Before 24-hour news channels and social media, it might have been easier to get away with an obtuse remark every now and then. But today, one thoughtless (or thoughtfully abhorrent) comment can get immediately picked up, reported, retweeted, and raged about before the speaker has finished their sentence.
Here are some of the most outrageous words spoken in 2012, and here's to a more civil 2013 ...
The throwaway remarks that unleashed a nation's fury
Yumi Stynes and George Negus made baffling remarks in February on Channel Ten's now-defunct The Circle program after being shown images of Australian soldier and Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith working out in a swimming pool. Smith had gone through IVF with his wife in order to start a family, and had given an interview to Channel Seven's Sunday Night that week.
Stynes: "He's going to dive down to the bottom of the pool to see if his brain is there."
Negus: ‘‘But that sort of bloke, and what if they're not up to it in the sack?"
The two later apologised on air after they, and in particular Stynes, were engulfed in a storm of public criticism and anger.
'Surprisingly' controversial topic of the year
The US presidential election had more than its share of outrageous remarks, but it was minor Republican politicians who really covered themselves in glory.
In August, Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin - when asked if he supported abortion in cases of rape - informed us that, scientifically speaking, pregnancies from rape were actually very rare:
"From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare ... If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Akin then went on to say that if a rare case of rape pregnancy did occur, he thought the punishment ''ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child''.
Then in October, Akin's fellow Republican Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, revealed that while he thought rape was horrible, a pregnancy from a rape was a gift from God:
“Life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Gaffe-prone politician of the year
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had several clangers during the campaign.
In a CNN interview in February: "I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it."
At the Iowa State Fair in August, in response to someone in the crowd who said taxes should be raised on corporations: ''Corporations are people, my friend.''
At a closed fundraiser in Florida, leaked in September: ‘‘There are 47 per cent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what ... my job is not to worry about those people.''
And at the second presidential debate in October: ‘‘I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks?' and they brought us whole binders full of women." Cue one of 2012's best memes.
Those troublesome female journalists
During Leigh Sales' now-famous interview with Tony Abbott on 7.30 on August 22, in which he said the carbon tax was partly to blame for BHP's decision to put its Olympic Dam project on hold - despite BHP stating that it wasn't - the Opposition Leader admitted he hadn't read BHP's statement on the project. Sales asked him if he thought that ''the nature of politics allows politicians to be a little bit free with the facts in their statements just as part of the game of politics?’’
How dare she, said Liberal Party strategist Grahame Morris, saying on ABC radio:
''Leigh Sales can be a real cow sometimes.''
Sales took to Twitter for her response.
''I’d rather be a cow than a dinosaur.''
Then in November, former Wallaby David Campese attacked Sydney Morning Herald sports journalist Georgina Robinson on Twitter:
"Why does the SMH get a girl to write about rugby. Growden who was a great jornio (sic) and now we have someone who has no idea about the game...!''
This comment drew plenty of ire, further irking Campese:
''Sometimes it is good to see some people react to thing you say. Please relax and see the light side of life. All press are the same.''
The text messages we wish to unsee
Choose from a number of those sent by former Speaker Peter Slipper to his then-staffer James Ashby.
I'll have what she's having
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten was certainly loyal when asked on ABC in April whether he thought Peter Slipper should be allowed to return as Speaker.
"I haven't seen what [Julia Gillard] said but let me say, I support what it is that she said. I support what she said. My view is what the prime minister's view is."
Most ridiculed celebrity remark of the year
This has to be awarded to the actress Melissa George, best known for her role as Sam Hunter in the British TV series The Hunted*.
George said she was sick of the Aussie media's incessant referrals to a certain role she played 20 years ago, and it was making her too stressed to come back to Australia:
''I'd rather be having a croissant and a little espresso in Paris or walking my French bulldog in New York City.''
*She was also once on Home and Away.
Most exaggerated simile of the year
Clive Palmer didn't receive an invitation to the Prime Minister's economic forum in June, but he didn't want to go anyway:
''Unfortunately the forum will be a predetermined meeting like they had in Stalin's Russia.''
Most outrageous response to tragedy
After the Newtown massacre in December, the US National Rifle Association announced it was ready to ''offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again'', sparking a sliver of hope that the lobby group was prepared to take a small step towards tighter gun control. Not so. At the NRA's press conference to respond to the shooting, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre announced:
''The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.''
''I call on Congress today, to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.''
Most controversial headline of the year
It has to go to Time magazine for its infamous 'Are you mom enough?' cover.
Most regrettable remark of the year
Michael Christian, of 2Day FM:
''Let's give this hospital a call and see if we can get Kate Middleton or maybe even Prince Wills on the phone tonight. So the number is going in ... oh Jeez, I hope this happens.''
The human media storm of the year
In the end, though, there is one out and out winner. Alan Jones seemingly couldn't open his mouth this year without emitting obtuse and frequently sexist noise. In August he raged at news the federal government would spend $320 million to promote gender equality in the Pacific region. The last thing we need is more women in positions of power, he reckoned:
"[Prime Minister Julia Gillard] said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating. Women are destroying the joint - Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly,'' he puffed on-air.
But Jones was just getting warmed up. The next month, he spoke at a dinner at the Sydney University Liberal Club a few weeks after Ms Gillard's father had died.
"Every person in the caucus of the Labor Party knows that Julia Gillard is a liar, everybody. I will come to that in a moment. The old man recently died a few weeks ago of shame. To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament,'' he said.
Jones apologised, but the person he felt really bad for was himself. Mercedes-Benz asked for their sponsored car back, so he called a Merc exec a ''gutless wonder'' on-air. Jones also claimed to be a victim of cyberbullying after an online campaign imploring businesses to drop their support of his 2GB program.
And here are some of the other most newsworthy quotes of 2012
"If it is corruption, then it is corruption on a scale probably unexceeded since the days of the Rum Corps."
- Geoffrey Watson SC, counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption involving former NSW Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian McDonald.
"It's happening faster than we had thought. This is not good news."
- Australian climate scientist, Professor Andy Pitman of UNSW, talking about melting permafrost in November.
I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!! #MSL
- The Mars Curiosity Rover tweets after landing.
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now.”
- Lance Armstrong after dropping his fight against doping charges, which led to him being banned from cycling for life by the US Anti-Doping Agency, and losing his seven Tour de France titles.
‘‘I’m now a legend, I’m the greatest athlete to live.’’
- Usain Bolt after winning gold in the 100m and 200m at the London Olympics.
“By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.”
- US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich gets ahead of himself in January.
"Under current law, on January 1st, 2013, there is going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases."
- US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke in February.
‘‘So I’ve got Mr Obama sitting here. And he’s ... I was just gonna ask him a couple of questions.’’
- Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention in August.
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business — you didn't build that."
- US President Barack Obama on the campaign trail in July.
“Another day of shame for a government that should already have died of shame.”
- Tony Abbott in the House of Representatives on October 9.
‘‘I say to the Leader of the Opposition I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not. And the Government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.’’
- Julia Gillard in the House of Representatives on October 9.
The story Foot in mouth disease: the year's most remarkable remarks first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.