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Top 5 Heroes & Idiots of 2014

Though I will touch on entertainment and politics, 2014 was more about science for me than anything else. Whether it's the idiocy of pseudoscience or the heroicism of legitimate science, plenty of headlines this year dealt with the subject. Even the Ebola scare is a science story before it is a political one, and I give an honorable mention to the heroics of everyone fighting the disease in Africa and throughout the world. I also give an honorable mention in the other direction to all those who treated a handful of isolated cases of the disease in the U.S. as the harbinger of the end times for North America. The panic and wall-to-wall news coverage for over a month late in 2014 did far more damage than the disease itself, and that's a testament to both the miraculous power of medical science and the unfortunate strength of irresponsible sensationalism. But I'd hate to be a hypocrite by pretending that's the only story worth talking about from 2014, so here are some more heroes and idiots for your consideration:


Mario Kart 8
HERO
5. Nintendo
HERO
5. Nintendo
Mario Kart 8

I've already written about Nintendo's amazing turnaround in 2014, but it's worth mentioning again. How a company as old and proven as Nintendo can remain the underdog in the so-called console wars is beyond me, but 2014 once again proved that a vast majority of the gaming press and vocal gaming community just refuse to accept that the company knows what it's doing. The Wii U has slammed the Xbox One in sales, and the 3DS is the best-selling handheld gaming device (that isn't a smartphone). I'm not a rabid fanboy who thinks Nintendo is better than everybody else (I love my Xbox 360 and my PS4), but I do question why so many people are treating this console generation as PS4 versus Xbox One, when the Wii U is clearly a contender. Nintendo is a hero for sticking to its guns despite heavy criticism, for having integrity in an industry that otherwise bows to the ADHD desires of mercurial gamers and gaming journalists.


IDIOT
5. Vani Hari
Vani Hari
IDIOT
5. Vani Hari
Vani Hari

Self-proclaimed expert on food and health Vani Hari (a.k.a. "The Food Babe") penned a hit piece on Subway sandwiches, claiming that the bread used by Subway contains scary, unsafe chemicals. To say her science was lacking would be to greatly overstate Hari's intellectual prowess. Despite the legions of people correcting her many, many, many factual and logical errors, she stuck true to her crusade, eventually causing Subway to cave and change ingredients in 2014, just to shut her up. Every time you see a Subway commercial that stresses how "natural" and "safe" the bread is, that's Hari's doing. I would spend a little time explaining the faults in Hari's posts, but instead I'll just point you to her more recent article about how unsafe air travel is. As just one example of why she is one of my biggest idiots of the year, she writes, "The air that is pumped in [an airplane cabin] isnít pure oxygen either, itís mixed with nitrogen, sometimes almost at 50%. To pump a greater amount of oxygen in costs money in terms of fuel and the airlines know this!" The full article has been taken down from the "Food Babe" website, but if you find a cached version of it and read to the end, you will have lost an average of 8 IQ points. It's just that stupid.


Marvel Studios
HERO
4. Marvel Studios
HERO
4. Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

It's no secret that I was a skeptic of integrating several comic book franchises into a cohesive cinematic universe and that I was shocked by how awesome and successful The Avengers wound up being. But in 2014, Marvel went even further, putting out two incredibly entertaining films of high quality: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. The company has now made gold out of something few people thought was possible, and they've proven that their early successes weren't flukes. Marvel Studios has a bright future ahead, and it is now safe to mock anyone who continues to doubt it.


IDIOT
4. Dominique Goerlitz & Stephan Erdmann
Dominique Goerlitz & Stephan Erdmann
IDIOT
4. Dominique Goerlitz & Stephan Erdmann
Dominique Goerlitz & Stephan Erdmann

Technically, these guys should have made my list for 2013, but they didn't come to my attention until 2014. What they did to earn my special exception is vandalize the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Why did they do it? Were they adolescent delinquents? Were they anti-Egyptian racists? No, they were "amateur Egytologist hobbyists" who did it as part of their documentary about how they can prove the pyramids were not built by ancient Egyptians but by an even older civilization: the Atlanteans. Yeah. The dumb is strong in these two.


Shepard Smith
HERO
3. Shepard Smith
HERO
3. Shepard Smith
Shepard Smith

I'm not a fan of 24-hour news networks, except as occasional entertainment. They have been overtaken by politics, and they are far less interested in challenging their audiences with facts and nuance than they are with confirming everything their audiences already believe and giving them superficial talking points. Fox News leans so far to the right it might as well call itself "The Conservative News Network," and people would be a lot more comfortable with that than its current "Fair and Balanced" nonsense. One of the closest things the channel has to a voice of reason is Shepard Smith, as he tends to be pretty careful with the facts and their potential implications. He makes this list for doing what one might consider network news blasphemy: he told his audience the truth, that a sensational news story dominating the headlines was extremely overblown and that mass media were to blame. At the height of the American Ebola scare, he said, "You should have no concerns about Ebola at all. None. I promise. Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and the television or read the fear-provoking words online. The people who say and write hysterical things are being very irresponsible." Bravo, Shep. Bravo.

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-e. magill 1/15/2015

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