- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2001

On Media

Americans have seen Osama bin Laden on FBI most-wanted posters and wielding a firearm and microphone on constantly replayed news footage.
In a few weeks, however, bin Laden may be on the cover of Time magazine as "Person of the Year." A Time spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that the terrorist is "one of a dozen under consideration" for the title, typically accompanied by weighty prose and historic underpinnings.
We see bin Laden on Time's cover this week in a bilious portrait superimposed upon the cross hairs of a rifle site. Should he win the historic title, hubbub will doubtless ensue as readers try to switch gears from bin Laden the evildoer to bin Laden the person of the year.
Time's managing editor, James Kelly, has said the moniker designates the one person on Earth who has had the biggest effect on history throughout the year for better or worse.
"In those terms, bin Laden is the overwhelmingly obvious choice for the cover," said Daniel Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum. "But it is unfortunate that this designation, for many, sounds like an award given out at a Rotary dinner, implying a celebration of someone. Perhaps Time magazine should consider changing the name to 'Newsmaker' of the Year."
Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs said: "Previous choices have taught us not to attach moral value to the term 'man.' There is a reason Time does not use the term 'Gentleman of the Year.' Man of the Year is not an honor so much as it is a title; it doesn't require an honorable person be named. Some years the biggest noise is applause some years it's weeping. This choice would reflect that."
The historically significant men have been a motley crew since Time started naming them in 1927. Hitler was named Man of the Year in 1938. Joseph Stalin made the cover in 1939 and 1942, and Ayatollah Khomeini was on the front in 1979.
Even Mr. Kelly, the Time editor, wonders if a bin Laden cover could aid the terrorist's well-tuned global media campaign.
"Might people use this by plastering his face and that cover all over a demonstration, or on walls in villages?" Mr. Kelly asked the Sacramento Bee yesterday. But he later added, "we're not going to pick or not pick somebody because reaction is going to be this or that."
Bin Laden has inspired other inventive treatment, meanwhile. Court TV aired a mock "bin Laden" trial last night and will continue to offer moot court high jinks.
"While Osama bin Laden seems to be a far cry from such notorious Mafia dons as John Gotti or Vincent 'the Chin' Gigante, his organization is similar enough to the mob that, if caught alive, the terrorist leader could be tried for his crimes just like the Mafia heads of the past, under a special law called RICO Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, signed into law in 1970, was originally designed to target Mafia dons," Court TV advised.


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