Space Ramblings

Time’s Man of the What List

Every year we go through the same charade as everyone pretends that Time’s Man of the Year or Person of the Year or Object of the Year actually matters. It doesn’t. This year it’s Mark Zuckerberg, for reasons that probably have a lot to do with the amount of money put into promoting The Social Network and Zuckerberg’s response to the bad PR with Simpsons and Oprah appearances. Otherwise it might well have been Facebook. Or the Tea Party. Or an overstuffed chair.

How little does Time’s Thing of the Year matter? Last year it was Ben Bernanke? In 2006 it was You. Not you, the social networking you, you. If Time hadn’t used that one in 2006, they would have used it again in 2010.

Mostly Time’s Man of the Year have been politicians. Obama. Bush. Putin. Giuliani. Bush. Clinton. Gingrich. Clinton. Bush and Bush. Gorbachev. Gorbachev. Reagan. On and on. (That’s an actual list in reverse order.) When Time runs out of politicians to name, then it starts reaching. Either it picks somebody who’s going to be obscure a few years later. Dr. David Ho. Mostly tech CEO’s Andy Grove. Jeff Bezos. Like Zuckerberg, Bezos and Grove are still important, but known for their companies.

But when Time runs out of CEO’s, then it turns to desperate brainstorming. In 2006, Time’s man of the year was You. In 2003 it was The American Soldier. In 2002, it was The Whistleblowers. In 1993 it was The Peacemakers. In 1988 it was The Earth. In 1982 it was The Computer. In 1975 it was American Women. In 1969 it was Middle Americans. In 1966 it was Twenty-Five and Under.

So the one we can say about Time’s Man of the Year is that it’s actually more like Person, Thing or Word of the Year. And that it’s whatever overworked editors brainstorming at the last minute decide looks good on a cover.

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