Lookups on Merriam-Webster.com spiked on October 21, 2010.
That day, NPR announced that it was firing news analyst Juan Williams because of his remarks about airplane passengers dressed in traditional Muslim clothing.
Kerfuffle was often used to describe this affair. For example:
"Liberals and conservatives alike were quick to elevate this kerfuffle into a larger battle of good-versus-evil over issues such as public financing of NPR or First Amendment guarantees, but it doesn't need to go there." - Armstrong Williams, The Hill's Pundits Blog, October 22, 2010
A fancy word for "disturbance" or "fuss," kerfuffle is often used to describe an exchange or encounter of exaggerated importance.
It's a popular word in British English, currently gaining popularity in the U.S.
Kerfuffle comes from Scottish Gaelic words meaning "awkward" and "disheveled."