On Feb. 12, the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year and see out the Year of the Rat, the first of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Though wholly unintentional, I feel that 2020 truly was “the year of the rat,” for from politics to sports, plenty of public figures exemplified qualities I can only describe as “rat-like.” Be they conniving, scheming, or just plain dishonest, we at the 9825 have prepared our Top 10 Rats of 2020. Think of it like our version of Texas Monthly’s bum-steer awards.
#10 Ellen Degeneres
For a long time, Ellen Degeneres has used her show to champion a message of being kind to others, and 2020 didn’t see her show drastically deviate from this message. However, the past year has seen over 2000 people come forward with stories alleging that her on-show persona is less than truthful to real life. Allegations of mistreatment of staff filled the headlines of the pop culture beat. The most entertaining story to come from the fall of Ellen was when staff alleged she had called Steve Jobs to complain about her iPhone’s font size. Rest assured, Ellen did plenty in 2020 as well, including comparing lockdown to “jail” and an alleged botching of contact tracing when she contracted COVID in late 2020. Ellen was revealed to be a general rat this year, but to be honest, most people I knew had a slight suspicion that she had the tendencies of one, so Ellen doesn’t land too high on this list.
#9 Pete Buttigieg
Politics truly became a rat world this year, and while many more politicians are on this list, Democrat Pete Buttigieg was the canary in the coal mine of rats, perhaps a sign of what was to come. Up until the 2020 primaries, Buttigieg had styled himself as a young progressive in the Democratic party, heavily critiquing neoliberalism and the party establishment. However, he quickly walked back this stance and styled himself a moderate (and vocal critic of progressives at times) come the primaries, conveniently coinciding with the securing of hefty donations from various Billionaire-funded Democrat super-PACs. While “Wall Street Pete” seems ancient in what was a never-ending year, his political backtracking and shady connections to the Iowa Caucus and CIA are enough to land him on this list.
#8 Hedge Funds
No story has exploded in the early weeks of 2021 quite like the GameStop short squeeze. In an unprecedented turn of events, a number of “retail investors,” or everyday people, bought shares in the company to drive up the price and ultimately cause losses among hedge funds who had bet on the price to fall. What puts them on this list, however, is not that they were shorting GameStop, but how outraged they were when they finally got hit with the same tricks they’ve been using for years to ruin the economy like clockwork. The stock market ripple caused losses among normal people too, but one shouldn’t forget that it’s Wall Street’s blindness, not the retail investors, that caused this (a healthy market should be able to withstand the buying of stocks). Wall Street is full of rats on a normal day, but the events following the GameStop price hike, including alleged collusion between hedge funds, market manipulation by news outlets, and the decision from Robinhood and TD Ameritrade to suspend the purchasing of GameStop stocks, all elevate Wall Street Hedge Funds to iconic rat status, and hopefully (though very unlikely), some jail time as well.
#7 Everyone in that “Imagine” Video
Remember that celebrity cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” done at the beginning of quarantine? The discount version of “We are the World” that showed up uninvited on everyone’s Instagram? From the comfort of their own mansions, stars like Gal Gadot and Will Ferell asked us to “imagine no possessions” in a rare celebrity moment that is panned by both sides of the aisle. This three minute affront to music itself started off with Gadot spouting off philosophical musings about how “we’re all in this together,” while she and her net worth of 30 million dollars took shelter; it only got worse from there. A whole battalion of A-list celebrities took five seconds of their precious time to show off their out-of-tune altos and high-school-theatre vibrato in rooms so large that they have their own reverb. The crowning jewel of this atrocity was that they sang the song with no instruments, no backing track, and a key that changes so often that John Coltrane would ask them to slow down. John Lennon can ruin his legacy just fine without the help of millionaires so detached from reality that they don’t remember what Hot Pockets taste like. Rats, the lot of them.
#6 Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence
Mike Pence has managed to fast track his way to rehabilitation by just keeping his mouth shut and conveniently stabbing Donald Trump in the back when it became politically advantageous. However, in true Mike Pence fashion, he was too boring to warrant his own placement on this list, so we’ve grouped him in with fellow born-again Republican Mitch McConnell. Vice-President Pence and Minority Leader McConnell both now see themselves wielding a large amount of power in the Republican party purely because they jumped ship at the right time. What have they decided to do? Certainly not advocate for advanced stimulus packages (as McConnell said he would) nor support the prosecution of Donald Trump (which both McConnell and Pence have heavily hinted at). No, instead they’ve taken this as their golden opportunity, and are now more important than they’ll ever be. Rest assured though, they won’t be around for long. Admiration from the opposition is fickle, and playing the anti-Trump game is a precarious balance. Nevertheless, they’ve managed to rat their way into power, however short-lived it may be.
This pick is kind of cheating, because when are the top 1% not rats? However, in a year where Americans have lost their livelihoods, jobs, and chunks of their savings, billionaires have seen their wealth grow dramatically. According to a study from Oxfam, billionaires gained 3.9 trillion dollars from March 18 to Dec. 31. When one group loses money and another group gains money, the math isn’t all that difficult to work out. Bezos has directly profited off of the pandemic and still makes time to union bust so hard that J.H. Blair would be proud. Mark Zuckerberg managed to somehow both signal boost and censor the American right, and Elon Musk’s labor abuses almost match his total number of unfunny memes he’s shared on Twitter. Rats are still ratty, even if you expect them to be rats. And don’t forget about Bill Gates, he may be helping to make the COVID vaccine available, but no one gets that rich without stepping on some people. It would be too easy to make this list just the Forbes Billionaire list, so we’re lumping them all here at this spot.
#4 Marjorie Taylor Greene, Capitol Rioters, Ted Cruz
In the beginning of 2021, a violent mob stormed the U.S. capitol, and frankly, I’m more upset that they did it before I could. However, we shouldn’t pretend the rioters did this all by themselves, unprompted. Like many Republicans at both the state and federal level, Rep. Marjorie Tyler Greene and Sen. Ted Cruz both stoked the fire that became the Capitol Riot. However, where some Republicans have had a reality check, or at least shut up, Cruz and Greene doubled down. Cruz has taken to victim-blaming, saying that prosecution of the rioters distracted congress from passing COVID stimulus (while voting against stimulus packages). Greene, meanwhile, has decided to maintain that the election was stolen, while still finding time to mock the survivors of the 2018 Parkland Shooting and talk about Jewish Space Lasers. Remember, rats don’t always have to be successful, and make no mistake; was the riot successful, Cruz and Greene would have stood behind what would have been an illegitimate government instead of whatever it is they’re doing now. The riot may have been put down, but the paw prints are still there. They all get second on this list for treason – and because Cruz already looks like a rat.
#3 Joe Biden
It hasn’t even been a month into Biden’s presidency and Uncle Joe has already walked back his promises of $2000 stimulus checks – no matter how hard the Democratic Party tries to pretend that isn’t happening. Biden has done a lot in his first few weeks, but most of it has been symbolic. Border detention facilities are still open, Trump’s tax cuts haven’t been reversed, and restrictions on federal unionizing are still in place. His supporters have argued that asking Biden to do all of these things on Day 1 is unfair, which is true, had he not promised it. Even prior to his election, Biden and the Democrats, champions of democracy, sued the Green Party and PSL off the ballot in multiple states and walked back multiple campaign trail promises. None of this seemed to hurt him, though. He still won the election, in the end rather handily. Biden’s supporters have praised his “boring normalcy” and standard presidential behavior, and this is true, for rather than loudly announcing it on Twitter, President Biden has begun to lie his way around helping Americans, like any good politician should. As long as the Blue MAGA crowd holds him above criticism, this is unlikely to change.
Not so long ago, QAnon was an ant farm of conspiracy theorists inspired by the cryptic posts of a 4chan poster going by “Q”. Anyone unfortunate enough to be sucked in to Chan culture at the time had a chuckle at piping hot takes about an elite pedophilic cabal who drinks the blood of children (throw in the Rothschilds or George Soros for extra antisemitism) and how Donald Trump was sent by Jesus to round up and publicly execute Democratic lawmakers. It was a weird little corner of the internet that no one knew about unless they were in it or laughing at it. However, it quickly became the second-most infectious thing of 2020 and now appears in both the skull-laden message boards of Neo-Nazis and on your racist grandma’s facebook page. As with any large group of extremists, it became violent, with their adherents making bomb threats, assaulting people at last summer’s protests, and threatening to kill various Democratic figures. This building wave of ratness finally got some attention from mainstream media after the storming of the Capitol. As with many of the rats on this list, QAnon is not one of those 2020 exclusives (like the murder hornets) and will continue its ratness in the years to come, but they showed their rat whiskers (and claws) this year.
#1 Rudy Giuliani
“A rat? Calling Rudy Giuliani a rat is an insult to rodents,” is what Mr. Dow had to say to this selection. What’s more rat-like than trying to overturn the results of a free and fair election? Giuliani has peddled countless conspiracy theories en route to ruining whatever shred of a legal career he had left. As a member of Trump’s legal team, he brought to the limelight plenty of names that didn’t deserve to be anywhere near national attention, like Sidney Powell and Lin Wood (both of whom could have made this list). This isn’t even mentioning the compromising scene he had in Borat 2. He’s had all the crackpot ideas and racism to make it in Trump’s ever-dwindling inner circle with none of the machismo. His hair dye fiasco was the most literal instance of a man falling apart I’ve seen in my short life. Even before the election, Giuliani made the case for being a rat, seemingly being too senile to notice he had backstabbed Trump by alleging crimes the administration had committed while live on television. If Giuliani had one saving grace, it’s that his incompetence stopped him from being truly menacing, but then again, rats aren’t menacing. They’re pesky, annoying, and no matter how many pandemics they cause, they don’t seem to go away. I can’t imagine what kind of dirt Trump has on America’s Mayor to make him stick around this long, but I can only hope the tell-all book is written soon. Rudy Giuliani is the 9825’s “Rat of the Year.”