Opinion: Musk Personality of the Year? Unless he was the last – To the world

Two things came to mind when I read that Elon Musk was named Person of the Year by Time Magazine. First of all, my god, does he still publish Time magazine? And secondly: Couldn’t you have come up with someone else who was really important and interesting this year? Isn’t the choice of a controversial businessman and at the same time the richest man in the world too big a cliché?

The last time I wrote about the personality of the year according to this magazine was, I believe, in 2008. Barack Obama was on the cover of the first December issue at the time, in the Man of the Year or Woman of the Year ( and more politically correct Person of the Year since 1999).

Time often chooses the winner of the presidential election. In 2000 and 2004 it was Obama’s predecessor George Bush Jr., Obama himself was on the front page again in 2012, and in 2016 it was Donald Trump. Last year, Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were relatively atypical personalities of the year. It could have been a subtle prediction, an indication that it was uncertain whether Joe Biden would remain in office for the entire term. Rather, they wanted to point out to the newsroom that Harris is the first a) woman and b) a “non-white” personality in this position.

To be honest, nobody was interested in Time magazine’s decision in 2020. Like Time Magazine itself, which was one of the flagships of print journalism. Once. Costs sold have halved in the last ten years, maybe even lower, because the exact numbers are not public. The once iconic weekly has been published only every two weeks since March. Like many other traditional media outlets, Time is saving the billionaire who got rich from internet business. In this case, it’s Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, who bought the title three years ago.

Time has been named Person of the Year since 1927, and the magazine itself began publishing four years earlier. And the reason back then was marketing. The edition, which came out between Thanksgiving and Christmas, was struggling with lower sales, so at the end of the year co-founder Henry Luce hit on the idea of ​​pointing out the man who was most involved in the news. The first man of the year was pilot Charles Lindbergh, who became the first person to cross the Atlantic in 1927.

The bet on the ad came out. The award of the title by Time magazine gradually became an event in itself, which was also reported by other media. Like the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which decides on the Nobel Peace Prize, Time Magazine has not avoided controversy. And so Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Ayatollah Khomeini, for example the aforementioned Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin, appeared on the front pages of the December issues in this century. The magazine has always defended itself by saying that it is not an “award” but rather a reference to the person (or phenomenon) who drew the most media attention in a given year.

At the same time, however, the ambition was different: to try to attract attention or find out what was happening in the events. And often it worked. For example, when the editors picked Jeff Bezos in 1999 (“a man who wants to change the way the world buys” on the cover). Or when it surprisingly declared the “Computer of the Year” as a personal computer in 1982. Or when it was readers of the magazine with “You” in 2006 and, somewhat coded, YouTube users who pointed out the early era of so-called social media.

With that, we return to the personality of 2021 who became Elon Musk. A man with an estimated net worth of roughly $ 300 billion. When Time named Jeff Bezos Person of the Year in 1999, Bill Gates was the richest man with $ 90 billion. In addition to many dollars, Musk also has 66 million followers on Twitter and leads Tesla, which is the sixth most valuable company in the world with a market value of over $ 1 trillion. The clear personality of the year. Or not?

Elon Musk featured on the cover of Time magazine as Person of the Year.

Maybe it’s because of all of the “best” that I find it a little too transparent. Musk without debate is one of the most interesting business people today. Also for the most interesting people in general. Undoubtedly a genius, just like a madman, everyone agrees. The only discrepancy is the relationship between the two substances. Whether Elon Musk is more of a madman or a genius – and all the more interesting he is.

There is no doubt that Elon Musk has had an interesting year. He was the guest presenter and star of the famous television show Saturday Night Live, moved permanently from California to Texas and entertained tens of millions of people with his Twitter antics. Probably no other person can play around with the price of cryptocurrencies like him, just for fun. And it can do that with stocks, which is making US regulators nervous.

Yes, Tesla loved Tesla stock incredibly for itself and its investors. He bought and started up a device called the Giga Press, which makes part of Tesla’s new cars in one piece, so to speak. And it cannot be ruled out that one day he will manufacture entire cars in this way. Experts say it would bring a similar revolution to the automotive industry as Henry Ford started with the first production lines. After all, Musk put more American astronauts into orbit this year with his SpaceX rocket.

With full respect for this whole list, I don’t think Muska will make it a “Personality of the Year” when it comes to why and how this Time magazine tradition came about. We spent a full year in the pandemic and everything indicates that the fight with the Covid is not ending, but escalating. And then there are all the social, economic and political consequences that this crisis brings with it. I would expect the head of Time magazine to have the ambition to see a 2021 personality or phenomenon right there.

Time is the editor-in-chief of Time magazine, the journalist Edward Felsenthal, who said in his rationale for the Musk election: “I see in his cosmic ambitions a direct connection to Charles Lindbergh, the very first person of the year. Lindbergh flew across the ocean while Musk wanted to go to Mars but most likely never made it.

Unless we understand the editor-in-chief’s words differently: that with Elon Musk and the “direct line” the tradition of Time magazine personalities of the year ends at the same time. Like many other things that were great and meaningful in the 20th century, but today, like us or not, they no longer make sense. And nobody cares: personalities of the year, space flights or weekly magazines.



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