Time Magazine and the Loss of Subtlety

Time magazine has been around since before I was, so I can honestly say that it feels like it’s been part of my culture ‘forever’. I remember reading Time and Newsweek while working at a book store just to see what the difference between the two was. Being in high school and reading these magazines made me feel so grown up that I still get a strange feeling of validation when I pick up a copy or find myself reading one of their online pieces. It makes me feel smarter, more ahead of the curve than everyone else. I don’t feel like an elitist, but I feel like I have a leg up.

Still, reading Time magazine has become, to me, like walking in my backyard in that I have to watch out for dog bombs. (Yep, I just compared parts of Time magazine to dog leavings…guess that ruins the validation, huh?) In an article entitled “The Dirty Dozen: Who to Blame for the Oil Spill”, Time focuses its ire on folks like those at the top of BP and, strangely, even the American driver. I knew they’d hit Bush and Cheney; that was a given. I was impressed for about 2 seconds when I saw they hit Obama as well and thought they might actually be balanced. 2 joyful seconds…and then despair as I hit their dog bomb.

Part of the new media experience is linking stories to other stories in order to keep the reader, well, reading. The WSJ does this terrifically by having a pop up come from the bottom of the screen as you approach the end of a story directing you to a story with similar interests. Time, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as sophisticated. Under the Bush/Cheney story, the link says, “See George W. Bush’s Biggest Economic Mistakes”, which then links to a 2009 article entitled “A Look Back at Bush’s Economic Missteps.” What does Obama’s link lead to? “See Pictures of Barack Obama’s Nation of Hope”. Yep, a Nation of Hope compared to Budget Blunders. Want to know what’s even worse? The Obama article doesn’t even focus on Obama…it focuses on the history of Civil Rights and the lead-up to the election of the nation’s first non-white president!

Nearly every single other picture of the “Dirty Dozen” comes with a negative article with titles such as, “See the world’s top 10 environmental disasters”, “See pictures of people protesting BP”, “See the 50 worst cars of all time”, and “See pictures of critters caught in the Gulf Oil Spill”. Ken Salazar (number 9 on the list) has an entry that says, “See who’s who in Barack Obama’s White House”…just above the article that says, “Read Whose Heads will Roll Next in the BP Disaster”. What, no photo journal on the beauty of Colorado? Has Ken Salazar done nothing worth criticizing? Is your reporting that far off base that you haven’t found a single negative thing worth inflating on the former Senator, or do you just not care since he was appointed by Obama instead of Bush? Even when you talk about Elizabeth Birnbaum, you say, “until she was ousted on May 27 and became Washington’s unofficial scapegoat for years of MMS mismanagement.” See – she wasn’t all that bad, she was a scapegoat for years of mismanagement (read: Bush’s fault again).

There’s a lot to dislike about Bush, including his invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the fact that Katrina occurred on his watch, his (failed) attempt to revamp the Social Security system, the rise in the Federal deficit, and overall economic crisis. Those that scream at Bush and hate his every move should be aware, however, that there are those who dislike Obama just as intensely for his doubling or tripling down of troops in Afghanistan, the fact that the Gulf Oil Spill occurred on his watch, his (successful) attempt to revamp the health care system, the Federal deficit has broken records two years in a row, and the overall economic crisis hasn’t gotten any better at all. Question: why to those who hate Bush for the things he did not hate Obama for the things he’s doing? Is it because of the small letter that goes after each one’s name, or is it something more subtle, something not so easily detectable or understandable? Is it simply because the people we listen to tell us to hate the person they hate, or is it that we just haven’t been able to see past they hype and dig into the issues?

The Greeks had a word for what is happening: hubris; those who got too ‘high and mighty’ upon themselves were often brought down by the ‘gods’. I have a much simpler vision: a pendulum; science says that if I lift a pendulum so high and let go, it’ll swing just as high on the other side before returning to its original position (essentially). The even more common saying is “what goes around comes around”. It’s as steady as the tides…even including the occasional Tsunami.

Fair warning, all you subtle and not-so-subtle bashers of Bush – your guy’s turn is coming. If you’re smart and start taking the high road today, you can serve as an example of the way things should be instead of the way things have been. Instead of weighing the actual “Budget Blunders” against the historical photolog “Nation of Hope”, consider weighing each President’s response to their greatest disaster; feel free to build one man’s reputation while showing the other’s faults, but at least you’ll be comparing apples to apples instead of oranges to wagons. Build, don’t burn, and see how much better the next guy treats your guy when his turn is up. Or, you could continue your ‘subtle’ attacks and see how long it takes before the pendulum swings back your way. Just remember that the harder you push it one way, the harder it hits when it swings back.

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