Time magazine has published another one of those silly and meaningless lists some in the media occasionally and irritatingly compile to validate their self-importance. It is the 100 "most influential people in the world." I didn't make it, but then I don't make other lists like People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive," which must be an oversight.
Time never tells us what qualifies these people as influential. Dictionary.com defines influence as, "the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others."
Who on Time's list fits the definition of "influential"? Not Tim Russert, who is a terrific interviewer, but how much influence could he have at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning when millions are in church? "If it's Sunday, it is 'Meet the Press'" he signs off every week. No, if it's Sunday, for more people than watch his program, it is church.
Why is Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the list? Most of the world's people don't live in New York City, though on Friday afternoons while trying to escape by plane or car it sometimes seems that way. Maybe he's influential because of the high taxes and high tolls over which he presides.
Tony Blair? I haven't noticed an increase in fish and chips consumption since he was Britain's prime minister.
George Clooney? Chris Rock? I think Chris Rock is one of the funniest men alive, but I usually switch channels when he comes on because his vocabulary seems limited to a vulgarity that describes the sex act. That isn't talent, much less influence, unless Time wants to credit him with the dubious distinction of increasing the public utterance of the F-word.
Oprah Winfrey? For a lot of women, I suppose, but surely not a majority of women. Does anyone watch her show in China?
I'll grant the influence label to the head of Saudi Arabia's House of Saud, only because he continues to take more of our money by raising the price of oil. Real influence, though, would be American political leadership vowing to make us free of Saudi oil and its influence. I might vote for such a leader, especially if he (or she) came up with a slogan like, "Let Œem Eat Sand."
Rupert Murdoch is on the list and he is one of the few who qualify as influential, as his media empire grows and decides what programs will entertain us and what news to give us (disclosure: I am a paid Fox News Channel contributor).
I wonder why Jesus of Nazareth never makes the list? Over 20 centuries, uncounted numbers have testified to changed lives upon meeting Him. Changing a life from what it was to something better is real influence, isn't it?
What about the mother who influences her children by sacrificing for them and giving them opportunities she didn't have? I never see her on the list. And the couple that stays together and works out their problems, rather than seeking a "no fault" divorce? Don't they influence others?
The business leader who puts principles and ethics before profit and corner cutting surely influences his or her employees. Too bad we don't read more about them in the major media. Covering only the sleazy and corrupt is a form of influence because it contributes to the general cynicism about everything from politics to capitalism. And speaking of politics, there are honest politicians, but you rarely hear about them, as much of the media prefer to focus on the crooks.
John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are on Time's list of the most influential, but only the one who wins the election will have a chance to influence us. Even then, presidents only marginally influence our opinions, most of which we already hold before they are elected. Presidents rarely influence our actions or behavior, except when we don't like what they do.
Time's newspaper ad says these "most influential people are changing the world and making history." Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? I don't think so.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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