Donald Trump has scarcely been out of the headlines in the build up to and since he won the US Presidential election in November, usually for his contentious political statements. However, most recently, the President Elect has made news for being recognised as TIME magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ for 2017. Subsequently, a public outcry emerged on social media, with international outrage at the controversial decision and one user summarising widespread dismay, tweeting: ‘Donald Trump was named TIME magazine person of the year. Not a great year to be a person’. Nevertheless, Trump himself recognised the label as an ‘honour’, with many of his supporters using the way in which he undoubtedly uprooted the traditional US Political system to deter critics and defend the award.
However, what many social media users didn’t initially realise is that this title, whilst commonly recognised as an ‘honour’, is not necessarily something to celebrate at all, especially through its lack of a moral dimension. Indeed, TIME defines the label as recognising ‘the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year’. Sure, in terms of influence Trump has been hard to beat in 2017, seen in the way he has completely overturned the political system of the most powerful country in the world. Traditionally, a ‘non-politician’ winning the Presidency in America would be unheard of and Trump’s ability to achieve this has been pivotal, albeit underpinned by increasing popular disillusionment with Washington. So, if one classes an ‘honour’ as purely based on impact, many would argue that TIME have made the correct decision…
Yet, if we were to add any kind of moral dimension, things would become very questionable. This is a man who has consistently undermined and insulted women, minorities and immigrants (i.e. most of America). Surely, to put this man in the company of Martin Luther King (who won the award in 1963 and fought tirelessly for civil rights) is unthinkable. Surely, such a significant ‘honour’ should have some kind of moral dimension to it in this day and age where tolerance of diversity and respect for equality is supposed to be constantly rising. If this was to be the case, the outcome in question would undoubtedly be different. Influence is important, yes, but a person’s life is about so much more than how much impact one can make; believe it or not, moral values are actually important to some. Maybe TIME should think about rewording the ‘honour’ as ‘Influencer of the Year’, to ensure it is a greater reflection of what people base their voting on….
Nonetheless, in this instance, morals seem to be absent from TIME’s criteria. So, for argument’s sake, let’s put these values to one side for one moment in further consideration of the ‘honour’. In doing this, we are still left with the question of whether it is an ‘honour’ to receive an award previously claimed by the likes of Adolf Hitler, Stalin and Vladimir Putin. Even if being internationally recognised for making a profound impact, most people would dread being in such company, instead preferring disassociation from some of history’s most atrocious dictators over attaining the award. We can further ask if TIME have truly ‘honoured’ Trump by effectively portraying him with devil horns on his victory cover. TIME’s depiction far from paints Trump in a positive light, which will please many, yet surely, an honourable image would be necessary to match an honourable award.
So, before Trump supporters celebrate this as yet another victory for the President Elect, perhaps they should reconsider the company he is in, how TIME have decided to play this out- they themselves remaining ambiguous over whether he should be regarded as good or evil- and fundamentally what the ‘honour’ is based on. ‘Person of the Year’ is not the equivalent of ‘Best Person of the Year’, rather it recognises impact. This title would be unproblematic in a moral-free world, yet, even with the award in hand, Trump still has far to go to win over many to whom ethical values hold importance.