How wrong is Time's most influential people list?
Really wrong. Time has a strange definition of 'influence.'
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Activists who'd spent a decade on the ground trying and failing to organize mass protests like the ones that eventually toppled Mubarak brought needed experience and mettle to the organization around Tahrir Square. And Egyptian conditions themselves -- with an aging Hosni Mubarak maneuvering to have his son Gamal installed as his successor, at a time when wages had been stagnant or falling for years -- infuriated millions out of their acquiescence to his rule. Absent Ghonim, it's quite likely the revolution would have largely unfolded exactly as it did. Going forward, he looks set to be a footnote in the political battles that will shape Egypt's future.Skip to next paragraph
Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.
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If the list had been named "100 people who played a major role in events of the past year," I wouldn't be writing this post. But Time's definition of "influential" is heavily skewed towards recent events. Here's a few more examples that seem, well, a little questionable.
1. Ai Weiwei. Ai, an artist and activist for freedom of expression, is one of three Chinese citizens on the list (the other two are a blogger and a journalist). He's been a crusader against corruption and abuse of power in his homeland for some years, and is certainly the symbol of an increasingly loud but apparently minority movement against the Chinese political system. An important, provocative figure, with a noble goal. But the most influential man in China, which is poised to become the largest economy in the world in the next decade? President Hu Jintao is the leader of more than 1 billion Chinese and head of the Communist Party in what is, after all, a one-party state. Chinese Central Bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan commands $3 trillion in foreign reserves and helps to set interest rates not just in his own country, but in the US, based on his willingness to participate in debt auctions.
2. Reed Hastings. Mr. Hastings is an American who founded Netflix and has grown very rich renting movies through the mail. Netflix has branched out into distributing content over the Internet, and his subscriber model has proven wildly successful, with more than 20 million American customers. How this translates into "influence," however, is not quite clear. Wealth? He's not one of the 400 richest Americans, as ranked by Forbes. Innovation? Perhaps. He's a distributor of other people's content.
3. Sting. The 60-year-old musician. Formerly of The Police. Seriously. Sting. He's on the list.