Last year (2015) was by most estimations a “bad year”—when there wasn’t an active shooter on the loose, there was a demagogue riling up xenophobes, a killer cop avoiding indictment, or a new season of True Detective. It was bad. But there’s every reason to believe 2016 will also be bad—if not even worse.
It’s safe to assume that almost everything that made 2015 so bad will persist in 2016, given that we didn’t really “solve” or “address” anything last year. So, with that as a baseline, consider the following dread-boosting factors:
Al Qaeda Is Coming Back
One problem with attacking an abstract thing (Jihadism) with a physical thing (Hellfire missiles) is that it doesn’t really solve the problem, but just sort of shifts around the components. With all the attention (and ordnance) focused on violent Islamists inside a self-declared Caliphate, the New York Times reports that our old enemies from al-Qaeda (remember that??) are resurgent:
Even as the Obama administration scrambles to confront the Islamic State and a resurgent Taliban, an old enemy seems to be reappearing in Afghanistan: Qaeda training camps are sprouting up there, forcing the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies to assess whether they could again become a breeding ground for attacks on the United States.
Most of the handful of camps are not as big as those that Osama bin Laden built before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But had they re-emerged several years ago, they would have rocketed to the top of potential threats presented to President Obama in his daily intelligence briefing. Now, they are just one of many — and perhaps, American officials say, not even the most urgent on the Pentagon’s list in Afghanistan.
You can assume that, should al-Qaeda reemerge as a terrorist power in the region, its priority will still be the destruction of the United States and Decadent Western Culture, as it was previously. They’ll also be extra pissy because of all the buzz ISIS has been getting lately—what’s worse than a terrorist organization with something to prove and a chip on its shoulder?
There’s a Presidential Election
If you thought the rhetoric of hate and fear was bad last year, just imagine how much worse it’s going to get as we approach November and the GOP field becomes increasingly desperate for attention and consideration in the primaries. We’ve barely even started to see Ted Cruz pander to anyone—think about that! The election’s eight months away! No one truly has their back against the wall yet, meaning the national surplus of political ugliness could bulge to unprecedented levels well before Election Day.
Most of all, expect Donald Trump to even more regularly turn the dial on his cynical riling-up of angry white voters eager for something to be riled up about. This could manifest itself in any variety of angry white pastimes, from casual anti-Arab racism to the armed takeover of government buildings.
There Are More Loose Guns than Ever in America
It’s become a fucked up national truism that after every shooting in the news—every gun-based massacre, each new data point on the chart of America’s inadequate gun laws—people go out and buy more guns. Whether it’s because they read on Facebook that Obama is going to take away the guns and hide them under the mosque next to the White House or because they think they need to defend themselves against gun violence with a gun, it happens. Gun sales spiked 11% in June year-over-year, again on Black Friday, and even more after the San Bernardino massacre. The American lust for killing devices is self-accelerating—the more we buy, the more we shoot, and the more we shoot, the more we kill, and the more we kill, the more we buy.
This means that today there are more guns sitting around, waiting to be shot, than there were last year. It stands to reason that the number of angry and/or crazy people has not meaningfully declined.
The New Kanye Album Might Suck
There Could Be Another Big Terrorist Attack? Right?
Sure, maybe. Feels like we’re overdue—at least more coordinated shootings, which are a hell of a lot more cost-effective and easier to plan than, say, a shooting or hijacking.
Junk Bonds Could Trash the American Economy
The market for junk bonds—basically shitty loans that are at a high risk of defaulting—is shitting the bed. The last time some semi-opaque financial assets caused this much anxiety on Wall Street was 2008, and there’s no indication anyone has learned anything since then.
Climate Change Is Still Happening and Still Bad...
“It looks very likely that globally 2014, 2015 and 2016 will all be amongst the very warmest years ever recorded,” Rowan Sutton of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, which contributed to the report, told journalists.
...Which Could Cause More Natural Disasters
Freakish climate conditions trigger freakish weather patterns, which kill people.
The Digital Media Industry Could Collapse
The websites you read are facing declining or flattening growth, and even the cash-rich ones will eventually run out of cash to spend on Facebook promotion. Investors don’t want to pour money into websites that are facing declining or even plateauing growth. And the whole display advertising has got to implode eventually. That would put all of your favorite bloggers and Twitter personalities out of work, God, wouldn’t that be awful? Hello? Guys?
Illustration by Jim Cooke