Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hooray for Everything!

Time Magazine has just unveiled its choice for Person of the Year and, guess what? You won!
The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.
That's right, in a time of turmoil and chaos, in an era of major political changes at home and abroad, in a moment of seismic shifts in geopolitical power, the Person of the Year is a 28-year-old virgin watching YouTube clips of the AfterSchool Special where Helen Hunt does angel dust and jumps out her window, as he passionately edits the Wiki entry on "The Thundercats." A thirteen-year-old girl whose greatest accomplishment is the number of N'Sync references on her My Space page, truly belongs listed alongside the pantheon of world-changing figures like Gandhi, FDR, Hitler, Stalin, MLK, and Pope John Paul II.

You know, Time, if you're going to sneer at the Great Man approach to history -- and I'm right there with you -- then maybe you should simply scrap the whole idea of a Person of the Year, seeing how it seems to privilege the ideas that an individual Man or Woman does Great things. You'd be better off kicking this idea to the curb, instead of reducing it to Everyone Gets a Ribbon Day.

Update: While Time has been busy cheering at the Special Olympics, it seems that Salon not only understands the basic concept of the Person of the Year, but has also made an interesting, thoughtful choice.

15 comments:

sideshow bob said...

Pfft...must've been a slow year...

Studiodave said...

I saw that this morning and I thought - wow - the politically correct world has neutered everything so much we can't even admit mistakes. (Especially big ones).

Lame. Lame. Lame.

Also, as much as I don't like Dowd's stuff - she did have a good phrase yesterday. (Something like...) The Rumsfeld send off included music, gun salutes, and Presidents speaking about his greatness. Imagine what the send off would have been if he didn't ruin our foreign policy, throw us further into defecit, and fail to catch Osama B.

Otto Man said...

You know, on further reflection, this is more than just a lame cop-out, it's a self-serving selection. The magazine hyping all the empowering things you can do on the internet just happens to be owned by the same company that also owns AOL and Time Warner Cable.

Norbizness said...

I was pulling for the guys at Powerline, or at least the Western Hemisphere, the dancin' hemisphere in the whole world.

Otto Man said...

Don't worry, Norb. The guys at Powerline pull themselves enough.

S.W. Anderson said...

I decided sometime in the mid- to late 1980s that TIME was no longer a serious news organization. It had become just another trend-flogging, gossip-strewn corporate profit center and hyping vehicle.

I disregard whoever or whatever TIME's "big thinkers" deem worthy of "of the year" recognition. It's just another GIGO exercise, IMO.

What is of some interest from TIME/CNN's quarter is an increasingly noticeable effort to help Newt Gingrich sanitize and reinvent his image. It seems that in TIME/CNN's view Gingrich would be the perfect follow on to Bush now that George Allen is a goner.

The potential for corporate raping and pillaging of the rest of us, financial industry depradations and reverse-Robinhood tax policy with Gingrich as president could even exceed what's taken place under Bush. I'm sure that would suit the powers that be at TIME/Warner/CNN just fine.

I'm surprised they didn't make Gingrich man of the year. But hey, there's still next year.

Otto Man said...

I'm glad to see the rest of the blogosphere is an unimpressed as I was.

TBogg has my favorite line so far: "Congratulations, Time. Asked to pick you favorite color you chose 'clear'."

Mike said...

Time: Awww shucks, and I didn't even know I was nominated.

Salon: Is a macaca a person?

Otto Man said...

Is a macaca a person?

It's that kind of thinking that got Sen. Allen in trouble in the first place. Yes, he's a person, and his name isn't really macaca.

Come on, Mike. You're better than that!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to try and use this to my advantage. The next time I make a mistake, I'm just going to say, "Hey, screw you! I'm the Person of the Year! TIME MAGAZINE said so, even!" I'm sure that'll work.

Tokyo Joe said...

For the curious, here's who we are joining. I'm not sure even I want to be associated with some of these people.

* 1927: Charles Lindbergh (1902–1974) (first person chosen)
* 1928: Walter Chrysler (1875–1940)
* 1929: Owen Young (1874–1962)
* 1930: Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) (first non-American and first non-white person)
* 1931: Pierre Laval (1883–1945)
* 1932: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945)
* 1933: Hugh Johnson (1882–1942)
* 1934: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945) (2nd time)
* 1935: Haile Selassie I (1892–1975)
* 1936: Wallis Simpson (1896–1986) (first female chosen)
* 1937: Chiang Kai-Shek (1887–1975) and Soong May-ling (1898–2003) (first couple chosen)
* 1938: Adolf Hitler (1889–1945)
* 1939: Joseph Stalin (1879–1953)
* 1940: Winston Churchill (1874–1965)
* 1941: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945) (3rd time)
* 1942: Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) (2nd time)
* 1943: George Marshall (1880–1959)
* 1944: Dwight Eisenhower (1890–1969)
* 1945: Harry Truman (1884–1972)
* 1946: James F. Byrnes (1879–1972)
* 1947: George Marshall (1880–1959) (2nd time)
* 1948: Harry Truman (1884–1972) (2nd time)
* 1949: Winston Churchill (1874–1965) (2nd time) (Man of the Half-Century)
* 1950: The American Fighting-Man (first abstract chosen)
* 1951: Mohammed Mossadegh (1882–1967)
* 1952: Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926)
* 1953: Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967)
* 1954: John Dulles (1888–1959)
* 1955: Harlow Curtice (1893–1962)
* 1956: Hungarian Freedom Fighter
* 1957: Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971)
* 1958: Charles De Gaulle (1890–1970)
* 1959: Dwight Eisenhower (1890–1969) (2nd time)
* 1960: U.S. scientists
* 1961: John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)
* 1962: Pope John XXIII (1881–1963)
* 1963: Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968)
* 1964: Lyndon Johnson (1908–1973)
* 1965: William Westmoreland (1914–2005)
* 1966: The Generation Twenty-Five and Under
* 1967: Lyndon Johnson (1908–1973) (2nd time)
* 1968: Apollo 8 Astronauts Frank Borman (b. 1928), Jim Lovell (b. 1928), William Anders (b. 1933)
* 1969: The Middle Americans
* 1970: Willy Brandt (1913–1992)
* 1971: Richard Nixon (1913–1994)
* 1972: Richard Nixon (1913–1994) (2nd time) and Henry Kissinger (b. 1923)
* 1973: John Sirica (1904–1992)
* 1974: King Faisal (1906–1975)
* 1975: American Women
* 1976: Jimmy Carter (b. 1924)
* 1977: Anwar Sadat (1918–1981)
* 1978: Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997)
* 1979: Ayatollah Khomeini (1902–1989)
* 1980: Ronald Reagan (1911–2004)
* 1981: Lech Wałęsa (b. 1943)
* 1982: The Computer (first non-human abstract chosen)
* 1983: Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) (2nd time) and Yuri Andropov (1914–1984)
* 1984: Peter Ueberroth (b. 1937)
* 1985: Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997) (2nd time)
* 1986: Corazón Aquino (b. 1933)
* 1987: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (b. 1931)
* 1988: Endangered Earth (Planet of the Year)
* 1989: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (b. 1931) (Man of the Decade)
* 1990: George H. W. Bush (b. 1924) (The Two George Bushes)
* 1991: Ted Turner (b. 1938)
* 1992: Bill Clinton (b. 1946)
* 1993: The Peacemakers: Nelson Mandela (b. 1918), F.W. de Klerk (b. 1936), Yasser Arafat (1929–2004), and Yitzhak Rabin (1922–1995)
* 1994: Pope John Paul II (1920–2005)
* 1995: Newt Gingrich (b. 1943)
* 1996: David Ho (b. 1952)
* 1997: Andy Grove (b. 1936)
* 1998: Bill Clinton (b. 1946) (2nd time) and Kenneth Starr (b. 1946)
* 1999: Jeffrey P. Bezos (b. 1964)
* 2000: George W. Bush (b. 1946)
* 2001: Rudolph Giuliani (b. 1944)
* 2002: The Whistleblowers: Cynthia Cooper of Worldcom (b. 1963), Sherron Watkins of Enron (b. 1959), and Coleen Rowley of the FBI (b. 1954)
* 2003: The American Soldier
* 2004: George W. Bush (b. 1946) (2nd time)
* 2005: The Good Samaritans: Bono (b. 1960), Bill Gates (b. 1955), and Melinda Gates (b. 1964)
* 2006: You - Referencing contributors to user created content "for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you." [2]

Mike said...

Come on, Mike. You're better than that!

I fear I've been misunderstood!

Oh, this "humor" stuff is such a hard gig.

Otto Man said...

Sarcasm at my end, Mike.

Mike said...

I figured as much. But comparisons to George Allen can bring out the oversensitivity in all of us.

Thrillhous said...

Thanks for the full list, TJ. Looks like just being president qualifies you for man of the year (except for Hoover - sucks to be him!).

I guess Mark Foley's finally getting recognized for all his IM activity.