ISIS Leader Baghdadi Not The First Notorious Candidate For Person Of The Year

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is runner-up for Time magazine’s 2015 Person of the Year award, having been beaten by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Time’s tradition of awarding a noteworthy individual the title goes back to 1927, when Charles Lindbergh was the first to grace the cover. Though it is often considered a positive title, the stipulations for who receives the award are fairly open-ended. Awardees are generally those who have dominated the media for that given year, for both positive and negative reasons. And some of the honorees are not people at all: the computer won in 1982 and “endangered Earth” won in 1988. You may be surprised to know that you won in 2006. Don’t get too excited though, you shared it with over six billion other people.

Al-Baghdadi, though reclusive and rarely seen in person, has captivated the public’s attention since the rise of ISIS over the past two years. You will be hard-pressed to find a daily newspaper, online publication, or news show that has not mentioned ISIS nearly every day since last summer. The editorial team at Time explains the decision on Baghdadi, saying: “as leader of ISIS, [he] has inspired followers to both fight in his self-declared caliphate of Iraq and Syria, and also stage attacks in countries like Tunisia and France.”

Once lauded as one of the most important editorial pieces in publishing, the significance of Person of the Year has dropped parallel to the magazine’s sales, which saw a nearly 35 percent drop in the last six months of 2009.

Here is a list of some other notorious winners of Time’s Person of the Year:

Adolf Hitler (1938)

The Nazi leader of Germany is the first truly shocking addition to the Person of the Year alumni in 1938, just as World War II was about to go into full swing. By the time he was featured on the cover, he had already seized control of Germany, stripped Jews of citizenship, sent his Gestapo to attack Jews during Kristallnacht, seized Austria in the Anschluss campaign, and (allegedly) burned the German Reichstag parliament building. Hitler’s actions would eventually lead to around 50 million dead before the war’s end.

Joseph Stalin (1939, 1942)

Not to be outdone by his rival Hitler, former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin made the cover not once but twice– in 1939 and 1942. The Soviet Union would suffer massively under Stalin’s tenure, with an estimated 20 million killed due to Stalinist policies, actions or political reprisals.

Ayatollah Khomeini (1979)

Iran’s revolutionary leader seized control of the country after the shah was deposed in a coup in 1979. Though he had been exiled at the time, Khomeini was the spiritual leader of the Islamic Revolution and was installed as supreme leader until his death. Under Khomeini, Iran founded the Hezbollah terror group, which killed nearly 300 U.S. and French military personnel in Beirut in 1983. Khomeini’s regime would also terrorize religious and ethnic minorities and lead to the tensions we currently see with Iran and the international community today.

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