Gentle Ben Wins a Prize


Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke has followed in the footsteps of you and Hitler by being named Time's person of the year. I don't have much to say about the magazine's pick beyond the sentiments I expressed seven years ago, when the winner was "the whistleblowers":

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.) Next year, when Time honors Whitney Houston or Carrot Top, the naysayers will doubtless swoop in once more.

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 magazines.

Elsewhere in Reason: We joined in the buzz en masse in 2006 when Time picked you as the person of the year, with a series of alternate suggestions ranging from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Libertarian Party's Blue Guy. I was the sole participant in the forum to endorse Time's selection.


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  1. I’m landing in worse company every damn year. Thanks a lot, Time.

  2. Let’s just get this out of the way now.
    You know who else won Times‘s Man of the Year…

    1. Already covered in the first sentence.

      1. I didn’t see anything about Josef Stalin winning twice.

        1. We’re all very impressed with your knowledge that Josef Stalin won Man of the Year.

          1. She can’t be MNG.He doesn’t know the html tag for italics.

      2. Jesse has the fastest Godwin in the West.

  3. I am honored and humbled. However, I cannot in good conscience …

    1. Mr. Hankey?

  4. I would think his overlord would have been a better pick. Nobel prize. Saviour of the world’s economy. Ender of at least two wars and orchestrator of The Beer Summit. How the heck did they snub Obama?

    1. They are going to wait until he really needs it in 2012.

      1. Maybe I’m particularly stupid today. I still think that the economy is gonna rebound enough and the dumbasses across the aisle are gonna step on their wangs enough that Obama will be re-elected. Of course I also believe that the dems are gonna gain more seats in both houses next year.

    2. Obama won it last year.

      Of course, in reality, you’d expect that the same people who influence events one year will continue to influence events in the next, but this thing isn’t really concerned with consistency.

  5. Believe us, this honor doesn’t help your public image at all.

  6. Well, at least with Hitler, it was a pretty clear-cut choice; it’s not everybody who can plunge the whole world into a massive war while murdering huge numbers of his own civilians, though Stalin always was a strong runner-up for the prize.

    If Ben Bernanke can ruin the whole global economy, then yes, I’d say he’s influential enough to be man of the year. So far, though, he seems only to have ruined the local economy; the US is a pretty important nation, but we’re still only 5% or so of the world’s population.

    I think the prize ought to go to the leaker of those Climategate e-mails. The worldwide screaming and fussing over that hasn’t abated yet, and that scandal has influenced maybe billions of opinions out there against Gore’s eco-religious hoax.

    1. Hitler got it in 1938, the year of the Anschluss and Munich. Stalin got it in 1939 for helping Hitler start World War II, and in 1942 when it became obvious Russia had stopped the German advance.

      The 1979 choice was Ayatollah Khomeini. Time hasn’t dared to do anyone that controversial since, chickening out of naming Osama Bin Laden in 2001.

  7. The significance of any award is determined by whether it will precede the recipient’s name forever and ever. “Academy Award-winner so-and-so…Nobel laureate you-know-who…” But “Time’s Person of the Year Winner…”? Nah.

  8. “Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke has followed in the footsteps of you and Hitler …”

    He’s also followed in the footsteps of Jesse Walker and Hitler, thus proving that all libertarians are Nazis.

    1. SMOKEY BEAR: Complete the following sentence: Only (blank) can prevent forest fires. (a) me, (b) my mom, (c) you.

      [[BART selects (c)]]

      SMOKEY BEAR: You selected “you”, meaning me. Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer was “me”, meaning you.

  9. No, Gentle Ben! No!

  10. People still read Time?

      1. The swimsuit issue?

  11. BTW, has any seen a resume with the person listing their time man of the year award? I would give a check in the sense of humor dept if an applicant actually did it.

    I havent had the need to put together a resume since I won, so I have had a chance to try it.

  12. I haven’t seen the cover photo; I hope it shows Benny with a white uniform and a gigantic pooperscooper, like the guy who follows the circus elephants around.

  13. I was the sole participant in the forum to endorse Time’s selection.
    Kiss up

  14. The story of the year was a weak economy that could have been much, much weaker. Thank the man who runs the Federal Reserve, our mild-mannered economic overlord

    Wwwwwwwwhat can I say? Buy gold? Hell no, buy something you can eat.

  15. Hey guys, the comments fields are open,…..nt_1492699

    Time to fuck some shit up!

  16. Alan Vanneman|12.16.09 @ 10:26AM|#

    “Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke has followed in the footsteps of you and Hitler …”

    He’s also followed in the footsteps of Jesse Walker and Hitler, thus proving that all libertarians are Nazis.

    Vanneman? Isn’t that Yiddish for ?bermensh?

  17. From the article:

    He helped oversee the financial stress tests that finally calmed the markets, while launching a groundbreaking public relations campaign to demystify the Fed.
    His creative leadership helped ensure that 2009 was a period of weak recovery rather than catastrophic depression, and he still wields unrivaled power over our money, our jobs, our savings and our national future.

    When did it become good that “a nation of laws, not a nation of men” appointed one man who would have, and I quote “unrivaled power over our money, our jobs, our savings and our national future”.

    When did this become a good thing? At what point did the world’s so-called greatest democracy get to where we are?

    I don’t just weep for journalism, I weep for democracy, my country, small kittens and all that is good and just.

  18. Great line, though it loses a bit of punch when it’s coming from a corporate-supremacist magazine.

  19. Who would have though that after the election a Bush appointee would be Time’s Person of the Year.

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