In 2012, Trump said that Time Magazine had “lost all credibility” because he, Donald Trump, was not included in Time’s “100 Most Influential People”. Last year, he claimed that Time told him he “probably” would be chosen for “Person of the Year”, but that he opted out because “probably” wasn’t good enough. Time disputed that claim. Just last month, when asked by a reporter who he thought would be this year’s “Person of the Year”, he had this to say …
“I can’t imagine anybody else other than Trump. Can you imagine anybody else other than Trump?”
What an egomaniac! Anyway … I was very pleased to see that Time had better sense, although I understand he was somewhere on their short list. Instead, Time quite appropriately chose “The Guardians”, four individuals and one group — all journalists — who this year helped expose “the manipulation and the abuse of truth” around the world.
They are the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributing columnist who was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in October; the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland; journalist Maria Ressa, the chief executive of the Rappler news website, who has been made a legal target for the outlet’s coverage of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte; and journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for nearly a year for their work exposing the mass killing of Rohingya Muslims. Each of these people are far more deserving of “Person of the Year” than the madman in the Oval Office.
Trump himself actually helped make the decision, albeit unwittingly, with his attacks on the press. According to Time …
This is the world of the strong leaders who hate the free press and truth. That world is led, in some ways, by a U.S. President whose embrace of despots and attacks on the press has set a troubling tone.
“I think the biggest problem that we face right now is that the beacon of democracy, the one that stood up for both human rights and press freedom—the United States—now is very confused,” says Ressa, the Rappler editor. “What are the values of the United States?”
The question no longer seems strange, for the same reason a close look at where we get our news no longer sounds like civics-class homework. In normal times, the U.S. news media is so much a part of public life that, like air, it’s almost impossible to make it out. But it has been made conspicuous—by the attacks and routine falsehoods of the President, by social-media behemoths that distribute news but do not produce it and by the emerging reality of what’s at stake.
Efforts to undermine factual truth, and those who honestly seek it out, call into doubt the functioning of democracy. Freedom of speech, after all, was purposefully placed first in the Bill of Rights.
For a certain kind of politician, there is an almost liberating genius to framing independent journalists as the enemy. Stray from the truth, and whoever corrects you can be dismissed as “the other side.” The strategy runs on a dangerous assumption—that we’re not all in this together.
A month after taking office, President Trump sat for an interview with Breitbart, the right-wing online news site that had been run by his then chief strategist, Steve Bannon. “The fake media is the opposition party,” the President declared. “The fake media is the enemy of the American people.”
For taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and for speaking out, the Guardians—Jamal Khashoggi, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Maria Ressa and the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md.—are TIME’s Person of the Year.
A most appropriate choice.