You are Time magazine’s Person of the Year! I’m so proud of you!
And with that, Time magazine gently excuses itself from any serious role in the national conversation. It’s been noted here before, but it’s worth pointing out again: Time’s Man of the Year was once given to the person who had most affected world events in the previous 365 days. Hitler got it, Stalin got it. Somewhere along the way, however — but most clearly in 2001, when Osama Bin Laden failed to receive the nod — Time decided that the Man of the Year was, in fact, an “honor,” and couldn’t be given to bad guys. (Or they were just too cowardly to court such controversy.)
The problem with this is, it is not easy to single-handedly change the world for the better. The number of such candidates this year can be counted on… uh… are there any? That Grameen Bank guy would have been a good choice if the Nobel committee didn’t get to him first, the bastards.
I’m not saying that no one is doing anything good out there, but they are being far overshadowed by incompetent U.S. leaders and crazy-ass foreign ones. Time could have picked any of them and been well within their rights: Rumsfeld, Ahmadinedjad, Kim Jong-Il. Any of those would have been serious, meaty choices in a year where we saw so much war and violence, and so many ill omens for the future.
Time instead decided to, essentially, make a joke of their Man of the Year tradition. Yes, yes, I see what they’re getting at with this goofball “You” thing. With the tools of the Internet — blogging, YouTube, podcasting — an individual can like never before emerge out of nowhere and make a mighty impact. I have been deeply impressed with Radley Balko’s investigative journalism, and until recently the only place you could read it was on his blog. (He’s since joined the staff at Reason.) Countless others have all come from nowhere to have a tremendous impact on politics, entertainment, you name it. I read in the New York Times a few weeks ago that the must-read blog for the entire television news industry is run by some random college student. We are definitely living in a new era, and I am willing to give half a point to Time for acknowledging it. (If indeed they do; it’s not like I’ve read the article yet. Or, frankly, plan to.)
But, no. Come on. That’s not even close to being the most important story of the year. You’re a freaking news magazine, Time. Isn’t there a big picture somewhere you might want to take a look at?
This, in a nutshell, is why I don’t subscribe to Time anymore. It’s an entertainment magazine that also sort of covers the news. Ditto Newsweek. They can both be read in about fifteen minutes, and that’s on a good week. If you want a real news magazine, try The Economist. It’s meat, potatoes, and two other vegetables, especially compared to what American news mags offer these days.
“You.” What a really incredible choice. How was it not laughed out of the conference room the first time somebody brought up the idea?
Update: Jonah Goldberg predicts next year’s Time cover.