26 Weird Things That Happened In 2021 That Somehow Made The News
2021 has been a thoroughly confusing year for many of us. Comparing it to a rollercoaster isn’t enough because the number of turns and loop-the-loops, ups and downs, and unexpected narrative twists we’ve had this year make it seem more like a massive maze than a joy ride.
Despite all the negativity, there have been some news stories that have made us do a double-take and check the source to see if it’s not satire. To show you just how strange 2021 has truly been, our team here at Bored Panda has collected the weirdest news stories and most peculiar headlines to share with you. So grab yourself some popcorn or a festive cup of cocoa, get comfortable, and let’s take a peek at the side of this year that you might have missed.
Don’t forget to upvote the news that made you laugh as you scroll down. My personal favorite weird yet thoroughly sad bit of news in 2021 is about this New Zealand wizard losing his official contract after decades of loyal magical service (it just breaks my heart). "It implies that I am boring and old, but there is nobody else anything like me in Christchurch. It’s just they don’t like me because they are boring old bureaucrats and everyone likes me and no one likes them,’" the wizard said.
Oh, and when you’re done enjoying this article, then we cordially invite you to read all about all the good things that happened this year right over here.
I reached out to Los Angeles-based entertainment, pop culture, and lifestyle expert Mike Sington for a chat about what 2021 has been like, how it compares to 2020, and what we can all hope to see in 2022. Scroll down for Bored Panda's full candid interview with Mike who feels as much at home commenting on breaking news stories as fish do living in the water. He didn't mince words about how awful this past year has been, but he still hasn't lost his optimism for the future.
Mike said that this year has been a rather bad one, especially for the people living in the United States. "2021 has been a complete blur. The entire year has been almost overwhelming," he was honest with Bored Panda. "For us, the single biggest story was the storming of the US Capitol and Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results. It was all downhill from there."
The entertainment industry insider and media expert was very blunt that this year was, overall, horrible. "2021 was worse," he pointed out that, from his perspective, 2020 doesn't even come close. "Whoever thought this pandemic would continue throughout a second year? My heart breaks for so many people who lost loved ones," he said.
Despite all of this, Mike hasn't lost his optimism for the future.
"I’m very optimistic for 2022," Mike stressed that not all hope is lost.
"I think we’re finally going to get a grip on the pandemic as people continue to get vaccinated, and more medications are developed," he pointed out that the entire world continues to fight against Covid-19. "In the US we have a President that cares about other people more than himself, which is a nice change. Here, and globally, we’ve got to pay attention to threats to democracy."
Mike wanted to share these uplifting words with everyone: "My wish is we all support each other more, and be kinder to each other in 2022. We’re going to get through this, together." And I agree. The only way towards a brighter future is through unity, not division.
The very first thing that I do when I spot a headline that makes me go, ‘I’m sorry, what?’ is check the source. If it’s not from The Onion or The Babylon Bee, I then go and take a peek if it might be one of the many satire news sites that have popped up all over the internet. You have to be careful that you don’t report on a story that’s purely made up, like so many others have done (which you can read about in more detail right here).
What I love about weird news is that if the topic is sufficiently ‘out there,’ it can even make it to the front page of even the most respectable and trustworthy news sites. Even the most ‘serious’ companies pick up the stories (because who doesn’t love a bit of odd news from time to time?). Political tensions? Financial woes? Global crises? Check, check, and check, right alongside the news that capybaras have infiltrated gated communities and that dozens of camels got banned from a beauty contest because their owners were cheating.
A while ago, I had an in-depth conversation about the reliability of news sources, media literacy, and propaganda with Lee McIntyre, who is a published author, as well as a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University.
He explained to Bored Panda that repetition plays a key role in making us believe things, whether or not they’re true. “There is a cognitive bias called the 'illusory truth effect' which is when we are repeatedly exposed to false information over and over and, over time, it begins to seem more plausible," he said.
"Social psychologists have known since the 1960s that repetition works, for truth or falsity. In fact, this idea goes back to Plato who said that it didn't hurt to repeat a true thing. And of course, for falsehood, this was one of the main propaganda tactics in Nazi Germany, where Hitler's propaganda minister understood the 'repetition effect,'" Lee from Boston University explained that regimes have weaponized this effect for their own nefarious goals.
According to Lee, repeating a falsehood over and over again eventually convinces people that it’s the ‘truth.’ This is also true even for the most highly educated individuals who know all about how the theory works. Lee gave a personal example.
"I understand cognitive bias, yet last election season I kept seeing signs for the same candidate running for local office around my town. I thought, 'Wow, I guess everyone is voting for her.' It turns out I was just walking my dog in the neighborhood where she lived, and her friends and neighbors had up lots of signs! So I fooled myself."
In the expert’s view, it would be “exhausting” to fact-check everything that we come across in the news. So we have to be smart in how we use our time and energy to gauge the reliability of the news.
"It would be exhausting to fact-check every single news item we hear. In fact, insisting on this degree of skepticism is something that demagogues use to get us to be cynical, because when we doubt that it is possible to know the truth—even when it is staring us in the face—we are riper to their manipulation. So I'd say the best thing with news is to do a little investigation into finding a reliable source," he said that we should prioritize finding trustworthy news sources.
"Look for an organization that does investigative journalism (and doesn't just repeat information from other sources), double-sources its quotations, discloses conflicts of interest, etc. Once we've found that, we can relax a bit and trust the reporting behind the stories. Do we still need to be on guard? Yes. Even The New York Times can make mistakes. Or individual reporters can have biases. But that doesn't mean 'all sources are equal.'"
According to Lee, media literacy is vital. And there’s no excuse not to put in the effort to improve our ability to mentally separate the chaff from the grain in the 24/7 news cycle.
“They teach [media literacy] to KIDS in Finland! It's easy to learn. Is the story copyrighted? Is it dated? Is there a byline? Are other stories by the author solid? Is it published in a source that has been reliable in the past? Does it seem plausible—if not then you can do some research," the expert listed what we should be asking ourselves when we come across a peculiar piece of information.
"Will we get fooled sometimes in doing this? Yes. But we're going to get fooled sometimes anyway. It's analogous to how scientists form their beliefs. They are skeptics, but they also—at some point when the evidence is sufficient—give their assent. Scientists deal with warrant, not 'proof.' They are what philosophers call 'fallibilists.' You give your belief to things that are well-sourced with evidence, while always holding out the possibility that if further evidence comes to light that contradicts your belief, you should give it up because you might be wrong."