Sham of the Year

Time has
picked the pope
as its person of the year, thus angering those
readers who are certain that the title should have gone to some
other figure (usually Edward Snowden). My position this year is the
same as every year. As I put
 back in 2002, after the magazine gave its honor to a
trio it dubbed “The Whistleblowers”:

The year they picked "You."My hat goes off to Time—not for its
selection, but for once more inspiring so many people to discuss
the world’s single vaguest annual award as though it were
meaningful and important. Even People‘s yearly
announcement of the Sexiest Man Alive—isn’t it funny how the
sexiest man alive always turns out to be famous already? What are
the odds of that?—has the advantage of being restricted to one
qualification (sexiness); if an aggrieved fan wants to dispute the
pick, she at least knows what she’s disputing. To this day, I’m not
sure how one outqualifies someone else to be Man of the Year. The
magazine’s definition—”the single person who, for better or worse,
has most influenced events in the preceding year”—isn’t helpful,
since the mag regularly ignores the “single person” bit in practice
and doesn’t seem very interested in the admittedly impossible task
of measuring “influence,” either.

Nonetheless, each December people behave as though there is some
platonic ideal Man of the Year out there, and that the
disinterested scientists at Time somehow misidentified it.
Last year the rap on the editors was that they only picked Rudy
Giuliani because they were too scared to select Osama bin Laden.
(Their stated rationale was that he was “not a larger-than-life
figure with broad historical sweep,” but “a garden-variety
terrorist whose evil plan succeeded beyond his highest hopes.”)
This time the complaint is that they’ve picked three people whom
hardly anyone’s heard of and who didn’t make much of a difference
in the big picture anyway. (They are nonetheless, one presumes,
larger-than-life figures with broad historical sweep.)…The more
dissension, the bigger the buzz; the bigger the buzz, the better
for Time. What can I say? It’s a great way to sell

from Hit & Run

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