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December 18, 2005
Time Jumps The Shark

We had a great post up here at CQ nominating people for Time's Person Of The Year, which Monkei and I wanted to turn into a poll for the finalists. Real-life events got in the way of the second step, but I'm reasonably sure that whatever CQ voters would have decided would have made a lot more sense than Time's selections for Persons Of The Year -- Bono, and Bill and Melinda Gates.

Bono? Bill Gates? Mrs Bill Gates? Whatever for?

For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are TIME's Persons of the Year. ...

The Constant Charmer The inside story of how the world's biggest rock star mastered the political game and persuaded the world's leaders to take on global poverty. And he's not done yet.

From Riches to Rags Imagine a kinder, humbler Microsoft—one designed to spend money, not make it. That's the kind of philanthropy Bill and Melinda Gates have invented. The story of a very risky venture.

If TIme wanted to salute Good Samaritans, the real newsmakers in that field would have been the millions of people who opened up their pocketbooks and gave directly to the charities doing the most good after a series of natural disasters this year. Honoring Bono for Live Aid first off undercredits the work of Sir Bob Geldof, who worked just as hard and had more influence on the effort to push the G-8 into taking Africa seriously. As part of the blogger effort to publicize it, I still can't see Bono or Geldof as particularly effective in this regard, although certainly sincere and committed to the cause. They hardly made a particular impact in 2005; their Live Aid project fizzled unspectacularly in the time it took the last notes of the last concert to waft off into the night air.

And the Gateses? Bill builds a multinational, multibillion-dollar mammoth corporation from a series of improvements on ideas largely pioneered by Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s, beats Xerox and IBM on their home turf, and revolutionizes communications -- but Time has no interest in that while it happens. Bill opens the largest philanthropic organization in the world several years ago, and Time decides to play it like some half-assed recent promise to go broke giving his money away, and all of a sudden he's Person of the Year. And Melinda gets mentioned because ... well, apparently because she's not divorcing him and making that pledge twice as easy to accomplish. Seriously, she's involved in running the foundation, but even the Time article makes it clear who's running the show, and it's not Melinda:

But despite what anyone says, it's clear that the big decisions still get made by Bill Gates. At a quarterly review of grants at the offices in Seattle, he sits at the head of the table, with Melinda on his left and his father on his right. Nervous staff members direct their presentations to him, not Melinda—who drinks a Snapple and seems like the most relaxed person in the room. Bill flings out questions in his trademark squeaky voice, with an expression on his face that suggests more curiosity than concern. "How are they going to prioritize?" he asks about a potential grantee. "Are they going to have a theme? Are they heart, lung, cancer, infections—what are they?" he asks, his voice arcing higher with each question.

Can we ask ourselves the question as Time supposedly wanted it posed -- what people made the most impact on the news in 2005? Bono and the Gateses are fine people doing good work, except when Bill monopolizes the computer marke (note that he didn't come up with a new operating system this year to tick anyone off). Have the Gateses made news this year that they haven't in years past? Has Bono had any real, lasting effect on coverage of African debt relief and the G-8? Not at all.

The true newsmakers this year, as Michelle Malkin notes in photos, were the people who went into the streets and overthrew dictators and autocracies in order to gain freedom for their nations -- in most cases, through non-violence. Ukrainians had their Orange Revolution; the Lebanese forced the Syrians to beat a hasty retreat across the Bekaa Valley after 29 years of military occupation following the murder of a pro-freedom statesman; and Iraqis faces bombs and death threats three times to in voting for a democracy and a new constitution to replace a genocidal tyrant in the heart of the Middle East, the first time that has ever occurred in an Arab nation.

Pick any of those examples, or roll them up into one pro-democracy movement that has tyranny on its heels throughout Southwest Asia and North Africa. Those were the real newsmakers this year. Instead, Time decided to go as obscure as it possibly could and picked three fine people whose impact on 2005 will have us all wondering what the hell they did to deserve the cover of Time by 2007.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 18, 2005 9:28 AM

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