Is TIME even trying anymore?
Today we get the news: President Barack Obama has been declared their 2012 “Person of the Year.”
I hardly even know where to begin. I am apoplectic, and I say that as someone who is politically sympathetic to Mr. Obama.
The president has already changed history. He has also, notably, won the award previously in 2008. That award was justifiable – Mr. Obama was the first black president, and won on a massive wave of enthusiasm and hope which promised change for America. Obama had a clear referendum to reverse the nation's course. His election was a signal that the United States was now somehow different: a nation had crossed the line into a new era of history itself.
Then they went and selected Mark Zuckerberg in 2010 – you know, a full six years after Facebook took off, and a full two years before it hit 1 billion users, something that might have been more notable. Then they had the gall to choose “The Protester” in 2011. That’s right: they chose a noun.
Doubtless protesters played a huge role in the sweeping regime changes and staggering political uprisings of 2011. TIME overlooked the crushingly obvious fact that “The Protester” is not somehow an homogenous bloc of people with similar aims, but an incredibly diverse group of people with very different views on how they wanted their countries to be run.
Protests have occurred throughout the entirety of history. TIME might as well have declared the person of the year to be “Politics."
I cannot emphasize enough that this is far from the first occasion in the new millennium that TIME has pulled an astounding cop-out. In 2006, their board declared the Person of the Year to be “You.” Kevin Friedl noted the amazing similarity to a joke in The Big Lebowski.
And now we get this half-baked Person-of-the-Year-by-default.
What has the President done in the past four years except continue to be the President? Has he accomplished anything so momentous as to warrant being declared the person to most affect history in 2012?
Just read their endorsement. It is a puff piece. They hardly bring up anything of substance. Highlights include his recent speech following the Sandy Hook shooting, which was a memorable and deeply moving speech that was entirely apolitical. It spends huge amounts of time lauding his 2012 campaign, which the article even directly admits was kind of "eh" for the man himself: “Obama didn’t have to do much to build his machine this second time around.”
Sure, Obama deserves some applause for winning again. But just three presidents (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush) since World War II have lost re-election. You could even say Ford hardly counts, because the man was not even elected in the first place, and thus his incumbency did not possess the advantage of a previous electoral win. Does TIME really think the President deserves this award because he accomplished something that was already very statistically likely to succeed?
Let us look a little further into their blitheringly bone-headed analysis. On page four of their article, they talk about how “the Obama campaign began to blur and then obliterate the line between politics and daily life for millions of Americans.” Umm, sorry: you cannot credit the president for the relentless politicization of our times. If anything, the president has just been along for the ride. Some would argue he has been a victim: Congressional stonewalling has in fact prevented Obama from attempts at the kinds of historic achievements that might bring him closer to being a good pick. Come on, TIME. Most liberals I have spoken to are excited about what is to come from Obama’s second term. He has not made those accomplishments yet. They were not made in 2012, thus… why is he being given the award now?
They gloss over the actual issues the president is supposed to lead on. TIME mentions Hurricane Sandy only in passing, and then only to mention that his win might have been larger had not many New York and New Jersey victims of the storm stayed home. Not a single mention of drones. You know what else gets a one-sentence reference? “Fiscal cliff.”
This is ridiculous. In 1938, TIME took a risk and declared Hitler to be the Man of the Year. In 1979, they gave that dubious honor to the Ayatollah Khomeini. Both of those men were zealots, dictators, and murderers. However, they undeniably acted as immense forces not only in their own nation, but upon history at large.
TIME was right in both those instances in selecting a controversial candidate who had proven not their worth as human beings but instead proven their impact on the world. Can you imagine the TIME board taking such a risk today?
No, of course not. For God’s sake, Apple CEO Tim Cook was on the short list.
The Person of the Year selection process now clearly prioritizes dumb trending news and rubbing shoulders with the Beltway elite more than it does actually analyzing the year and selecting someone who made history. Unable to actually discuss serious issues with their readers or even amongst themselves, they instead just lowball it and hope no one notices.
The Onion’s selection is better than this. They chose “no one.” Kudos! The made-up crotchety old-man racist Zweibel even has more foresight than the TIME board, apparently: “Only this Bashar al-Assad gentleman intrigued me, although I have determined he is still another year away from unleashing his full potential.”
This award is worthless, and it won’t be long until more and more people realize it and stop paying attention.