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Most Blatant Plea For An Instalanche, Ever

December 14th, 2004 - 12:28 pm

The subject line is a joke. The post isn’t:

Every December, Time Magazine selects what used to be called its “Man Of The Year.” That name was changed to allow for political correctness a while back, but ostensibly the MOTY is given to the individual (or group, or ridiculously in one case, a planet) who in Time’s estimation, had the largest impact on the preceding year’s news.

Many of Time’s prior selections have been dumb (the aforementioned award to “Planet Earth” in 1988, a silly dodge avoid to giving the title to a victorious George H.W. Bush) or specious (Soviet dictator Gorbachev as “Man of the Decade” in 1989), but also occasionally interesting (Andy Grove in 1997), inspired (The American Soldier in 2003), and even uplifting (the crew of Apollo 8 in 1968). Others have been unpleasant, but still accurate (Khomeini in 1979).

Newly-elected presidents almost always win the POY, while second-term presidents tend to be snubbed following their re-election. In general, commanders-in-chief fare badly in any second appearances. A besieged Richard Nixon shared the cover with Kissinger in 1972, Ronald Reagan with the despot Yuri Andropov (euphemistically called a “politician” by Time) in 1983, Bush 41 with himself in 1990 (maybe the dumbest cover ever), and Bill Clinton with Kenneth Starr in 1998, a combination that probably offended everyone who saw it.

At any rate, I don’t expect George W. Bush to be named Man of the Year in 2004, and this post is not an effort to nominate him. While the ’04 election was certainly more “about” Bush than any other individual, I think it’d be appropriate this year to look beyond the big picture of the election results, and concentrate on one way in which the election of 2004 was fundamentally different than any in the past: the existence and influence of the Blogosphere.

In 1996, the web as we know it today barely existed. In 2000, the internet was a buzz-word and a curiosity, but the only serious impact it had on the presidential race was when Al Gore claimed to have invented it. Prior to 2004, it was inconceivable that an ad-hoc group of graphic designers and political aficionados could knock down a network anchorman in a matter of hours, or that two political activists with laptops could have a major impact on the defeat of a senior US Senator, or that an entirely different grass-roots campaign could elevate an obscure vanity candidate to a front-runner, albeit briefly.

All of those things and more happened in 2004. A year ago, the words “blog” and “blogger” were obscure techno-ese. Today, they’re on the lips of every pundit on television, and the print journos who haven’t talked about the Blogosphere are now avoiding mentioning it out of spite, not ignorance.

So should the Blogosphere be named “Sphere of the Year” in 2004? I don’t think so–mostly because I dislike anthropomorphising broad, indistinct phenomena. And besides, Time already gave the ‘award’ to a large (and deserving) group just last year. Let’s return the title to its roots, and settle on an individual.

There are plenty of worthy candidates. Like him or not, Markos Zuniga and Daily Kos had a significant impact in terms of readership and fundraising–if not in actually winning any races. Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs and the team at Powerline drove a wooden stake into the flailing undead corpse of Dan Rather’s career–and the mainstream press in general. Joe Trippi and the Deaniacs online changed the way Democrats raise political money, and their methods transposed to the eventual nominee gave John Kerry a fighting chance in the general election.

But there’s really only one choice that represents the Blogosphere at its best, and at its most influential. He’s still the focal point, still the prime reference, and still the standard by which all others are judged.

He’s Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, and he ought to be the Man of the Year.

I’m Will Collier, and I approved this message.

UPDATE: A reader, er, suggests that Burt Rutan and his SpaceShipOne crew would be great MOTY nominees. I agree. I bet Glenn does, too.

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