A man donates his guns and gets death threats. A Republican Twitter personality and universal health care opponent crowdfunds his bills after a car accident. An engineering student adds a Seinfeld-esque twist to the college dorm room.
In 2017, Arizona was well-represented in the pantheon of people who got five minutes of fame online. This year was objectively awful, and it was pretty much the same on the internet.
We're leaving out the rich and powerful Arizonans who held the spotlight this year to focus on the previously unknown. The following people achieved Internet fame — or infamy, depending on your perspective.
1. Seinfeld Door Alarm
We're recapping a year in which it was pretty terrible to be online, so let's start with something amusing. Northern Arizona University freshman and mad scientist Evan Genuise rigged his dorm room so that whenever someone opens the door, a bass riff from Seinfeld would play.
Genuise racked up over 2.2 million views on this clip on Twitter. An electrical engineering and computer science student, Genuise could probably pay his tuition if he sold these door alarms to Seinfeld fans hoping to make an entrance or prank their friends.
2. 'Sassy Gay Republican' Crowdfunds Medical Expenses
The person behind an anonymous Twitter personality called the "Sassy Gay Republican" happens to be a Mesa resident: 21-year-old Alex Newman. In his posts, Newman boosts President Trump and pours scorn on liberals while expressing his bigoted views of Muslims, immigrants, and transgender people. Just another insufferable pro-Trump Twitter personality in our social media hellscape.
And although he has 40,000 followers on Twitter, people only really took notice of Newman after he started crowdfunding various expenses — including physical therapy, medication, and a car — using GoFundMe in September.
On September 12, Newman was in a car accident and quickly discovered how expensive and frustrating health insurance and hospital visits can be. At one point, he tweeted, "I'm having second thoughts about not having free healthcare cause this is bad."
Newman later insisted to BuzzFeed that his tweets were referring to car insurance, not health insurance.
152 donors have pitched in over $3,700 to Newman's GoFundMe. But plenty of them weren't shy about their distaste for Newman's politics.
One guy named Todd donated $100 and left a comment that said, "I'm sorry this happened to you. I know this has thrown your world into a spiral. Now imagine how those with no health care feel."
At the time, Newman told Phoenix New Times via direct message that he has purchased a used car with the donations so he can keep working as a pizza delivery driver.
Health care is a privilege when you live in America. Go to work, get a good job, & pick from hundreds of plans, not just 1 Gov. plan. https://t.co/X2DI11cVwc— Sassy Gay Republican (@sassygayrepub) July 18, 2017
3. A Farewell to Arms
Like the previous item, you can also file this under "social media hellscape." After the Las Vegas mass shooting in October, Phoenix resident Jonathan Pring said enough was enough. Pring called up the Phoenix Police Department and handed over two firearms he kept in the home, articulating his thoughtful decision in a Facebook post.
But the story didn't end when the police drove away with his weapons.
When hardline Second Amendment supporters caught wind of Pring's decision on Facebook, they went nuts. Pring and his family received threats; he told New Times at the time that he left Phoenix temporarily to get some distance from the fallout of his Facebook announcement.
Ironically, because Pring turned over his guns in Arizona, those firearms will most likely end up in someone else's hands. A 2012 state law prohibits police departments from destroying guns that come into their possession; instead, they must sell them.
4. Hell on Earth
On New Year's Day last year, Richard Christianson snapped a photo in Tucson that appeared to show a shadowy, winged figure standing on a street corner. Or maybe just an oddly shaped palm tree, depending on your level of skepticism or belief in the underworld.
The debate over the photo immediately ricocheted around the web. Was it photoshop?
Poor lighting? Or did Christianson really capture an otherworldly demonic presence on camera? His photo even earned a mention on Snopes.com, which might make this the first official viral hit of 2017.
Interestingly, Christianson was also responsible for another viral bit of content two years earlier, when he posted a video of him rescuing a cat from the freeway. The adopted cat's name? "Freeway."
5. Demonstrator Posts on Reddit About Getting Hit in Groin at Trump Rally
During the chaos that followed Trump's rally in Phoenix last August, one protester kicked a smoking gas canister toward advancing police in riot gear.
A few seconds later, he was doubled over on the ground after being hit in the groin with a projectile fired from the police line.
Police later identified 29-year-old Joshua Cobin of Scottsdale as the man in the video, but Cobin was only arrested after he put himself out there on the viral-news site Reddit and in an interview with a local television station.
Cobin agreed to an interview with CBS 5, although the network did not use his name. And posts purportedly from Cobin surfaced on Reddit — "I'm the guy in the blue shorts who got shot in the crotch last night. AMA!" (AMA stands for Ask Me Anything.)
In a lengthy Q&A with other Reddit users, the author wrote that he kicked the canister because he felt the police were infringing on their right to peacefully assemble.
"I knew once I kicked it that I was going to be a target for rubber bullets or pepper balls so it wasn't a huge surprise," he wrote. "It just knocked the wind out of me and of course brain went into 'protect the genitals' mode."
Cobin also received treatment for second-degree burns on his hand from picking up a canister.
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At Cobin's initial court appearance, Commissioner Paula Williams of Maricopa County Superior Court warned him about the social media posts and advised Cobin to discuss it in "a serious conversation" with his attorney.
In an email after the Trump rally, Phoenix Police spokesperson Jonathan Howard wrote that Cobin was charged with three felony counts of aggravated assault on police and one count of unlawful assembly.
Howard added that "many of you will recognize this man as he has posted images and admissions to his crime on social and local media outlets." Cobin pled not guilty in September and a trial is set for May 2018.
This being 2017, video and stills of Cobin being struck in the groin quickly became a meme. If that doesn't sum up this year online, we don't know what does.