Elon Musk is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2021. Is this a bad thing? Many of the world’s critics think so. The Guardian opens its piece on Musk with the following:
“Time magazine’s decision to make Tesla billionaire Elon Musk its person of the year for 2021 has been criticized because of his attitude to tax, opposition to unions and playing down the dangers of Covid.” – The Guardian “Naming Elon Musk person of the year is Time’s ‘worst choice ever’, say critics.”
I think these critics have it wrong. First, what is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year title for? Is it for the most heroic person of the year? I don’t think so, as Time’s website shows a section for that called “Heroes of the year”. Instead, it’s for the person who has done the most to influence the year’s events.
To prove the title’s purpose, allow some history to be shed. The Person of the Year title has been held by many since its inception in 1927. Going back to 2017, “The Silence Breakers” were given the title, for their role in speaking out against sexual abuse and harassment, including the ones most central to the MeToo movement. Representing the huge group were actress Ashley Judd, lobbyist Adama Iwu, software engineer Susan Fowler, singer Taylor Swift, one under the pseudonym Isabel Pascual, and a hospital worker who wished to remain anonymous. For 2017, these choices are quite valid. Rewinding again to 2014, the healthcare workers who helped to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa were awarded, going by the name “Ebola Fighters.” This selection was, again, a valid and honorable choice.
In 1938, Adolf Hitler, someone who needs no introduction, was given the title. Quite a stark contrast to the people mentioned above. If you were to see the above recipients given an award, then the next year you see Hitler win the same award, you’d be quite puzzled, offended, shocked, and many other negatives. This hypothetical along with the very mention of Hitler’s 1938 award can be seen as pure shock value. Feel free to see it that way, but it’s to prove the point of the Person of the Year title. The people mentioned above, along with Hitler and Joseph Stalin in 1939 and 1942, are all deserving of the award.
In the end, Time’s Person of the Year title isn’t given to someone because they are the epitome of goodness and love. It’s to recognize the individual or individuals most instrumental in the year’s events. Whether or not this award is good or bad, that is up to you to decide. And given the title’s purpose, Elon Musk fits the profile for 2021’s Person of the Year.