Global Agenda: ‘TIME’ will tell

The whole world, and especially America’s allies, pays the price for the mindset of America's elite.

December 9, 2010 23:32
4 minute read.
Global Agenda: ‘TIME’ will tell

global agenda 88. (photo credit: )

TIME magazine, perhaps even more than most contemporary news magazines, is very keen on “special” issues. Sometimes these are news driven, by elections or natural disasters, and sometimes the editors just invent a subject around which to build a special issue. Last week’s issue was of the latter sort. It carried the heading “special time frames issue,” and the time frame in question was 2000-2010 – seemingly a decade, but actually not. The actual headline of this cover story was not of the common garden “decade in review” sort, but something much more ambitious, guaranteed to grab the reader’s attention: WHAT REALLY HAPPENED.

The reason I’m highlighting this issue is not because of its pretentious name, nor the actual content – which was, inevitably, a mixed bag of some very interesting and insightful pieces, some boring and some downright silly. Far more telling, for me at least, was the cover, which was designed as a collage of major events that occurred in the period under review.

Apparently, although I wouldn’t swear to this, the size of the box and the font announcing each event was supposed to indicate its relative importance; so that 9/11 stood out and got a picture appended to it, as did a few other items, although the only one of comparable size was “Bush: mission accomplished.” Why the designers and editors thought that deserved a bigger box than “Obama runs for president,” especially in a liberal magazine, is unclear.

But these are all secondary matters. The fascinating thing about this cover of an international magazine, was that its “menu” of the key events of 2000-2010 was presented entirely from an American perspective – and that this approach simply will not do any more. Indeed, it could well be argued that “what really happened” between 2000 and 2010 was that the United States lost enough of its hegemonic position that the rest of the world is not prepared to put up with its blind egocentrism any more.

The US of the second half of the 20th century, which could go its own way and do its own thing without giving a toss what anyone else thought about it, demised somewhere between 2000 and 2010. Maybe it was on 9/11, maybe it was in the financial crisis, or maybe it was a combination of those and other events. But what’s for certain is that the world has changed dramatically. However, most Americans, even the editors of a major international news magazine, have not grasped the extent and implications of that change, let alone internalized them.

Obviously, every country has its own agenda, its own perspective and its own history of the last 10 to 11 years. Thus, from an Israeli perspective, critical events during this period that shaped the country’s development and psyche for many years to come include the suicide-bombing campaign of 2001-2004, the severe recession of those years, the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and so on.

But, on an objective basis, there is no reason for these to show up on a one-page global summary – although the second intifada was far more important to the world as a whole than either the “Beltway sniper” or the “Virginia Tech shootings” that are both included. Thus the overall impact of the America-oriented presentation that TIME put together was part laughable and part pathetic.

Example? Most people would agree that the rise of China to the number-two economy in the world was the most important single development on the global scene in the last decade. But TIME sees things differently: “Chinese export boom” gets a tiny box, half the size of the “Nicolas Sarkozy elected” box adjacent to it. However, “Chinese earthquake” (remember it? I don’t) gets a box much bigger than both of those items combined – although still less than the “Haiti quake,” presumably because that was nearer home.

Example? Sarkozy and Fidel Castro get boxes, but Lula, the president of Brazil from 2002-2010 and who oversaw that country’s emergence from perennial loser to the powerhouse of Latin America, doesn’t get a mention. You would think that Latin America would carry weight in the US, but you would be quite wrong – it never has and it still doesn’t.

Example? It’s not just politics. Why Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories but not Roger Federer’s tennis achievements? Why the Sydney and Beijing Olympics and not the World Cups held in Japan/Korea and German, which attracted larger audiences? In short, TIME magazine has completely missed “what really happened” in 2000-2010. If it were just a journalistic problem, it wouldn’t matter. But this is an accurate reflection of the mind-set of the American elite – which makes it everyone’s problem, because the whole world, and especially America’s allies, is paying the price.

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