Reason's People of the Year

Screw Time magazine. Here's a list to ponder.


When Time announced its latest "Person of the Year" as "You. Yes You," the nosferatu newsweekly wasn't simply signaling its editorial exhaustion (it does that several times a year by running stories about whether the dinosaurs believed in God and how to follow the Virgin Mary Holy Water Diet); annual lack of imagination (it does that routinely by naming sociological groups Person of the Year, including "The Middle Americans" and "Twenty-Five and Under"); and desperate need to flatter a dwindling number of subscribers (Time's current circulation of about 4 million is down roughly 15 percent from 1988).

It was also a call to arms to all of Us–Yes, Us–to pick our own Person of the Year. In response to Time's lackluster gesture, Reason has asked its staff and other journalists, pundits, policy wonks, and the like to name someone–or some group or some thing–particularly worthy of our attention, adulation, and/or our opprobrium.

Peter Bagge
Reason resident cartoonist and the creator of, among other national treasures, Hate.

While I'm inclined to choose Kim Jong-il (though I'd argue that he's holding 20 million political prisoners rather than the "mere" 200,000 the press routinely reports), I refuse to vote for someone simply because he was this year's biggest badass. So my vote goes to Reason Senior Editor Radley Balko for his tireless efforts in exposing the horrific casualty rate resulting from our War on Drugs, especially his investigative work on Cory Maye, the Mississippi man unjustly convicted of killing a policeman during a no-knock raid gone very, very wrong. Of course, the same could be said of Reason's Jacob Sullum and many others, but I can only pick one!

Ronald Bailey
Reason science correspondent and author, most recently, of Liberation Biology.

The Suicide Bomber. NPR wakes me up nearly every morning with another report of 20, 40, 70 people dead in suicide bombing attacks. Reports used to be from Israel and Chechnya, but now mostly from Iraq and increasingly Afghanistan, with occasional forays into the West, of course, most spectacularly the atrocities of 9/11.

Radley Balko
Reason senior editor.

If Time magazine picked "you," as its Person of the Year, then everyone alive is "person of the year," except, ironically enough, for the staff of Time magazine. Even the two dozen or so marketing professionals the magazine just laid off can take solace from the fact that now that they're no longer with the company, from Time's perspective, they're no longer "us," but "you," meaning that they too now inherit the title of "Person of the Year." So I'm going with the staff of Time for my "Person of the Year," for two reasons: One, it seems silly to leave them out. And two, their gimmicky stunt gave the rest of us an extra line on our resumes.

Dave Barry
Bestselling author and one of Reason's most best interview subjects ever.

I would give it to the editors of Time, for discovering the Internet.

James Bovard
Journalist and author, most recently, of Attention Deficit Democracy.

George W. Bush is Man of the Year for vindicating cynics everywhere. Bush's trumpeting of his illegal wiretaps and his championing of torture should quash mindless idealism about democracy. Bush capped off the year by impaling the Bill of Rights on the Military Commissions Act. What a guy.

Alexander Cockburn
Author and editor of Counterpunch.

Hizbullah's leader, Sheikh Nasrallah, surely. He leads the outfit that sent Dan Halutz and the Israel Defense Forces scuttling out of Lebanon, thus rearranging assumptions about power in the region, thus maybe even stopping the US and Israel from attacking Iran (as least at time of writing).

John Derbyshire
Journalist and author, most recently, of Unknown Quantity.

Grigori Perelman. For proving the Poincaré Conjecture; for turning down a Fields Medal (mathematical equivalent of a Nobel Prize), for being radically uninterested in success, fame, or money; and for his devotion to his Mum.

Brian Doherty
Reason senior editor and author of Radicals for Capitalism (forthcoming, February 2007).

Stan Jones. This Libertarian Party candidate for the Senate in Montana had been the poster child for the goofy fecklessness of third-party activism because his skin was literally blue from overuse of the quack therapy colloidal silver. Yet given his 10,324 votes–7,477 more than the gap between winning Democrat Jon Tester and losing Republican incumbent Conrad Burns–and given generally understood assumptions about the voting patterns of the libertarian-leaning, it is very likely that Jones's presence in the race cost Burns his seat–and thus cost the Republicans control of the Senate. And, in classic third party tradition, hardly anyone noticed.

Rod Dreher
Editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News and blogger at Crunchy Con.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He boldly embodies two of the 20th century's most fearsome demons—the prospect of nuclear holocaust, and fanatical Jew-hating—as well as the worst demon (so far) of the 21st: militant Islam. He reveals how utterly impotent the civilized world is in the face of any of them. He's the Balrog on the Bridge at Khazad-Dum, and the rest of us are not Gandalf, but Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Nick Gillespie
Reason editor-in-chief and editor of Choice: The Best of Reason.

Milton Friedman. In many ways, we've been living (thankfully) in the late, great economist's country for the past 35 years or so-an America with no draft and low inflation, and one in which we are more "free to choose" from different ways of living than ever before. Here's hoping that in the coming years, we adopt something like his universal school voucher proposal, which would not only revolutionize education but social class too. He was that rarest of public intellectuals: engaged, passionate, and scrupulously fair and well-meaning toward opponents. When he died in November at the age 94, I thought of the eulogy for the great Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi: "When nature removes a great man, we explore the horizons for a successor. But none comes and none will, for his class is extinguished with him."

Leon Hadar
Research fellow at the Cato Institute, author of Sandstorm, and blogger at Global Paradigms.

Democratic senator-elect James Webb of Virginia. Earning a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam is Impressive. Authoring best-selling thrillers with juicy sex scenes is hot. Being one of the first public figures to Bash Bush's War is cool. "Maccacing" a would-be Republican presidential candidate in a Senate race in GOP stronghold is big. Providing the final Senate seat that tilted Capitol Hill to Democratic control is huge. Being a bit rude to the Chicken-Hawk-in-Chief is no vice. And having big balls in Washington, DC, is rare. Watch out status-quo buffs!

Kerry Howley
Reason associate editor.

Maf54. He gave us the great sexless sex scandal of 2006, promising pedophilia, political conspiracy, and lasting outrage-and delivering on precisely none of it. More foreplay than follow-through, more screen name than substance, Mark Foley perfectly embodies the shallow, Pavlovian hysteria behind the save-the-children tripe he traded in.

Penn Jillette
The larger, louder half of the comedy-magic team Penn & Teller, novelist, and a great Reason interview.

Norman Borlaug. It's the same choice every year he's alive. Saved about a billion people working with the "green revolution." He even saved more Muslims than anyone in history. Beat that.

Katherine Mangu-Ward
Reason associate editor.

Kim Jong-il. Not to state the obvious, but the man tested a nuclear weapon this year. Maybe it was a small one, but a nuke nonetheless. Meanwhile, he holds 200,000 political prisoners and governs the only country in the world with no Internet. What a guy.

Markos Moulitsas
Creator of the political blog The Daily Kos.

Al Gore. No person has drilled global warming—one of the key challenges facing our planet in the coming decades—into the public debate as effectively as Gore did this past year. If we are to avert what appears to be calamitous disaster, it will be because of Gore's work this year.

Craig Newmark
Founder of the transformative web site Craig's List and blogger at craigblog.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They speak truth to power at significant risk, challenging the entire press to do so.

Neal Pollack
Writer and lead singer for the much-missed Neal Pollack Invasion and author of the forthcoming Alternadad.

Steve Nash. I was going to nominate Osama bin Laden, who must be licking his chops every day when he sees what Iraq has become, but why not choose someone I love instead of someone despicable? Nash, through his pass-first-ask-questions-later-but-also-score-at-will style of play, is as much a philosopher as a basketball player, someone who's continually redefining what it means to be "the man" on the court. In this, what will be his championship season, he's going to become as important to basketball, and therefore to world culture, as Michael Jordan was in his prime.

Louis Rossetto 
Cofounder, Wired magazine, connected to the 'Net in the middle of a rainforest in Costa Rica.

Bloggers. For hastening the demise of increasingly irrelevant (or is that malevolent?) mainstream media, and for promoting an iterative, networked, and profoundly democratic dialogue that is better connecting us to reality–and thus better enabling the species to thrive and evolve.

RU Sirius
Former editor of Mondo 2000, host of The RU Sirius Show, and contributor to 10 Zen Monkeys.

George W. Bush. His administration has done World Historic Damage to American power. This year, some Americans started to get it. LOSER!

Jacob Sullum
Reason senior editor and author, most recently, of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use.

Sacha Baron Cohen. As Borat Sagdiyev, the clueless Kazakh TV reporter with unerringly bad manners, he managed to be accused of elitism for producing a hit comedy that relies heavily on jokes about drinking, shitting, and fucking your sister.

Jeff A. Taylor
Reason Express writer.

S.R. Sidarth, the "Macaca" guy. Grassroots, distributed media angle, Hindu, and brown—reflecting America's continuing demographic shift—wants to be a godforsaken greenie lawyer, etc.

Jesse Walker
Reason managing editor and author of Rebels on the Air.

You. Yes, I'm siding with Time. Someone has to do it, since the magazine is being criticized left and right by people who think it's some sort of copout to honor a genuinely important story—the rising power of the user-driven Web—rather than doing the usual year-end celebrity bake-off. YouTube and Wikipedia are making more of a mark on this country than any petty politician, and I see nothing wrong with Time acknowledging that. Besides, one of the few things I hate more than the "Person of the Year" award itself is all the critics who act as though Time's choice is somehow significant. You think you can make a better pick? Start a blog, list your own choices, and ignore Time entirely. You can do that now. That's why you're the Person of the Year.

David Weigel
Reason associate editor.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, although not for the reasons Rod Dreher gives. Iran's president isn't actually that powerful in his own country. What he really represents is the hydra quality of "the enemy." A war in Iraq that was supposed to stabilize the Middle East and rid America of one of its most hated foes (Saddam, remember?) has sent the region teetering and created a brand new villain, complete with nukes. Understanding him is a good way of understanding the mess we're in.