Time Magazine named Elon Musk “Person of the Year” on Monday, as you’ve probably heard. The profile shows Musk as a dreamer and manic genius with a spiky personality more reminiscent of Steve Jobs than Jeff Bezos, boasting of his ambitious goals and accomplishments before briefly mentioning about a third of the way down – surprise, surprise – him is not a nice guy!
The story also almost half admits that Time owners Marc and Lynne Benioff happen to be investors in one of Musk’s companies, SpaceX. Marc Benioff revealed the investment in June and in the months since then has not shied away from sending Musk love on social media and calling him a visionary leader in the press.
& Congratulations @elonmusk & @SpaceX! With our Heros of @ inspiration4x, the light of consciousness will be brightly illuminated!
– Marc Benioff (@Benioff) September 18, 2021
(Speaking of Netflix, Benioff is also a second cousin of Game of Thrones co-creator David Benioff, who is currently working on a slew of Netflix projects. But that’s neither here nor there.)
It’s not that Time or Benioff tried to bury the club, but I can also imagine that if my media ethics professor got involved now, he would likely say that maybe this link should have been posted at the top the history. Actually, he would have thrown up reflexively if he thought that people like Benioff and Bezos would have “saved journalism” and then passed out from fatigue.
The Benioffs “have no part in the editorial decisions of TIME”, says the disclaimer. Benioff, who is also CEO of Salesforce, did articles for Time like “Yes, We Can Grow 1 Trillion Trees to Fight Climate Change” and “What I Learned From Colin Powell”. At least in these cases, the disclaimer is located directly under his byline.
Benioff bought Time in September 2018, comparing it to Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post in 2013. A New York Times story of the Time acquisition following its announcement said that Benioff’s main motivation was “to keep the title.”
Mr Benioff said his decision to buy Time was motivated by a desire to keep the title. He said he didn’t expect the magazine to reflect his own social or political views, which he wasn’t afraid to share. In 2015, for example, he threatened to downsize Salesforce’s Indiana business in protest against a state law that critics say discriminates against gay and transgender communities.
Since then, he has taken a position on the gender pay gap and recently commented on the problematic aspects of social media. Mr. Benioff has an affinity for Buddhism, attends meditation retreats, and installs meditation rooms throughout the Salesforce Tower.
“We are not planning to be operational or to be involved in the editing,” he wrote in a text message. “We’re just administrators of a historic and iconic brand.”
Still, if Time would ever name Musk Person of the Year, 2021 would be a good year for it. The publication defines the award as “the individual or group who has shaped the most for better or for worse over the past 12 months”. It goes on:
The Person of the Year is a marker of influence, and few people have more influence over life on earth, and possibly life outside of earth, than Musk. In 2021, Musk is not only the richest person in the world, but perhaps the richest example of massive change in our society.
A marker of influence, for better or for worse. Well, influence is certainly what Musk had, with stock prices skyrocketing and cascading on the whims of his crappy tweets, that same year he was named the richest person in the world, then lost the title and then won it back. I don’t agree with the choice on its own, but the tone of the accompanying profile is generally quite laudatory. It inevitably gets messy when billionaires own media companies that put their billionaire friends and business interests on pedestals.
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