Monday, December 18, 2006

What you have in common with Adolf Hitler

Time magazine announced that their "Person of the Year" for 2006 is "You," and popped a mirror on the cover to further drum the concept home.

I kinda hope they did this mostly so that the news coverage would feature Onion-like sentences such as: "You beat out candidates including Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, China's President Hu Jintao, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and James Baker, the former U.S. Secretary of State who led Washington's bipartisan Iraq Study Group" (from Reuters).

Time says that the real reason is because of the explosion in popularity of user-generated internet sites like MySpace and YouTube. But the percentage of viral videos that are "user-generated" while also being popular seems a little skewed. says that the top ten viral videos of 2006 in terms of actual views include 2 from Britney Spears (apparently belching and discussing time travel, and again sending the text message breaking up with her husband), Michael Richards (racist rant), Lindsay Lohan (trashing Paris Hilton), 2 from Paris Hilton (crashing her car, and singing "Happy Birthday" to Hugh Hefner), Keira Knightley, model Katie Price, Pamela Anderson and Sharon Osbourne.

So all the viral video thing seems to prove is that we really love celebrities. Which hardly qualifies as news. And doesn't strike me as the sort of thing we should get all self-congratulatory about. Especially since what we apparently love is when they behave in ways which would cause us to feel something akin to shame if we knew them personally.

MySpace started as a site for bands to use for networking and promotion. Now it is the social networking site of choice, with popularity primarily among the teenage set. So having that as a reason for naming someone "Person of the Year" is analogous to giving a high school cafeteria, the instant or text message, or email the honor.

By the way, in order to see the article on Time's Web site, I first had to get past an ad for a luxury car which informed me that I might not be the "Person of the Year," but... Looks like somebody else didn't expect Time to do something quite as lame and unimaginative.

The Time article says that they peered out at 2006 and noticed " and collaboration on a scale never seen before ... 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."

I have to admit that I'm not sure what the last part even means. Reads to me like somebody's getting paid by the word.

And I think this might be more about voyeurism and exhibitionism. It's about a new way to take your hobby and go pro. I'm not claiming any high ground here: although the article doesn't say much about blogs, I'm lumping them in there with everything else.

There's nothing really new going on here. It's just a matter of distribution and technology. We've always been voyeurs and/or exhibitionists in one way or another.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that people can publish stuff globally from their homes, whether it's their theories about what's really happening on Lost, their deepest hopes and dreams and fears, or the clip of Uncle Fred getting hit in the nuts by a crochet ball. I think it's fantastic that we can all find like-minded people from across the globe, and that there are ways for people who might not otherwise feel like part of a community to feel included and listened to.

And maybe it's even a revolution, a total overhaul of human communication, but it still feels a little strange to be honoring "you" for having the same opinions you always had, for doing the things you might normally do, just in front of a larger audience. Or to honor "you" for watching, reading, or listening to the output, like you might have done if you were actually friends in real life with the people creating the stuff.

It's not like "you" invented these things. "You" just made them popular. It might have made sense if that was who was being honored. I'm guessing these inventors and innovators weren't chosen because most of them have sold their ideas to large companies, who now own the things we've made so popular.

They don't even mean what the cover implies. This year's honoree isn't just anybody who catches a glimpse of themselves in the cover at the newsstand. They only mean some of "you," those who are participating actively (or at least passively) in these new-fangled pursuits. This means they are excluding, among others, my grandmother. And I don't like it when people dis my grandmother.

But, hey, it's always nice to be honored by a national news rag for doing nothing more than living my life.

So thanks, Time. Does this thing come with a prize of some kind?


basest said...

well...i'm depressed. I really thought that I had been chosen as Non-Gender-Specific Man of the Year. It was the only thing keeping me going after having placed 51st on the list of People's 50 sexiest men.

...I'm not sure i can go on.

Liz Dwyer said...

This "You" idea probably came out of some really long staff meeting where there was an impasse over whether it should be Paris Hilton or Kim Jong-il. Just when they were going to pick KJI, someone probably said, "Yeah, the average American can watch Paris on YouTube all day, but has no idea whether KJI can sing or not!"

It probably just snowballed from there.

* said...

Congratulations for the honor. Oh wait, I just picked up my own copy...awww, you mean we have to share this honor??! (nice post, MT!)

Sebastien Millon said...

Hmmm, seems a little hokey, but hey, I'll take the honor...

The Moon Topples said...

basest: weird, they told me I was number 51. They better not tell everyone that.

Liz: Likely true and kind of sad. KJI has a lovely singing voice. His "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" gets me every time.

Peggy: We'll have to work out some sort of schedule, and put it on our blog-fridges.

Sebastien: Yes, and congratulations. To, um, everybody.

Unknown said...

When I heard the announcement my immediate thought was that they were going with this lame copout because there's really no individual worth honoring from 2006...

I like the title of this post, lol.

He Who Does Not Subscribe said...

Odd. When I looked at the new issue of TIME, there was no reflection, just a big note saying "NO, NOT YOU."

You are so silent. Are you sick? Hope you are well, MT. You are, afterall, Person of the Year.

The Moon Topples said...

Zorak: "lame cop-out" was the exact term I thought of.

HWDNS: I'm a little surprised it didn't show every one you know and read "Everybody Else."

And now everyone should ask their copy of Time "who is the fairest in the land."