Opinion

KASSAM: Time’s Failing ‘Person of the Year’ List A Product Of Cultural Decline

Raheem Kassam Contributor

Time’s “Person of the Year” is a group of people again. (This year, it’s journalists.) It’s the eighth time since 2002 that a group of people, rather than a person, have won the so-called honor.

I could sit here and make the case as to why Jamal Khashoggi as a Muslim Brotherhood and Osama Bin Laden supporter doesn’t deserve the honor, and even why it insults the other journalists lumped in with him to have a political opinion writer/soft coup pusher included in such a group. But I won’t, because there’s something more important at stake here than a few cheap pops at a dead man.

Firstly, it is worth noting that Time appears to have broken the fourth wall of its own criteria for the annual award. The magazine claims to dish out the prize to the person who “for better or for worse … has done the most to influence the events of the year.”

But neither Khashoggi, nor his fellow awardees Maria Ressa (who?), Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo (double-who?), nor the slain staff of The Capital Gazette fit that description.

They were all news stories at some point in the year. But none have “done the most to influence events” in 2018. That’s just a fact.

So who else was on Time’s shortlist? Which deserving characters missed out?

There was Donald Trump, of course, for whom the above criteria is manifestly demonstrable. An amorphous entity called “Separated Families” at the U.S. border was nominated. Nope, they don’t qualify. Vladimir Putin was on the list, and I suppose a case can be made there. Robert Mueller was named, and I suppose if we’re being honest about it, whether we like it or not, he might be closest to the definition of the awardee for 2018.

Then you have some popular culture figures thrown in for good measure. Ryan Coogler (triple-who?), Meghan Markle (gross), the March for Our Lives Activists (double-gross), and of course who can forget the great disappearing Ms. Christine Blasey-Ford.

No Brett Kavanaugh on the list, mind you. No Xi Jinping either. No mention for the most important man in Europe right now: Matteo Salvini. Nor the second most influential Viktor Orban. Not even an honorable mention for Emmanuel Macron (remember, it says “for better or worse” in the award description).

What the poor shape of the shortlist speaks to — given Trump already won in 2016 and came close again last year — is that the editors of Time Magazine are pretty devoid of meaningful geopolitical analysis today. I suppose you might argue that it was ever thus, given they called Yasser Arafat a “peacemaker” in 1993.

But a broader point is that actually, we have such a fast paced media cycle now that it is almost impossible for one person to claim such a title over the course of a whole year. Too much happens, across too many subject areas, and most of it is forgotten. Can you believe Yodeling Kid was a 2018 meme? It feels like years ago already.

The nature of Time’s list also reveals what a poor period we are going through politically and culturally. I mean I’m sorry but Meghan Markle just doesn’t cut it. Actually, I’m not sorry. And why is there a movie director of a Marvel Comics film on there?

Still, I suppose it could be worse. I half expected to see the late rapper “XXXtentacion” or Ariana Grande for her groundbreaking use of plagiarism — I mean homages — to “Mean Girls” and “Bring It On.” I guess we can just cross our fingers and pray for Ariana in 2019.

But really, when you think of 2018, is there a stand-out global figure for you? I’m afraid I cannot muster one up. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to name a person of the year, I’d probably have to pick the bullet.

Oh, or Jair Bolsonaro.

The guy got stabbed in the stomach during a campaign event, with perforations of the lungs, liver, and intestines. Then he won the presidential election.

That’s pretty bad ass.

Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) is a fellow at the Claremont Institute and the Middle East Forum. He is the author of two bestselling books: “No Go Zones” and “Enoch Was Right.”


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.