Time Magazine chose Pope Francis as its 2013 “Person of the Year,” igniting criticism from those who believed Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose leaks sparked scrutiny into the breadth of U.S. surveillance programs, should have been chosen.
Former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, who has continued to break stories based on Snowden’s leaks, told TPM that ”If it were a serious magazine with minimally brave editors, then of course Snowden would have been chosen, but I never expected him to be precisely because that’s not what Time is.”
Greenwald wasn’t alone in his criticism, with media figures from National Journal columnist Ron Fournier to Breitbart News editor John Nolte suggesting Snowden might have been a better choice.
Time writes that “what makes this Pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all.” According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 57% of Americans have a positive view of the pope.
Though the public has a tendency to treat Time’s Person of the Year as a kind of Oscar for humanity, the award is not necessarily an honor. Time says that the choice goes to “goes to the person who Time’s editors think most influenced the news this year, for good or bad.” Finalists included not only Snowden, but Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who was accused earlier this year of using chemical weapons against his own people, pop star Miley Cyrus, and Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Past honorees have included Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. In 2006, Time chose “you.”
Since then, Time has been widely mocked for its selections, but the choice never fails to draw attention, including from those who say it shouldn’t matter. We nevertheless mock and rage, perhaps because we still care even though we feel like we shouldn’t.