The 12 stories that defined 2023

The 12 stories that defined 2023
Getty Images/ITV/BBC

Nothing helps to reflect on the year behind us and celebrate the festive period more than looking back on the biggest stories of the past 12 months.

That is, unless they're notable mostly for scandal, stark international conflict, mass intolerance and existential dread – happy holidays everyone!

2023 brought us a big fat dose of scandal, technological advancements that could bring about the total annihilation of the human race, and plenty more besides.

A number of stars fell from grace in various imaginative ways, disappearing from our screens in some cases and in others, posing for one of the most famous mugshots of all time.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, but it was pretty close – these are the 12 biggest stories of 2023.

The Pope in a coat sums up the strangeness of AI

2023 was the year AI made its biggest impression yet on the world, and – weirdly – one of its most telling moments came in the form of a striking image of the Pope wearing a coat.

A picture of Pope Francis looking very stylish wearing a large white puffer coat has gone viral on social media, but not all was as it seemed.

Because it wasn’t a real image at all, but one created on the AI image-generating app 'midjourney' and was posted on a subreddit.

It was just one example of AI generated content, which really caught people’s imaginations. AI images developed exponentially in the few months of the year with even Donald Trump beginning to share realistic pictures of himself that have been digitally created.

Chatgpt also showed the scarily powerful capabilities of AI in January and quickly became the most-talked about thing on the internet.

Of course, for all the fun people were having with the AI tools, the potentially dangerous consequences of AI in the future were never far from the conversion – with an ex-Google officer sharing a warning of the danger AI could pose within 'months' if it keeps growing at the rate it has.

The Gary Lineker MOTD debacle

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In a year full of controversy, the first celebrity drama began in March when Gary Lineker decided to voice his displeasure at the government’s asylum policy on small boats on Twitter.

The Match of the Day presenter has never been afraid of sharing his political views on social media, but he found himself at the centre of a storm over impartiality after comparing the government’s language in launching the policy with 1930s Germany.

The football pundit weighed in reacting to a video posted on Twitter by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, where she outlined the government's new Illegal Migration Bill that plans to ban people arriving via illegal routes from claiming asylum in the UK.

“Good heavens, this is beyond awful,” Lineker wrote, in response to the clip.

He then further shared his thoughts, as he described the plan as an "immeasurably cruel policy," and compared it to Nazi Germany.

Members of the Conservative Party took issue and then Match of the Day was placed in an unprecedented situation after Lineker was forced to 'step back' from his role as presenter by the BBC.

What the BBC didn’t bank on, though, was every pundit and presenter boycotting the programme in protest to the BBC’s ruling, meaning that it was forced to go ahead in surreal fashion without a presenter or commentary.

Dylan Mulvaney becomes victim of transphobia after Bud Light ads

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The culture wars seemed to play out in real-time in the US back in April when Dylan Mulvaney suffered a transphobic backlash to her ad with Bud Light.

Mulvaney, a transgender woman and influencer, partnered with the beer for an ad. It led to an onslaught of transphobia and threats directed towards the her as well as some conservatives and anti-trans campaigners boycotting Bud Light. Some even went so far as to destroy Bud Light products in stores, with the likes of Kid Rock leading the protests by shooting stacks of the beers with guns.

Mulvaney later claimed that Budweiser never reached out to her over the transphobic backlash she faced and then over the summer she revealed she fled to Peru amid the drama and hired a shaman to help her find peace.

King Charles III's coronation

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There was plenty of pomp and circumstance across the UK as King Charles III was crowned in May.

Crowds gathered in London and millions more tuned in to see Charles crowned at Westminster Abbey alongside Queen Camilla.

Celebrities including Katy Perry, Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry watched on during the ceremony at the church, which hosted the UK's last coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.

The three-day celebration wasn’t without controversy, meanwhile. A total of 52 per cent of Londoners saying they did not believe taxpayers should fund the event. A further 18 per cent were undecided.

Despite rumours of being a "slimmed down" celebration due to the economic climate, the coronation reportedly cost £50-100 million ($63-125 million).

Phillip Schofield quits This Morning

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It was the first British TV scandal of the summer, and one that featured Phillip Schofield, one of the most recognisable presenters anywhere, at its centre.

Schofield has confirmed he was quitting This Morning after 25 years on the programme back in May.

Schofield stepped down after admitting a “consensual on-off relationship” that was “unwise, but not illegal”.

He apologised for the affair, which happened while he was married to his wife of 30 years, Stephanie Lowe.

He presented the show alongside co-host Holly Willoughby for 13 years, but reports emerged claiming that they have a strained relationship and “barely speak” behind the scenes on the ITV show.

The Titan submersible goes missing


A tragic story had the whole world captivated in June after the Titan submersible imploded during a dive, killing all on board.

Tributes were paid for the men killed on the submersible after search and rescue teams found debris from the OceanGate Expeditions vessel on 22 June.

The victims were Hamish Harding, 58, Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his son Suleman Dawood, 19, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, and Stockton Rush, 61.

The reaction to the disaster was widespread, and some questioned people’s readiness to mock the events – and meme culture showing the internet at its worst following the tragedy.

The Huw Edwards scandal

Chris Jackson/pool/AFP via Getty Images

One of the most well-respected figures in British broadcasting was at the centre of another TV scandal in the summer, when newsreader Huw Edwards was named as the BBC presenter facing allegations over payments for sexually explicit images.

In a statement released to the PA News Agency, Edwards' wife Ms Vicky Flind said: “In light of the recent reporting regarding the ‘BBC Presenter’ I am making this statement on behalf of my husband Huw Edwards, after what have been five extremely difficult days for our family. I am doing this primarily out of concern for his mental well-being and to protect our children.

“Huw is suffering from serious mental health issues. As is well documented, he has been treated for severe depression in recent years. The events of the last few days have greatly worsened matters, he has suffered another serious episode and is now receiving in-patient hospital care where he’ll stay for the foreseeable future.

“Once well enough to do so, he intends to respond to the stories that have been published. To be clear Huw was first told that there were allegations being made against him last Thursday.

“In the circumstances and given Huw’s condition I would like to ask that the privacy of my family and everyone else caught up in these upsetting events is respected. I know that Huw is deeply sorry that so many colleagues have been impacted by the recent media speculation. We hope this statement will bring that to an end.”

The statement comes as the Metropolitan Police said no criminal offence had been committed by the presenter.

Twitter rebrands as X

Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images

We’ve picked out the moment Twitter messily rebranded as X for this list, but in truth we could have picked plenty of things to include from 12 months of nonsense from Elon Musk and his social media company.

Musk's rebranding of Twitter to 'X' was largely met with ridicule – especially as the ‘garbage’ new logo was officially placed on top of the company's building in San Francisco – as part of his plan to create an “everything app”.

The most telling moment, though, came later in the year when he told companies who no longer want to advertise on X/Twitter can 'go f*** themselves'.

Musk famously bought out the platform last year for $44 billion and has since made a string of controversial moves, but this is the biggest yet.

He was accused of being antisemitic after he responded to a tweet that said Jewish communities have a "dialectical hatred" of white people.

It came after a social media user claimed that Jewish communities "have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them".

"I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest s*** now about western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realization that those hordes of minorities that support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much. You want truth said to your face, there it is," the post read.

In response, Musk wrote: "You have said the actual truth."

Since then, some advertisers have reportedly pulled out from the social media platform, according to sources close to the tech giant cited by Axios – and Musk later addressed it at the New York Times’ Dealbook Summit.

"Don’t advertise," he said. "If someone is going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money? Go f*** yourself. Go f*** yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is."

Trump's mugshot

A landmark day for the US came in August when Donald Trump surrendered and posed (doing his finest blue steel, it seemed) for a mugshot after turning himself in to face charges of election interference in Georgia.

Trump, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and 17 other associates were indicted in Georgia this month for allegedly conspiring to subvert the 2020 election results in the state.

The mugshot marked a historical moment, as the first taken of a current or former US president, and it’s sure to become one of the most shared images of the 21st century.

It quickly became the biggest meme of the year, with potentially huge repercussions not just for the political climate of 2023 but for the future of the US.

Daniel Khalife escapes from prison

Remember this guy? There were a few days in September where everyone in the UK was on the lookout for Daniel Khalife – a former soldier suspected of terror offences who escaped from prison.

Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, was awaiting trial at HMP Wandsworth, a category B prison in south-west London, after being accused of leaving fake bombs at a military base, when he left via a prison kitchen by strapping himself to the underside of a food delivery van.

For a while, people were worried about the implications of his escape, when after a four-day manhunt, he was apprehended by a plain-clothes counter-terrorism officer who spotted him cycling along a canal towpath in Northolt, west London on 9 September.

Despite initial fears, he quickly became a meme – and then topped the whole thing off a few weeks later by pleading not guilty to escaping from prison. The cheek of it!

The Israel/Hamas war

Mahmud Hams / AFP via Getty

The defining moment of the year, in many ways, came in October.

On October 7, thousands of terrified festival goers fled in panic as Hamas fighters parachuted into an all-night rave and opened fire. Hundreds were killed and many taken hostage.

The days that Israel responded with air strikes on Gaza, and in the weeks of conflict that followed thousands have lost their lives. According to Gaza Health Ministry figures, more than 17,000 Palestinians have been killed, while 1,200 were killed by Hamas in the initial incursion according to Israel figures.

It’s the darkest episode of the conflict in living memory, and the starkest story that would come to define 2023.

The GTA VI trailer drops

It feels slightly flippant in the face of such troubling news around the world, but there was a lot for the gaming community to take in this December.

What was all the fuss about? Well, the trailer for Grand Theft Auto 6 became the biggest news in the gaming world of 2023.

The new promo clip pulled in 67 million views within the first 24 hours, sparking huge speculation about the next instalment in the franchise.

It was just a short promo clip, but massive secrets have already been unearthed about the map, and others believe that it actually gives away crucial details about the release date for the game too.

As usual, there was the moral outrage that seems to come every time a GTA game is released – we guess it wouldn’t be a Rockstar Games release without it. It’s just a shame that we’ll have to wait until 2025 to play it…

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