Time magazine revealed its pick for the 2017 Person of the Year this week on the Today Show, which, to some, seemed like a terrible decision.
Let me explain.
The 2017 Person of the Year is not a single person. It’s a group. It’s the “Silence Breakers,” the people who’ve come forward recently to allege they’re the victims of sexual abuse. The "Silence Breakers" are the “voices that launched a movement,” Time explained, referring to the growing “Me Too” movement, which seeks to uncover systemic sexism and sexual misconduct.
The movement has already uncovered alleged wrongdoings by high-profile entertainers and media moguls, including Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin and Matt Lauer.
Time’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal, explained the magazine's 2017 choice during an interview Wednesday on the Today Show.
The “Me Too” movement is the “fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by women and some men too,” he said.
"The idea that influential, inspirational individuals shape the world could not be more apt this year," Felsenthal added. "For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, The Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year.”
The optics of announcing the 2017 pick on the Today Show was not lost on certain commentators, including Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson and Emily Stewart, who noted the incongruity of revealing the “Silence Breakers” on a show that was very recently home to disgraced former host Matt Lauer.
“It is perhaps ironic that Time’s big reveal took place on Today, which just last week fired longtime host Matt Lauer over allegations of sexual harassment,” they wrote.
Lauer’s alleged transgressions include everything from making lewd and obscene comments to female co-workers, to gifting a staffer a variety of sex toys to allegedly raping a subordinate in his office.
Talk radio host Dan O’Donnell added elsewhere, “Anyone else notice the sad irony of @TIME naming the sexual misconduct 'Silence Breakers' as Persons of the Year on the [TODAY show], which covered up Matt Lauer's sexual misconduct for two decades?”
Sure, there's certainly an amount of dark irony here, but focusing on the fact that the Today Show is reeling from its own sexual abuse scandal is missing a much bigger point.
Rather than ask “Why?," perhaps let’s ask, “Where else?”
Was Felsenthal supposed to go on CBS, where former host Charlie Rose was fired recently amid allegations that he, too, sexually harassed and abused female staffers? Or was Felsenthal supposed to appear on the ABC network, where former political director Mark Halperin reportedly degraded and forced himself on his female subordinates?
See where we're going with this?
The fact that each of the three networks has been touched by sexual misconduct scandals only speaks to how far-reaching the problem is. At each network, abuse and harassment appears to have thrived for decades thanks to a system of enablers and co-conspirators.
Shining a light on what is clearly a systemic problem spanning multiple industries is precisely the point of “Me Too.” Without even really trying, Time managed to drive home the entire point of the movement. It didn’t matter which network hosted Felsenthal's announcement. The point would’ve been made all the same regardless of network acronym.