The way I see it, the platonic ideal of a great media feud involves two or more famous parties behaving badly, then using media (especially social media) as a cudgel while simultaneously capturing the imagination of the mainstream media -- in the process causing all of us to endlessly obsess and take sides. For a while, it seemed like the North Korea vs. Sony battle fit the bill, but terroristic threats, backed up by some chillingly effective hacking, have a way of draining all the fun out of even the most cartoonish duel.
Even with that increasingly grim dust-up out of the mix, though, there's still plenty among our Five Best Media Feuds of 2014 list to keep you entertained -- at least while you're waiting for the world premiere of Sony's "The Interview" on BitTorrent.
Amazon vs. Hachette
An e-book-pricing dispute between Amazon and Hachette Book Group technically began in January, but it really got ugly -- and turned into a media sensation -- in May, when the online conglomerate stopped selling some of Hachette's books and delayed order fulfillment for others. Amazon encouraged consumers to email Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch (the e-tailer helpfully suggested some talking points, including "We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks"), while Hachette rallied hundreds of prominent authors to rail against, well, Amazon screwing authors by preventing their books from getting to readers. It didn't help Amazon's cause when Stephen Colbert joined the fray (his books, published by Hachette, were among those suppressed) and encouraged his viewers to shop elsewhere and slap "I Didn't Buy It on Amazon" stickers (available at colbertnation.com) on their purchases. (The battle dragged on for so long that you can be forgiven if you barely noticed that it was resolved just last month, with Amazon more or less caving and letting Hachette decide on its own ebook prices.)
Vice vs. Gawker
In June, following a Gawker post titled "Working at Vice Media Is Not As Cool As It Seems," Vice fired back with a delightfully unsubtle post headlined "Vice to Gawker: Fuck You and Fuck Your Garbage Click-Bait 'Journalism.'" The post began, "Gawker, a gossip site that openly traffics in rumor, innuendo, and in many cases straight-up bullshit, and whose founder, Nick Denton, has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit by former interns for violating federal wage laws, recently published an inaccurate and irresponsible story about Vice's workplace." In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, haters gonna hate (hate, hate, hate, hate), and, hey, the more the haters at Vice and the haters at Gawker devote their energy to hating on each other, the better for the rest of us, right?
Bieber vs. Bloom
Why did Orlando Bloom throw a punch at Justin Bieber at an Ibiza nightclub in July? TMZ, where the first draft of celebrity history is written, offered dueling versions of the confrontation: "One account is Justin extended his hand to Orlando, who refused it, and when Justin asked what's your problem ... Orlando mentioned Miranda." (That would be Miranda Kerr, Bloom's now ex-wife, whom Bieber famously and blatantly flirted with years earlier when she and Bloom were still married.) "Justin then tried to walk away," TMZ continued, "and that's when Orlando swung. A second version: Justin said something to the effect of, I had sex with your wife ... and then Orlando swung." Bieber deftly turned the physical altercation into a social-media feud when he briefly posted a picture of Kerr on his Instagram account as well as a shot of Bloom appearing to be crying. As "Scandal" actor Joshua Malina put it on Twitter, "This Justin Bieber/Orlando Bloom thing is the first time I've been interested in a featherweight match."
Gwyneth vs. Martha
Gwyneth Paltrow has been trying very, very hard to be the new Martha Stewart, judging from Goop, her "food, shopping and mindfulness" website. How does Martha feel about that? "She just needs to be quiet," Martha told Net-a-Porter's Porter magazine in September. "She's a movie star. If she were confident in her acting, she wouldn't be trying to be Martha Stewart." Gwyneth sarcastically brushed it off: "No one has ever said anything bad about me before, so I'm shocked and devastated," she said in October at the Most Powerful Women Summit, right after hiring Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's former CEO Lisa Gersh as Goop CEO. A "Conscious Coupling" pie recipe (a not-so-sly reference to Gwyneth's famous "conscious uncoupling" from husband Chris Martin) soon appeared in Martha's magazine; Goop followed up with a Jailbird Cake recipe (a not-so-veiled reference to Martha's time behind bars). A domestic-diva feud that devolves into dessert-centric disses? It's a good thing.
The New Republic vs. Chris Hughes & Co.
There was perhaps no more theatrical media battle than the one between The New Republic's staff and its management. Earlier this month, after publisher-owner Chris Hughes and CEO Guy Vidra decided to cut the frequency of the 100-year-old magazine, move its headquarters to New York and oust editor Frank Foer, the staff mutinied. All told, a dozen full-time edit staffers and dozens more contributors resigned. The New Republic was forced to kill its last issue of 2014 -- helping to fulfill Vidra's announced goal of converting TNR into "a vertically integrated digital media company" by suddenly turning it into the Snapchat of print magazines.