The Book of Tens 2010

Book of Tens: Epic Media Feuds

Here's Hoping Some of These Brawlers Keep the Gloves on in 2011

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Credit: Fred Harper
The WikiLeaks founder fancies himself an information freedom fighter. Purveyors of necessarily secret information -- like the U.S. military and the State Department -- see him as a reckless anarchist. Assange thought he'd change the world one leaked document at a time, but his undifferentiated dump of hundreds of thousands of pages of classified information has been less than revelatory, offering both numbing redundancy and utter banality. Get this: Turns out U.S. State Department cable scribes find annoying foreign leaders to be ... annoying. American diplomats: They're just like us!

In the spring, lost member of the Blue Man Group James Cameron -- who made some sort of emo 3-D movie about tall, sexy E.T.s -- was asked for his opinion about Glenn Beck. "Glenn Beck is a fucking asshole," he declared. "I've met him. He called me the Antichrist." On his next show, Beck owned up: "I did call James Cameron the Antichrist. Only because of the Celine Dion song ['My Heart Will Go On,' in 'Titanic']. Horrific, really." He also characterized Cameron as the director of "a Smurf-murdering movie." (So that's what "Avatar" was about!)

In January, Google shocked the world by declaring that its computer network had been the subject of a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack" emanating from China. It took until the end of the year for indirect confirmation, via WikiLeaks, that the Chinese government was indeed behind the cyberattack, but in the meantime Google decided that it would engage in a, um, highly sophisticated and targeted counterattack on China: It took its ball and went home, essentially exiting the world's largest emerging internet market.

APPLE vs. GAWKER MEDIA A priest, a rabbi and an Apple iPhone 4 engineer walk into a bar. OK, forget the priest and the rabbi -- but don't forget the iPhone! Which, of course, the engineer did, leaving his top-secret prototype behind on a barstool. An opportunist found it and sold it for chump change ($5,000) to Gawker Media's Gizmodo gadget blog, which racked up a gazillion page views with its unauthorized (and possibly illegal) sneak peek. Steve Jobs was reportedly outraged, and Apple actually prompted California's state police to raid Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen's home. George Orwell, meanwhile, is still trying to decide which way to flip over in his grave.

Oh hail again, Steve! Yeah, the Apple CEO makes our list twice this year. Also upping his ire: the dimwits (as he sees them) at Adobe, the software giant behind Flash technology, which Jobs permanently banished from his wonder tablet, the iPad, not to mention the iPhone and iPod Touch. Why? Because Flash sucks, man! Or so insists Jobs, despite the fact that, huh, Flash does seem to work on competing mobile platforms, including the new crop of Android phones and tablets. Must be a bug or something.

To write an unauthorized biography of Sarah Palin, Joe McGinnis thought it'd be a good idea to camp out in Wasila -- in a rented house right next door to the Palin compound. Uh, actually, Joe? Bad idea. Really bad idea. Mama grizzlies don't take kindly to perceived predators, and neither do diehard fans of mama grizzlies, who issued none-too-subtle death threats against the author. No word on whether McGinnis is hoping to do a guest turn on "Dancing with the Stars" next year timed to the release of his Palin bio.

Rupert Murdoch hates New York Timesmen -- particular the ruling Sulzberger family behind the paper. It's bad enough they're such journalistic snobs -- Establishment media players who look down on Murdoch's messy, freewheeling News Corp. tabloid empire (not to mention Fox News) -- they're also liberal pansies! Fortunately, News Corp. now owns The Wall Street Journal, through which Murdoch can engage in all kinds of warfare by proxy, like (improbably) launching a WSJ metro New York section to take on the Times in its own backyard. News Corp. shareholders may be horrified by the repositioning of the inky business bible, but hey, if it makes 79-year-old Rupert feel young again ...

Turns out those Establishment media snobs at the Times can flex a little muscle -- make that a lot of muscle -- when provoked. In the fall, the paper's Sunday magazine published a deliciously detailed cover story about a tale of Murdochian misconduct that News Corp. assumed was well past its expiration date. A 2006 phone-hacking scandal -- during which Murdoch's News of the World was found guilty of illegally accessing the voice mail of members of the British royal family in the service of tawdry scandal-mongering -- was no isolated incident, the Times reported, breathing much new life into (and British government interest in) the scandal.

Rapper M.I.A. didn't much like journalist Lynn Hirschberg's New York Times Magazine cover profile about her. In fact, she went ballistic, tweeting Hirschberg's phone number to her followers, and even releasing a Hirschberg dis track, "I'm a Singer" ("Why the hell would journalists be thick as shit /'Cause lies equals power equals politics") -- ingeniously calling even more attention to the story she didn't want anyone to read.

You lose -- we all lose! Except Mark Zuckerberg. He's holding a giant magnifying glass, and we're all just ants. And it's way too late for us to escape the ant farm.

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