was already in his home.
In the initial aftermath of the arrest, media reports indicated only that Gates had been arrested on suspicion of breaking and entering, though it became clear early on that the home was Gates’ own. The arrest sparked concern and suspicion in the African American community that racial profiling was still alive and well in America, and the post-racial utopia President Obama had supposedly ushered in was just a dream.
As more evidence emerged on the circumstances of the arrest, the Professor’s conduct came into question. The arresting officer said Gates “exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior.” The charges against Gates were dropped and President Obama eventually invited both Gates and the arresting officer to the White House for drinks to discuss the event.