The other day someone I follow pointed to a post on Digital Tonto called "The 7 Greatest Ideas in History." And I thought, well, that's kind of a gimme. There are a lot more bad ideas out there than good ones.
Here's my list...
No. 7: Bombing London in September 1940
In the summer of 1940, the British were the last of the Allies standing and the Nazis pretty much had England by the short hairs. In preparation for its cross-channel invasion of the British Isles, the German air force began ruthlessly attacking radar stations and British interceptor air fields on Aug. 12. By early September, the Royal Air Force had reached the breaking point.
But in late August the Germans accidentally bombed the London docks, which gave Churchill an excuse to launch a token bombing raid on Berlin two nights later. More little raids followed, and though the results were insignificant, the damage to Nazi pride wound up being catastrophic. On Sept. 7, with the RAF on the verge of collapse, Hitler ordered his bombers to stop attacking air fields and start attacking British cities as punishment. And as good as those Nazi bombers were at attacking air fields, they were hopelessly ill-equpped for attacking cities.
Given a respite, the British figther squadrons recovered, and by the end of the month they'd kicked the Luftwaffe's ass. Hitler had to call off the invasion, and, with nobody else to conquer in Western Europe, wound up invading his ally, the Soviet Union, instead.
No. 6: New Coke
Nobody liked New Coke.
No. 5: President George W. Bush
What people tend to forget about the Bush era was that the Republican Party engineered the disaster. After the Bob Dole debacle in 1996, G.O.P. kingmakers decided the nomination was too important to leave to the voters, and so the party set out to find a candidate before the 2000 primaries and get everyone important behind him. This ill-fated expedition led them to the popular governor of Texas.
After beating back an early challenge from John McCain, Bush cruised to the nomination, and though he couldn't win the election, there was a Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bush proved unqiuely unqualified for anything resembling presidential leadership. Eight years later, with America's economy in shambles and our reputation in tatters, you have to wonder whether those smug GOP kingmakers wished for a do-over.
No. 4: Windows Explorer
There are other Microsoft disasters, but Windows Explorer is the poster child of ineptitude. Why is it so bad? Nobody really knows.
But here's how bad it is: Almost every website in the world has a section in its code called the "Explorer Hack." It's a series of work-arounds designed to make standards-compliant, quality web code actually work with the buggy mess that is Windows Explorer.
Fortunately, the only people who still use IE are Microsoft employees and your grandmother.
No. 3: American Psycho
In 1991 he published American Psycho, which was both a really bad novel and totally offensive. But when you're "the voice of your generation," you think you can get away with anything. The controversy sold a bunch of books, but it wiped out Ellis as an American literary figure. Thank goodness.
No. 2: The Boulton-Paul Defiant
Sorry about doubling down on the RAF, but I've got a thing for historical aircraft, and this one is just deliciously stupid. The idea was to build a two-seat interceptor with no forward-firing guns, but four backward-firing machine guns in a turret behind the pilot, because... wait for it...
Well, actually, there just isn't a good explanation. In theory one could fly the Defiant under and kinda to the front of a German bomber and shoot sorta up and back at it, but that requires the cooperation of the enemy. So Defiant crews just sort of flew around, unable to shoot at bombers and forced to run away from approaching fighters. Must have been lonely, not to mention nerve-wracking.
And yet the British built more than a thousand of them. In the end, only the Canadians could be persuaded to take them, and that's only because Canadians suffer from congenital politeness.
And No. 1: