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Viral Videos Of 2014

A video of a young woman walking the streets of New York City powerfully illustrated the kind of street harassment that females in many cities face on a daily basis.
A video of a young woman walking the streets of New York City powerfully illustrated the kind of street harassment that females in many cities face on a daily basis.

From hair-raising to toe-tapping or even life-affirming, here are some of the viral videos that demanded global attention in 2014.

1. Devil Baby Attack

The best viral marketers know a good thing when they see it, so past success ensured that there would be no shortage of heart-stopping prank videos in 2014. So no surprise, right? Tell that to the well-meaning passersby in New York City victimized by viral video specialists hired to promote an upcoming horror film about the Devil's spawn.

2. 'Happy' In Tehran

Pharrell Williams' runaway hit song and music video "Happy" provided the soundtrack for exuberant expressions of joy around the world. From Gaza to Jamaica and Malaysia, average folks took their lead from the infectious American chart topper and "took a break" to "clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth." Even pets shimmied into the action as an Australian dog walker made a version that has gotten 10 million views.

But Iranian authorities took a dim view when a group of Tehranis produced a rousing version called "Happy In Tehran." A judge ordered lashes and jail time for the six young people who appeared in the video, although the sentences were suspended, and the video's producer spent time in jail. The case outraged the international rights community.

3. Mutant Giant Spider Dog

Fans of the bizarrely ingenious made a Polish YouTube phenomenon a trending favorite in 2014. Sylwester Wardega dressed his dog "Chica" up in a tarantula costume and set him loose on unsuspecting victims to hilarious effect, garnering well over 100 million views.

4. Germany Is The World Cup Winner In Brazil

Brazilian organizers of the 2014 FIFA World Cup put on quite a show for the 3.4 million attendees and more than 1 billion fans around the world who watched the final (along with countless others who tuned in to catch the earlier rounds). The storied Brazilian national team, on the other hand, bowed out in humiliating fashion despite reaching the semifinals, losing to eventual winner Germany 7:1. Cue the schadenfreude videos!

5. Ice Bucket Challenge

Crowdfunding has taken the world by storm since its modest introduction eight years ago as a way to tap strangers for cash to finance a project, often via the Internet.

A notable exception to the for-profit efforts of the $5 billion-a-year crowd-funding industry splashed onto the scene this year with the "cold water" and "ice bucket" challenges that invited supporters from all walks of life to douse themselves for charity. One of the most successful of those campaigns was the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" to raise money in the United States to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, after an American baseball legend), a degenerative disorder that attacks the muscular system.

The list of notables who took the ALS video challenge is long, and includes footballers David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, Hollywood A-listers Tom Cruise and Patrick Stewart (aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard), pop stars Lady Gaga, billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson, and this familiar face: former U.S. President George W. Bush.

6. Hero Syrian Boy 'Saves' His Sister

A grainy video in early November broke through three years of tragedy and despair over events in war-torn Syria with a microcosmic moment of hope and heroism. The only problem was that the video, which purported to show a young boy under fire on a dusty Syrian street drag his sister to safety, was a hoax. Suspicions arose after news outlets around the globe aired the clip, and Norwegian filmmakers soon confessed to having made the video in an effort to highlight the plight of children everywhere affected by war. But not before millions had watched breathlessly as the "Syrian hero boy" -- a paid actor on a film set in Malta, it turned out -- rose after apparently being hit by a sniper's bullet to rescue the young girl. The truth unleashed a torrent of anger.

7. First iPhone 6 Sold In Perth Is Dropped By Kid During An Interview

One of the most profitable companies in the world, high-tech behemoth Apple continued its high-margin run in 2014. (It also broke new ground when Apple's Tim Cook became the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to come out as gay.) In addition to the futuristic iWatch, the company broke its own records with the release of the latest iterations of its iconic iPhone.

Apple product releases have taken on almost mythical proportions, with hard-core devotees camping out and going to other great lengths to be among the first to walk away with the pricey new gadgets. So Australian TV was on the scene in Perth when the first customer emerged with his new iPhone 6.

8. RT America's Liz Wahl Resigns Live On Air

Against a backdrop of Russia's occupation and annexation of Crimea, the downing over eastern Ukraine of a Malaysian airliner, and other events in Ukraine, Russia waged a relentless campaign in 2014 to impart its own spin on events there. As part of what RFE/RL's own Power Vertical and other Russia watchers came to label the "weaponization" of information and culture, state-dominated Russian media and anonymous users of social networks frequently misled, misdirected, or simply missed the mark.

The effort backfired, however, when staff of Russia's English-language international broadcaster RT challenged Moscow's "narrative" on the air, with one editor complaining and another resigning during live broadcasts. The bluntest of the on-air condemnations came when American Liz Wahl quit and said she "cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that white-washes the actions of Putin."

9. Willie's Views On Scottish Independence

One of the year's most closely watched votes came in Scotland, where residents of the United Kingdom member were asked simply whether or not "Scotland should be an independent country." The "Better Together" campaign eventually won out, but polls ahead of the September 18 referendum showed the two camps neck and neck, forcing them to mobilize their ranks.

While former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond each made their case, bemused Scots and foreigners alike cast their gazes on Willie, a character from the U.S. animated series "The Simpsons."

10. Ten Hours Of Walking In NYC As A Woman

The tribulations of a young woman simply walking the streets of New York City provided a poignant message about the kind of street harassment that women in so many cities face on a daily basis. The clip, in which the Hollaback volunteer marched emotionless to a range of unsolicited advances of varying degrees of creepiness, sparked spirited discussion of the obstacles that confront women in even the most cosmopolitan of societies.

Bonus Video

And honorable mention to one of the most-watched videos of all time, "Charlie Bit My Finger -- Again!" because at more than 800 million views and counting, it still has to make you smile:

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    Andy Heil

    Andy Heil is a Prague-based senior correspondent covering central and southeastern Europe and the North Caucasus, and occasionally science and the environment. Before joining RFE/RL in 2001, he was a longtime reporter and editor of business, economic, and political news in Central Europe, including for the Prague Business Journal, Reuters, Oxford Analytica, and Acquisitions Monthly, and a freelance contributor to the Christian Science Monitor, Respekt, and Tyden.