Ordinarily, when a political powerhouse makes it onto the cover of a magazine, the publication shapes its feature in a sort of non-bias prose, if not to appeal to broader audiences, then to at least abide by the ancient journalistic principle that states… well, “don’t be bloody biased, mate”.
Yesterday, TIME magazine revealed its latest cover featuring U.S. president-elect Donald Trump hunched in an antique armchair, labelling him ‘Person of the Year’ but adding the subtitle ‘President of the Divided States of America’.
The first thing the uninformed reader might think is that the weekly has put Trump on a pedestal (indeed, he’s seated on a distressed Louis XV chair). But that would be to assume that any influential figure featured at the top of an end-of-year or “100 Most Influential” list is positively praise-worthy and deserved of celebration. Of course that isn’t so. Kanye West, for example, appeared on a cover for TIME’s Most Influential list but that doesn’t mean they thought he had Mensa potential, more-so that some icons of the modern age are awe-inspiring simply since (a) they’ve made it to positions of influence even while lacking all attributes that ordinarily place ‘good’ people there, and (b) a larger part of the masses are the ones that voted them in, after all.
Sadly, it’s the folks who voted Trump into power that will see the cover more as ‘pin-up’ or ‘poster boy’ than political irony.
TIME magazine has awarded its cover to every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter. It’s pretty standard procedure when someone new enters the top position in U.S. politics. And it’s not as though the magazine hasn’t featured a fair share of despots on its front pages: from Hitler to Stalin to Putin.
Just because Trump has been named ‘Person of the Year’ doesn’t mean the magazine sees him as personable (ie: as in charming or likeable). Rather, the ‘person’ part refers to an individual who has inspired much debate amongst folks, and certainly an individual whose sole being is omnipresent and potent, be it in the realm of politics, business, or entertainment for that matter.
Trump, in fact, is prominent in all three areas – even his Twitter account provides us with huge laughs. His rise to power in the carnivalesque state of play that is contemporary politics certainly sees the ‘business’ and ‘entertainment’ factors upped several notches compared to, say, when Reagan was voted in.
Semiotic experts the world over are already dissecting the TIME cover, trying to spot more negative than positive connotations (“Does the letter ‘M’ above his head signify a pair of devil horns?”).
Whichever way you look at it, it’s sure to inspire more of that great debate and add to one of this year’s biggest conundrums: “Have the
Divided United States of America really just put a racist, sexist, megalomaniac into the most powerful seat in world politics, or a man with far more pressing things on his mind than mere historical quoting?” Antonino Tati