The biggest news stories of 2018

Better luck next year

The biggest news stories of 2018

Well, that was an event. 

I don't feel it an exaggeration to say that at times, 2018 was incredibly hard going. While the fear of a nuclear annihilation didn't linger over us quite as heavily as 2017, the fear of the unknown was perhaps worse. 

What was Trump going to say or do next? What ridiculous thing would come out of the Prime Minister’s mouth? Would that be immediately supported, countered or completely ignored by her cabinet? Will a train ever show up on time? Such uncertainty - no real answers. 

Time after time we were left with our mouths agape as some of the world’s most powerful people repeatedly and unashamedly say the stupidest things and expect people to just blindly accept it. 

These comments served as a catalyst for the growing sense of anger felt across the world about the decimation of communities by corporations and policy decisions. Sadly all too often that anger is cleverly misdirected towards the most vulnerable: the minimum wage workers who aren’t working hard enough; those reliant on benefits to have a standard of living; refugees fleeing war or immigrants who are legally allowed and qualified to find a better life for themselves. Legitimate concerns about livelihoods for too long went ignored and pushed people into the arms of extremists who simply use that outrage to erode trust and cooperation. 

2018 has been a dark year for the world, but we have to hope it was the dark point before the dawn. 2019 has the potential to be the breaking point, or the start of the recovery process, and each and every one of us will have a part to play in that. 

What will you do in 2019 to try and make the world a better place?


Trump gonna Trump

I debated for far too long about whether or not to start with US news or UK, but Trump is so entrenched in what has happened globally this year - whether directly, indirectly, or symbolically - that I have to start with him really. 

Twitter continues to serve as his policy announcement platform, taking people both in and outside of his administration by surprise. That said, it’s difficult to even know who’s in his administration because of all the resignations this year. Those who haven’t resigned (or been sacked) are probably wondering if taking the job was worth it in the first place, as they are now almost certainly implicated in the Robert Mueller investigation. 33 people have already had charges brought against them, including six from Trump’s campaign, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be slowing any time soon. 

The real divisions of the country were shown during the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who was alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman while at college. The Senate still voted to elevate him though. 

The maelstrom from that led into the midterms, where Republicans actually improved their hold on the Senate, but lost the House.  Immediately afterwards, the White House revoked the press privileges of the CNN reporter who questioned Trump on the lies he said during the campaign. That decision was challenged in court and they had to reinstate it. 

He also seemed to turn against all of the traditional US allies, including the EU and Canada, and instead stands shoulder to shoulder with Putin and says he agrees with him, and even takes the side of Saudi Arabia over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Currently the US Government is in shutdown, as Trump couldn’t get his budget passed through the House because of his insistence that billions of dollars be allocated towards building a wall. 

Brexit continues to be a national embarrassment

That’s not to say that things this side of the pond are going much better. Brexit continues to divide the country, and it’s not looking likely that we will ‘heal as a nation’ any time soon. 

The government continued to drag their heels on taking negotiations seriously, and when Theresa May took it upon herself to come up with a plan, known as the Chequers plan - it triggered the resignation of David Davies and Boris Johnson, before being rejected by the EU. 

A new plan was formulated at the last minute, and Theresa May actually managed to get the EU to sign off on it. The only issue was that everybody else loathed it, including seven ministers who resigned. Among them was Dominic Raab, the replacement Brexit secretary whose job it was to secure the deal in the first place. 

Parliament requested the legal advice the government had been given by the attorney general, but they refused to release it, resulting in a vote that found the Government to be in contempt of Parliament for the first time in history. They then lost a further two votes before five days of debate over the Brexit agreement was due to start, culminating in a vote over whether to accept it. However, Theresa May then realised that she would lose that vote, so decided to cancel the debate altogether.

As a result of this, at least 48 Conservative MP’s submitted letters of no confidence to the head of the 1922 Committee. This triggered a confidence vote that she managed to win, but one which showed that nearly 40% of May’s MP’s were against her, seriously undermining her authority in Parliament. This is something she can hardly afford anyway, given she only commands a minority government, with the DUP MP’s she relies on already stipulating that the confidence and supply agreement will cease should her Brexit deal go ahead. 

To read more on what the vote means, we’ve written up a handy guide!

Windrush scandal

That wasn’t the only failure of the Government this year. As part of the “hostile environment policy” Theresa May oversaw while Home Secretary, the government had made staying in the UK as difficult as possible for immigrants in the hope that they would voluntarily leave. As part of this policy, an increasing number of ID checks were required by banks, charities, employers, and even the NHS to make sure that people were legally allowed in the UK, and services would be cut off if that evidence weren’t available. 

In itself, that would sound problematic, but given that there were a large number of “Windrush” immigrants who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries in the 1950s who only had a landing card that was collected by the government of the day, it became a scandal. For many, that was the only thing that proved they had a right to be in the country, and these records were scheduled to be destroyed in 2009 by the Labour government, and actually carried out by the Conservatives in 2010. 

Rumblings as far back as 2013 gave the impression that the policy wasn’t working, but it took until 2018 for that to come a head. People had been denied treatment for medical conditions, lost their jobs or even their houses because they had no ID, children of Windrush immigrants were being threatened with deportation, despite having been the UK their whole life, and in at least 63 instances, people had been wrongfully deported. 

Amber Rudd was forced to resign as a result of the scandal, but has since been given the role of Work and Pensions Secretary - showing that politics has a short memory.

Homelessness has doubled in five years

Homelessness has also become an increasingly desperate situation faced by thousands of people in the UK. 

Official statistics from Crisis show that homelessness has doubled in the last five years, with 170,000 individuals and families facing destitution. 12,300 are sleeping rough on the streets, and 12,000 are in vehicles or tents. 38,000 of those homeless are under 25, and 4,200 are over 65. Worse still, nearly 600 people died as a result in England and Wales last year, up 24% over a five year period. 

The average life expectancy of a homeless person is just 44.

Source: Independent

Facebook revealed to be the root of all evil

Controversy is not new for Facebook, having been heavily blamed for the prevalence of fake news during the 2016 presidential election and the EU referendum. Zuckerberg promised at the time, the start of 2018, that they would work to resolve all of these issues, but now at the end of the year it is fair to say that this has been one of the worst years yet for the social media company. 

The Cambridge Analytica scandal kicked things off when it was reported that the consulting firm had illegally obtained the information of tens of millions of uses and further influenced the 2016 elections. It was made worse by the silence that the leadership team offered for days after the revelation, and the fact that Facebook had failed to audit the Cambridge Analytica thoroughly. 

This wasn’t the only data leak though. In September, Facebook said that a security flaw had exposed the data of 50 million people, and as a result they were forcing 90 million people to log back into the service. 


It was also seen as a central platform for propaganda and misinformation in several states such as Libya and the Philippines, and the hate speech got so bad in Myanmar that it led to the genocide of the minority Rohingya population.

It was a bad year for video games…

Video games, and specifically their predatory tactics, also took a bit of a kicking this year as the greed of game corporations came to a head. 

What started in the latter of part of 2017 with Star Wars Battlefront II continued to spill over into the new year, with more and more game companies putting exploitative, and in some cases, addictive loot box mechanics into their games. In some cases, these mechanics were put into games specifically aimed at children, and governments finally said enough was enough. Both Belgium and the Netherlands decided that loot boxes constituted as gambling and had to be removed. Some companies complied, but EA in particular has refused to comply and has continued to keep offering gambling mechanics in their games. 

The working conditions of the industry also came under scrutiny again this year. It first started when developer Telltalle Games announced their surprise closure. Employees had been given no notice, and many received no severance pay and lost all health benefits. It then reared its head again in the buildup to the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, where the co-founder VP of creativity Dan Houser proudly stated that employees had been working 100-hour weeks. He later clarified that this wasn’t mandatory, but in such a competitive industry where crunch time is basically part of the job, it is hard to believe that employees didn’t feel pressured to comply. 

Fallout 76

Then there was Fallout 76. This was such a shambles I’m giving it its own subsection! Bethesda has long been known as a company that creates large, sweeping (and buggy) open world games, but for some reason they decided to create an online multiplayer game based on the Fallout franchise. Fans were already concerned but many decided to give Bethesda the benefit of the doubt. What was released though was a completely broken, buggy mess that had constant server disconnects, de-syncs, broken animations, poor textures and a host of other problems.

They had the audacity to charge full price for the game, which was bad enough, but they also released a collectors edition, which was meant to come with a canvas bag. Fans were annoyed as they instead then received a cheap nylon version. When asked about it, a customer support worker said that the bag had been considered too expensive to make so they swapped to nylon without telling anybody, and as a ‘goodwill gesture’ they were giving everyone who paid $200 for the collectors edition 500 atoms, which is the microtransaction currency for the game. This wasn’t even enough to buy the postman skin in-game, which came with its own nylon bag! 

Fans were rightly outraged, and eventually Bethesda said that they were going to ship the canvas bag out to people, if they raised an online ticket. The only problem was that their online support platform was completely unfit for purpose, even allowing access to other customers’ details including their shipping address and credit card numbers. 

The whole thing was a total omnishambles, and in the process Bethesda have highlighted the very worst of corporate greed in rushing out a buggy product, falsely advertising pre-order bonuses, and implementing a micro-transaction economy that charges you a third of the cost of the base game for an in-game skin.

...And YouTube

YouTube has had an equally atrocious year. 

It started badly when Logan Paul uploaded a video of the dead body of a man who had committed suicide in the Japanese suicide forest and proceeded to make jokes about it. There were the Tide Pod Challenge, where people were filming themselves eating detergent packets. Thousands of channels were unfairly demonetized in policy changes that were opaque and ill-communicated. DMCA strikes threatened content creators. YouTube Rewind for 2018 became the most disliked video on the platform in just a few weeks. The platform also continues to struggle to remove extremist content from the platform, and propaganda armies have found out how to game the algorithms to pull people into increasingly hardline content. 

There was also the collapse of the multi-channel network Defy Media, who laid off more than 80 employees and allegedly has thousands of dollars of content creators money unaccounted for, with no clear path forwards. Multi-channel networks were once seen as a safe bet for content creators to access better legal support, sponsorship opportunities and advertisement. This was preferable to going it alone and being at the mercy of Google AdSense and the automatic copyright strike mechanisms. However, it seems like even MCN’s aren’t immune to failure. 

The EU and even the US Government is starting to pay attention to Google’s actions, and YouTube is going to continue to be a real issue for the company if they leave this unchecked in 2019.

There were royal weddings...

Following in the footsteps of his big brother, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, married actress Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel. The May wedding captured the hearts and minds of the general public, thousands of whom lined up to see the newly-weds. The wedding was also significant given Meghan’s mixed heritage, and the American Bishop Michael Curry gave an incredibly rousing (and long) address. 

There was also a second wedding in October, although it was a more subdued affair. Princess Eugenie, the younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson married the brand ambassador and wine merchant Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel.

...And a royal baby!

But that wasn’t the only royal news that gripped the nation. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also saw the birth of their third child, Louis Arthur Charles. Prince Louis weighed 8lbs 7oz (3.8kg) and it was four days before his name was announced. He is fifth in line to the throne, and is the younger brother of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and is the Queen’s sixth great-grandchild. 

It was also announced that Harry and Meghan are expecting a child in the spring of 2019.

Disney had a (mostly) great year

Disney continues their gradual global domination with another stellar year at the box office. 

Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther both launched to near universal acclaim, and sit at positions one and two respectively on the worldwide box office totals for 2018. Incredibles 2 sits at number four, and Ant-Man and the Wasp is at number nine. They have been responsible for 18 of the 36 films this year that have grossed over $1bn. Their deal with Fox is all but confirmed, meaning that they will soon own more beloved brands like X-Men, Deadpool, Avatar and Planet of the Apes. 

It wasn’t all roses though. The House of Mouse did release a few duds this year, including A Wrinkle in Time and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Solo: A Star Wars Story was also a disappointing entry in the Star Wars saga that has reportedly caused a rethink on how Disney are going to approach the franchise going forwards. 

There were also the controversies surrounding James Gunn. The writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy was fired by Disney this year for tasteless tweets he wrote years ago that were subsequently dragged back up by alt-right conspiracists, primarily Mike Cernovich. Gunn was chosen as an easy target as a result of his anti-Trump stance and the fact he used to label himself as a provocateur who used shock humour to make a name for himself. It was surprising how immediate the backlash was, but instead of aimed at Gunn, people were largely outraged at Disney’s decision to fire him. The whole cast of Guardians of the Galaxy wrote a letter in support of Gunn, and Dave Batista (Draxx) called the decision “nauseating” and publicly stated he regretted being contractually obligated to continue the franchise without him. 

A worrying growth in nationalism

All of this is symptomatic of a growing trend of nationalism and populism, often under the banner of a hard or ‘alt’ right. From Trump’s supporter base, the nationalist movements in Myanmar and wider region, the growing euroscepticism from countries within the bloc, the success of nationalist parties in Spain and the elevation of Matteo Salvini to Deputy Prime Minister of Italy all point to a shift in political consciousness. This shift can be seen by some as the result of globalism failing to protect the working class, and they would be right. However, that anger over declining living standards, low job prospects and legitimate concerns about the future is being  by far-right leaders who do not, and will not ever serve the best interests of these people. 

I don’t have the answer, and I don’t think anyone else does either, but turning our backs to those in need and seeking the comfort of those who legitimise hatred surely can’t be it.

Jamal Khashoggi was one of dozens of journalists killed this year

In October, news broke that Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi had gone missing after entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Over the next few days and weeks, a drip feed of information kept the world in suspense as it transpired that the journalist was most likely killed and dismembered in the consulate by a team sent by Crown Prince Salman. The Saudi’s changed their story of what happened multiple times, including originally stating that he left the building without harm, and that he then accidentally died. The Saudi authorities have still denied any high-level culpability. 

However, Khashoggi was one of 53 reported journalist deaths this year, including 34 who were murdered. Of those 34, 10 were murdered in Afghanistan, four in India, four in Mexico, and four were in the USA, where a lone gunman shot up a newsroom having had a longstanding grudge against the paper for reporting a criminal harassment case he was implicated in. 

Dangerous rhetoric around fake news and lying journalists will only increase tensions between the press and the public. 

Remember the Winter Olympics...?

You will have to cast your mind way back to the start of the year for this, but it was actually Olympics time in February. Held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Winter Olympics was won by Norway with 39 medals, followed by Germany then Canada with 31 and 29 medals respectively. Britain placed 19th on the table with a record breaking five medals. Lizzy Yarnold was the first British athlete to retain a Winter Olympic title, whilst her and Laura Deas were the first British athletes to win medals at the same event at a Winter Games. 

The games were also steeped in political drama surrounding Russia and North/South Korean relations, but what was more exciting to watch was amateur freestyle skier Elizabeth Swaney, the American-Hungarian who had used her Hungarian heritage to game the system and make it to the Olympics despite not being good at skiing. Follow your dreams, guys!

...And when England briefly thought they’d win the FIFA World Cup?

The other big sporting event of the year was the FIFA World Cup, and because England didn’t immediately crash and burn, the nation got swept up in a frenzy of false hope. 

In fairness, expectations initially were very low. We had failed to get out of the group stages in 2014, and lost to Iceland (!!) in the European Championship in 2016. Our team for 2018 was basically untested, as was manager Gareth Southgate. Nobody expected much. But, exceptionally strong set pieces and luck in the group stages saw us go through to the playoffs. We beat Columbia at penalties, and then had a 2-0 win against Sweden at the quarter-finals. It was only against Croatia at the semi-finals that we came back down to reality with a 2-1 defeat that could have easily been avoided. 

On the other hand, this was the first time we’d made it to the semi-finals in 28 years, and given the youth of the team, there is plenty of time for improvement!

We’re possibly one step closer towards a united Korea

Much as I dislike Trump, I think we can all agree he has had a hand in bringing together the two Korea’s. Does he deserve a Nobel Peace Prize? Absolutely not. I don’t think you should be eligible if you’ve threatened to wipe a country off the map. But perhaps those threats have helped push North Korea into cooperating more with their southern counterpart. 

Thawing relations started early in the year when North Korea sent a delegation of athletes to the Winter Olympic games, and marched alongside South Korea at the opening ceremony. At both the Winter Olympics and Asia Games, the two countries have competed at some events as a joint “Korea”. Newly elected President Moon Jae-in met multiple times through the year, including in North Korea where Moon became the first South Korean President to give a speech to the North Korean public. The UN granted an exemption to the sanctions currently placed on North Korea so the two countries could cooperate on creating inter-Korean road and railways. In November the first South Korean train in 10 years crossed over to the North territory. 

These are just a few examples of a number of closer ties the two countries have started to forge throughout this year, and with North Korea’s (somewhat dubious) commitment to nuclear disarmament, there is every possibility the Korean War will be declared over soon, and maybe families will be able to freely cross over the border to see each other. 

2019 will be an important year for this germinating relationship.

Celebrity deaths

It’s always a sad affair when loved public figures pass away. In recent years we have had some of the brightest stars taken from us, and 2018 saw it fit to take a few more. Below is by no means a comprehensive list, but a selection of some of the greats who passed in 2018. The Evening Standard has collated a more comprehensive list if you want a real nostalgia trip.

  • Stephen Hawking, aged 76
  • Jim Bowen, aged 80
  • Dale Winton, aged 62
  • Avicii, aged 28
  • Tessa Jowell, aged 70
  • Barry Chuckle, aged 73
  • Aretha Franklin, aged 76
  • John Cunliffe, aged 85
  • Chas Hodges, aged 74
  • Mac Miller, aged 26
  • Stan Lee, aged 95
  • Paddy Ashdown, aged 77

We gave you a Voice in 2018

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With the year all but over, I wanted to quickly drop a note here to say thank you for making 2018 such a great one for our magazine. We love our community here on Voice, and have enjoyed reading the 1300+ posts you’ve published since January!

When we relaunched I wanted the site to provide thoughtful and provocative pieces of content that help to inform and inspire our readers, and in 2018 more than any year prior I feel we have really succeeded. More than that though, we have seen a large growth in user engagement, and our community is creating fantastic content that the team loves to read. There is many a discussion had around the latest thought piece or a review that a user has uploaded to the site, and we are exceptionally grateful for them all. 

We have a lot of stuff planned in 2019, and I can't wait to share details with you in the following months. Happy new year!

If you want to read a roundup of some of the great content published over the year, I've pulled out some highlights here

We've done other great 2018 roundups!

It's not just the news of 2018 that we've taken a careful look at. The Voice team have also cast their eye back over some of the biggest art creations and events of 2018 and captured them in top 10 lists. Each of them are listed below!

If you disagree with any of our lists, or think we've missed something off, definitely leave us a note in the comments - we love learning about new things!  e2d23af1c86bddf762414d39c5954d2d8dd6faf2.jpg

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Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe..

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