Of Persons and Things

Associated Press has reported that:

Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ is the person or thing that has most influenced the culture and the news during the past year for good or for ill.

The Person

For 2008 and for 2012 Time named Barack Obama. While that is certainly its prerogative I might interpret the selection quite differently, using Time’s own criteria.

First, what exactly has Barack Obama influenced? The culture? Hardly. Obama is an icon. He is the choice of the culture. A nation’s culture is the sum of its intellectual achievement, the dominant ideas generally accepted. Since the dawn of the Progressive era, the dominant ideas of America have gradually descended from individualism to collectivism, from property rights to mercantilism and the welfare state and from representational art to formless and even scatological decoration.

The Thing

The disintegration of a culture may take decades or even centuries. It depends on the choices of unpredictable individuals within the population. Historically, climacteric points may be retroactively designated as emblematic.

Time, as a media constituent, has helped to establish Obama as a possible climacteric icon. For his part, Obama is a collectivist and a statist. His view of the role of the state is quite clear. I withhold any comment on his tastes in art.

So, has Obama influenced the news or has the media canonized Obama? A survey of the 2012 Presidential Election Campaign may provide answers for some. In such instance, perhaps the “Thing of the Year” for 2012 might be the media itself. If Time selects Obama as “Person of the Year” for 2016 then the media should be a lock for the “Thing”.

©Copyright 2012 Edward Podritske

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