You against abominable people

On Time magazine’s person of the year, Chris F. Masse writes:

TIME is right on target, but their thematic articles are banal and not engaging. Complete crap.

Agreed on both points.

I am happy to see that in praising dispersed contributors to the net Time took the opportunity to bash “great men” (emphasis added):

The “Great Man” theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that “the history of the world is but the biography of great men.” He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006.

Yes, because it is only possible to be “great” through doing great harm. Time:

But look at 2006 through a different lens and you’ll see another story, one that isn’t about conflict or great men. It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

Yes, it is the anti-authoritarian age. Time:

But 2006 gave us some ideas. This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person.

Even more of a stretch, I’ll take opportunity to link in another of my pet peeves.

The short person of the year article also references directly or indirectly Wikipedia, blogs, open source, peer production, and free culture.

I occasionally wonder what it would feel like to read a mass media article and more or less think “right on!” Now that I have encountered such an article, should I enjoy it, reconsider what makes me agree, considering the source, or reconsider my assumption that Time and similar are emotionalized diarrhea magazines rather than news magazines, just like TV?

5 Responses

  1. Yaron says:

    It’s true that it’s much easier to have a great negative impact than a great positive one, I think for the simple reason that destruction is just a lot easier to accomplish than construction. That’s one of the inherent problems in the whole “person of the year” exercise – the other major one is that, in all honesty, the person who had the most effect on events in any given year is almost always whoever the President of the United States is at the time.

    That said, and while it’s nice to finally be named person of the year, it’s a little presumptuous that a few tens of thousands of people creating online content at home represent all of us. I think a better choice might have been “Web 2.0” as something like “technology of the year”; it certainly would have been less wince-inducing.

  2. victor says:

    “It’s about the many wresting power from the few…”

    remind me again, who owns MySpace?

  3. Yaron, I’m not certain that the POTUS causes the most destruction almost every year, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Victor, Wikipedia is a better example than MySpace or YouTube (I don’t think NewsCorp or GooCorp makes much difference), but I still think the latter two are instances growing user control. I like Ed Felten’s take.

  4. Yaron says:

    Fine, I should have known my two thoughts could have been given a snarky interpretation. How about this: “it’s very hard to have a significant impact on a lot of people’s lives. The easiest way is to be President of the United States. The second-easiest way is to cause a lot of destruction and/or povery.”

  5. Guilty as charged of snarkiness.

    But who is best positioned to cause much destruction and poverty? Heads of state, the POTUS being in a better position than most.

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