The Year of the Leak

From the BP mess to the document dumps, 2010 was a year of more spills than thrills

  • Share
  • Read Later
Photo-Illustration by John Ueland for TIME

Man, did we ever leak. We couldn't control the leaking, as if we were all sneezing women who'd just had a baby and we'd just drunk a bottomless cup of coffee and that baby were sitting on our bladder. It was as if the nation took a picture of itself naked, e-mailed it to our boyfriend and suddenly every member of the U.N. got a copy of us with our Dakotas hanging out.

In the Year of the Leak, we spent 12 months mopping up with a giant towel. Which, I believe, was one of BP's plans for cleaning up the oil spill. For three months, a British company leaked some 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and onto our shores while its CEO went to a yacht race. This was exactly the kind of colonialist treatment we tried to prevent with Tea Party Beta. The BP leak was so infuriating, it even caused Obama to unveil his frightening alter ego, Slightly Ticked-Off Guy. There were slimy oil balls washing up on most of our shores, though television seemed to focus on the ones on the Jersey Shore.

It wasn't that we were too relaxed. No, we were anxious, pissed off and full of free time because of the not-having-a-job thing, and yet we still could not stem the tide of leaks. In July, WikiLeaks published some 92,000 military documents that shocked the world with the information that the war in Afghanistan isn't going well. Then in November, the site published e-mails showing how our diplomats feel about every world leader. Who knew that we think Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is "not a very bright guy ... vain, fastidious, vindictive, a micromanager"? Though, really, we could have figured most of that out, given that he's a dentist. WikiLeaks also revealed that Prince Andrew of wherever thinks Americans aren't good at geography.

Apple — a company so obsessed with control, it allows its leader to own only one shirt — couldn't stop Gizmodo from leaking information about the iPhone 4 after an Apple employee left a prototype at a bar. We got so paranoid about leaks that when a tiny bit of ash started leaking from a volcano in Iceland, we freaked out so much that we not only stranded passengers in Europe for a week but also agreed to refer to it as Eyjafjallajokull, using the completely pointless Icelandic language instead of calling it by its real name, Iceland volcano. Being stranded at a European airport for a week is even worse than it sounds, since by your fourth Pret a Manger sandwich, you realize they're not so great.

Leaks gave us, allegedly, photos of Brett Favre's penis — which made us question not only his intelligence and fidelity but also his cheap camera-phone choices, not to mention Tiger Woods' wife's decision, reportedly, to stay at Favre's ranch while her husband was in rehab for sex addiction. Leaks gave us audiotape of Mel Gibson's rage when the mother of his child didn't stick to his strict standards of hot-tub etiquette. When sex tapes allegedly leaked from a laptop that had been stolen from Nazril "Ariel" Irham, lead singer of the Indonesian pop band Peterpan, he was arrested under antipornography laws; he now faces up to 12 years in jail and a fine of 6 billion rupiah — exactly the opposite of how making a celebrity sex tape works in America. It's really hard to stop leaks when you're half a mile underground, but that's exactly when, if you're a trapped Chilean miner, your wife is going to find out about your mistress.

As prevalent as leaking was, it still wasn't made so easy that Joaquin Phoenix could handle it. Confused by how leaks work, Phoenix put his career in jeopardy to pull an Andy Kaufman and draw people into a fake documentary about the ridiculousness of celebrity — then, apparently not convinced by his own performance, leaked that it was fake.

It seems clear that even though the year is almost over, there'll be no stopping the leaking. So my request for 2011 — or the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, as it's known in David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest, in which every year is sponsored by an advertiser — is for everyone to handle leaks better. It's an indiscriminate flood out there, and I'm no longer sure what to pay attention to. I don't want to have to turn to Google Leaks to customize my daily leak feed, so I can keep the Turkmen guy out and Muammar Gaddafi's "voluptuous blond" Ukrainian-nurse companion in. I wonder which leaks she lets him know about. Actually, I'm going to filter that leak out.