The 17 most memorable tweets of 2012

Jessica Hullinger
The Week

This year we sent a rover to Mars, re-elected President Obama, and endured the storm of the century — and Twitter recorded all of it

This has been a big year for Twitter. The platform saw its active user base rise to more than 200 million people. The 2012 presidential election became the most tweeted-about political event ever, with 20 million tweets. The London Olympics generated more than 150 million tweets. 2012 even saw the invention of Twitter toilet paper. And of course, it was on everyone's favorite fast-paced social network that so much of this year's news broke and played out, in bursts of 140 characters or less. Here, a look back at some of the most memorable Twitter moments of 2012: 

1. The deepest tweet 

It wasn't enough for Titanic director and deep-sea explorer James Cameron to design a submarine. He then took it to the Earth's deepest point, the Mariana Trench. When he got there, he let the world know with a tweet, "to the puzzlement of dozens of Twitter users who struggle to get a signal in an elevator or in their own apartments," notes Forrest Wickman at Slate. Cameron's tweet was actually pre-written and sent from the surface by a friend once the director reached his goal, but his epic journey to the bottom of the ocean was nothing short of amazing. 

2. CNN speaks too soon

— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) June 28, 2012

Oops. What's that old saying? It's better to be right than first? CNN learned that the hard way when they hastily and incorrectly reported that the Supreme Court had struck down the controversial individual mandate in President Obama's Affordable Care Act. The mistake sparked an avalanche of criticism, and has been dubbed the modern-day version of the Chicago Tribune's infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline. 

3. The NRA shows very poor timing

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At approximately 12:30 am on July 20, James Holmes allegedly walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. Seven hours later, the National Rifle Association, which either hadn't been reading the news or had its Twitter account set on autopilot, issued this controversial tweet polling gun-enthusiasts on their weekend plans. "Yeah, just gonna mourn a bit. And you?" responded one offended user. The tweet, and subsequently the entire account, were deleted later that day. 

4. An athlete is banned from the Olympics

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Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was banned from the 2012 London Olympics after sending out this tweet mocking African migrants in her country. After an onslaught of criticism, the 23-year-old claimed the tweet, which was widely perceived as racist, was a joke, then released a lengthy apology, but the damage had already been done.

5. A reporter is banned from Twitter

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— Guy Adams (@guyadams) July 27, 2012

During the Olympics, journalist Guy Adams took to Twitter to complain about NBC's delayed broadcasting of the events. While he certainly wasn't alone in his frustrations, he may have taken things too far by tweeting the private email address of NBC Olympics chief Gary Zenkel, and encouraging his followers to assault Zenkel with complaint emails. Adams' move got him suspended from Twitter, if only for a few days. 

6. Curiosity Rover lands

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— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 6, 2012

The world held its breath on August 6 when the Mars Curiosity rover ended its eight-month journey through space by landing successfully on Mars' surface. The maneuver was so risky it had been dubbed "7 minutes of terror," but once the rover was safely on the surface, spectators exhaled and NASA workers let Gale Crater know Curiosity had arrived.

7. Clint Eastwood talks to an invisible Obama

— Invisible Obama (@InvisibleObama) August 31, 2012

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— delrayser (@delrayser) August 31, 2012

It's probably safe to say that someone should have vetted Clint Eastwood before he took the stage at the Republican National Convention. The conservative film star arguably embarrassed himself and the GOP when he engaged in a heated conversation with an invisible President Obama (actually just an empty chair) on live television. Eastwood also inspired numerous mock Twitter accounts and the incredibly popular "Eastwooding" meme, in which people took pictures of themselves shaking their fists at inanimate objects. 

8. Scab NFL refs get a scolding

— TJ Lang (@TJLang70) September 25, 2012

The month-long NFL referee lockout came to a head during the Sept. 24 Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. A ridiculously bad call by replacement refs robbed the Packers of a victory, and the rage of flabbergasted fans set Twitter ablaze. The play was tweeted about more than 1 million times within 24 hours, and Packers guard TJ Lane led the outcry with his blunt scoldings of the NFL and the replacement refs.

9. Newsweek shoots itself in the foot

— Newsweek (@Newsweek) September 17, 2012

— Leila ليلى(@LSal92) September 17, 2012

After the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens, the editors of Newsweek made the perplexing decision to splash an unflattering and borderline Islamophobic image of rioting Muslims across its cover, accompanied by the headline: MUSLIM RAGE. It didn't take long for the hashtag to explode on Twitter, inciting thousands of tweeps to poke fun. 

10. Mother Jones slows Romney's momentum

— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) September 17, 2012

It's the video that dominated the political talk shows from mid-September until Nov. 6, and surely contributed to Mitt Romney's loss. Less than two months before the election, Mother Jones released secretly recorded video of Romney telling a crowd of wealthy donors that 47 percent of Americans believe they are victims. "The quote didn't, on its own, kill Romney's chances," says John Flowers at MSNBC. "But for many voters, it unmistakably conveyed the worldview of a man unable to see that a member of the middle class or the working poor might be just as hard-working, just as determined, as someone from his own privileged demographic." In the end, irony had the last laugh, and Romney ended up with 47 percent of the popular vote.  

11. Neil deGrasse Tyson defends PBS

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 4, 2012

When Mitt Romney told presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer that he planned to eliminate government subsidies for public broadcasting, Sesame Street officially entered the spotlight, and stayed there for the remainder of the campaign. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and host of the PBS program NOVA ScienceNOW, captured the sentiment of Big Bird lovers everywhere with this outraged tweet, which garnered a hefty 63,500 retweets.

12. Hurricane Sandy shuts down the subways 

— MTA (@MTAInsider) October 30, 2012

So many memorable tweets came out of Hurricane Sandy, but this simple alert from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suggests both the severity of the storm and the damage it would leave in its wake. The country's largest rapid-transit system, which is 108 years old, was largely debilitated. MTA Chairman Joseph J.Lhota said "our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now. All of us at the MTA are committed to restoring the system as quickly as we can to help bring New York back to normal." He made good on his promise: Amazingly, 80 percent of service was restored within one week of the storm.

13. Obama gets four more years

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On Nov. 6,  Barack Obama won another term, and broke a Twitter record. This victory tweet was "sent by people in more than 200 countries around the world," according to Twitter. It garnered nearly 300,000 favorites and more than 815,000 retweets, making it the most retweeted Twitter message ever. 

14. Drunk Nate Silver

— Dan Levitan (@levitandan) November 8, 2012

After Nate Silver correctly (and eerily) predicted how all 50 states would vote in the 2012 election, he said he was "going to get some sleep and grab a beer." Campaign consultant Dan Levitan mocked his knack for clairvoyant number-crunching with this tweet. The rest of Twitter followed suit, and the Drunk Nate Silver meme was born. 

15. Israel attacks Gaza 

— Alqassam Brigades (@AlqassamBrigade) November 14, 2012

On Nov. 14, after months of tension between Israel and Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces began a major aerial offensive in the Gaza Strip, and took to Twitter to announce it. In this Twitter exchange, the IDF threatened Hamas operatives, and one responded in foreboding fashion. This is "how to wage war on the internet," says BuzzFeed's Matt Buchanan

16. The Pope tweets 

— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012 Pope Benedict XVI joined the Twittersphere in early December, blessing his followers in exactly 140 characters. His first foray into Twitter garnered 40,000 retweets. But if you're hoping for a follow back, don't count on it. His Holiness only follows seven other accounts, and they all belong to him. 

17. A shooter shocks Newtown 

— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) December 14, 2012

On Dec. 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza allegedly walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and opened fire on two classrooms full of students, leaving 20 young children dead. In the aftermath, news that Lanza had used an assault rifle to carry out his massacre reignited the debate on gun control. President Obama has since expressed his support for reinstating a ban on assault weapons.

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