Tuesday, November 22, 2005

MEDIA: Man of the Year

Yeah, it's that time of the year, when all the big ol' year-end magazine issues start coming out summarizing the good, the bad and the ugly of the year that was. I love these things. TIME is one of the 800-pound gorillas of the genre, with their "Person of the Year" award coming up. There's only one logical choice for this year, and that "man" would have to be Mother Nature. Between the Asian tsunami (which technically happened at the very end of 2004, but the full scale became apparent to the world this year), Pakistan earthquake (which killed 80,000 people) and a few hurricanes that you might have heard about, this was a year where we were reminded who the boss is, and how insignificant we can be when the world reminds us of it. All told, millions of people had their lives ended or changed by the whims of nature and weather this year.

Anyway, I don't know who or what TIME will pick, although I'd bet cash money on some configuration of Nature, Poseidon or whatever getting it when the issue comes out Dec. 19. One thing that always annoys me a little bit about this issue, though, is how many people believe it's meant to be some kind of honor. This from TIME itself: a man, woman, or idea that "for better or worse, has most influenced events in the preceding year." That doesn't mean a hero, necessarily. Look at the past names honored -- 1938, Adolf Hitler. 1939, Joseph Stalin. 1971: Richard Nixon. 1979: Ayatallah Khoemeni. Um, George W. Bush, twice, in 2000 and 2004. Point being, "most influenced" doesn't necessarily offer a value judgment with it, and it's not always an honor.

In fact, I'd argue that in 2001, picking Rudy Giuliani was kind of a wussy way of addressing 9/11 -- not that Rudy didn't do a nice job recovering from it -- but the man who most influenced the year surely was wack-job murderer Osama bin Laden. Of course, all them folk who don't get what "person of the year" means would have burned down TIME's offices if they'd done that. To remain true to what "Person of the Year" means, TIME has to keep in mind their own definition and not kowtow to the public's misunderstanding of it. If that means sometimes the "bad guys" win, so be it.

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