Sham of the Year

Time's gimmick pays off, again.


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 it 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 magazines.

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  1. The pope? Huh. I’d have figured Snowden. Or, more in line with Time’s mentality, Obama.

    1. I’m surprised they didn’t go with Obama as well. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore. What does Obama have to do to earn their respect? Jeesh!!!

      1. You know exactly what it is. Racism.

      2. First of all, Obama was last year’s PotY.
        Second, it’s not a prize for the best person, just the most influential. The following people were all past People of the Year: Hitler, Stalin, Nixon, King Faisal, Khomeini.

        1. Obama’s not the least bit influential. He’s just talked about a lot and talks a lot.

          1. You may not agree with Obama’s policies, but to pretend that the US president is not influential is very silly.

            1. By that logic, it should be president every year.

              For a president, he’s surprisingly not influential. Even more surprising given his extra bully pulpit with the media cheerleading.

      3. “What does Obama have to do to earn their respect? Jeesh!!!”

        Win a Peace Prize. Oh. wait…

      4. Don’t worry, it’s just a setup so that next year he can “make a comeback”.

    2. Just think about all the scandals Obama had to endure this year. How is he not Person of the Year?!?

      1. Uh, which scandals? (If this is your ironic joke about the non-existence of scandals, sorry.)

  2. The award hasn’t been topped since they awarded me personally back in 2006.

  3. I think the most surprising thing about Time‘s pick for Person of the Year is that Time is still in print.

    1. I was at the Doctor’s office yesterday. It’s more of a pamphlet now than a magazine.

  4. It is funny that their stated criteria should have selected bin Laden back in 2001. But they were too afraid, so they picked Giuliani, who didn’t much influence things beyond the New York city limits.

    1. Boston strong!

    2. Seriously. “Broad historical sweep”? Giuliani was an important mayor at the time, but “broad historical sweep”?

      In all fairness, Time usually has chosen someone who turned out to have a lot of historical impact, largely US presidents, with a few notable missteps. (Peter Ueberroth?!) Giuliani is one of those missteps.

  5. Papa Stalin, hallowed be his name, looks as pleased as punch. Those Kulak jokes always crack him up.

    1. fifty million is a statistic!

      1. It’s in the error bars, amirite??

  6. Obama: But it should have been me! Why not me? Me, me, me, me,Me, me, me, me,Me, me, me, me,Me, me, me, meMe, me, me, me … infinity…

    1. I was surprised by my surprise that Obama keeps on referring to how he personally was affected by Mandela. That’s okay in small doses and is a common speech technique, but he keeps going on and on about it. Jesus.

      1. Who cares about Mandela when we can hear a grand tale of Obama’s struggles with the news of Mandela’s passing?

        1. I could see one brief, personal anecdote about why Mandela was important to me if I were doing the speech. Maybe. Beyond that, it should be no Obama, all Mandela. Or other topics altogether.

          1. I have tuned Obama out, so haven’t been exposed to it much. That picture the WH twittered pretty much said it all. What a poor excuse for an American is our president? Lamest ever.

    2. I’m more curious about the conversations that occurred on the plane ride over between Bush II and Bush III.

  7. Well then, Time names Pope Preeny as the Man of the Year. This is an investment for Time, a nudge towards a Vatican III; whereas, Snowden would have been a one shot deal. That tells you exactly what they think of reforming government abuses. Against. Also the fact he pissed off a lot of their friends in the government, sources especially, damages their own interest.

  8. All this discussion seems to prove Walker’s point.

    When I saw that headline this morning, my first thought was the only thing less relevant than the Pope is Time Rag.

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