I feel I have to start with an apology, because this post is in part a substitute for the News of the Day, which won't restart until tomorrow. Christmas has been a little too hectic around here.
That said, I did find the time to finally take a look at Time's excuses - ahem, explanations - for their Persons of the Year: Bono, Bill Gates, and Melinda Gates, and I hate to say it, but the editors blew it. In fact, their entire outlook on the year was so bad they earned the ultimate dubious honor (from this quarter): Ignorant Comment of the Year.
We'll start with Bono. He has had quite an impact with his anti-poverty campaign, and he has taken a lot of effort into make this more than a typical rock-and-roll fad. My question is, why this year? The "Live-8" concert, while quite a story for about a week, did not have nearly the impact of all of his other, less glamarous work, most of it was done before 2005 and will continue long after December 31. Additionally, there is one issue on which I must take issue with him: Zimbabwe. During a Newsnight (UK) interview, Bono tried to sidestep the issue of Zimbabwe: "You can’t diminish what is happening in Zimbabwe, but you have to remember Africa is not just one country. It’s 50 countries" (The Zimbabwean). What Bono either doesn't know (which would be surprising) or won't admit (which would be maddening) is that among the 50-plus African nations, Zimbabwe is exceptional, if not unique, because of dictator Robert Mugabe's willingness to use food as a weapon against his political opponents. No one can argue with helping people, but to try to ignore or deflect the outrage over Mugabe, Communist China's best friend in Africa, is simply the wrong thing to do.
As for the Gates couple, again, they clearly are looking to make the world a better place. I just don't think that should include a $57 million grant to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) - the same UNFPA (eighth item) that is an enabler to Communist China's hideous "one child" policy. Recent contributions to the US Committee for UNFPA, totalling nearly half a million dollars, doesn't help either.
However, what really made these choices all the more ridiculous is not the faults of those selected; as my mother was fond of saying, "Nobody's perfect." The bigger complaint I have is a near-total lack of respect for the rest of the world. Time's Person of the Year is supposed to be the person who had the greatest impact on the world, for good or ill, during the calendar year. I just don't see any of these three being that person.
However, I can see how Time might make that mistake, given their unbelievable myopia on world events. Take a look at their "People Who Mattered" section to see what I mean. The overwhelming majority are American. It was stunning. The only people who made the list from outside the United States were Pope Benedict XVI, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Iranian mouthpiece Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If you've just asked yourself, "How can they have picked no one from East Asia?", you're beginning to understand my problem with the editors' decisions.
Were there people from East Asia who could have been Person of the Year? Absolutely. Chen Yonglin and Hao Fengjun exposed a massive overseas Communist espionage operation that, in addition to the usual economic and military spying, has been silencing ethnic Chinese communities in the democratic world for years. Shi Tao's arrest (fourteenth, fifth, lead, third, eighth, seventh, third, fifth, eighth, last, third, and fourth items) not only reminded the world of the Communists' disgust for a free press, but it exposed just how deeply American high-tech companies are intertwined in the Communist police state (funny, none of that was mentioned in Time's profile of the Gates couple). The brave citizens of Taishi village allowed one and all to see the sham of Communist China's "village elections;" their legal adviser, Guo Feixiong, remains in a Communist prison cell to this day. Then there are the victims of the Shanwei massacre, the news of which is continuing to circle the globe as I write this. Finally, there are the authors of the Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party, although the fact that the Commentaries actually came out in late 2004 could serve as a disqualifier.
Of course, one need not select any of these brave souls to honor them. Time's criteria famously leaves room for the world's evil men and women. Thus, Hu Jintao, as leader of the regime responsible for the outrages within Communist China listed above, would have made a very justifiable Person of the Year, so long as it was clear the blood on his hands is what put him there. Luo Gan, the Politburo Standing Committee Member who has used the year to consolidate his role as Communist China's Lavrenty Beria (Epoch Times), would have also been a worthy choice for the same dark reasons. Even selecting the Chinese Communist Party as a whole makes more sense than the three people actually selected.
However, in order for any of these choices to be considered, one has to be aware of what Communist China is today - the largest prison society on the planet and the greatest threat to the survival of the free world (yes, greater than terrorism, which wouldn't be where it is today without the Chinese Communist Party). Sadly, that awareness seems to be missing at Time, and most of mainstream media in general; and that, in a nutshell, is why Time ended up with Bono and the Gates couple as Persons of the Year, and thus earned the Ignorant Comment of the Year.