Does anyone else feel like it's cheating when Time magazine gives its "Person of the Year" honour to some group or some thing that isn't actually a person?
On Wednesday, the magazine announced that its Person the Year is "The Ebola Fighters."
"For tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defences, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving, the Ebola fighters are Time's 2014 Person of the Year," Nancy Gibbs, the magazine's managing editor, explained.
They beat out a shortlist that included the Ferguson protesters, Russian President Vladimir Putin, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani and Alibaba founder Jack Ma.
The doctors, nurses, caregivers and others who have helped battle the disease deserve our praise and collective recognition. They are – all of them – central to what has arguably been the biggest world event in 2014.
But they are not a person.
Of course, this isn't the first time this has happened.
While last year's award went to Pope Francis and the year before that to U.S. President Barack Obama, it went to "The Protester" in 2011. The collective honour was meant for all those who participated in the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, the Tea Party movement, the Indignants Movement and other protests across the world, stretching the notion of "person" well beyond any meaning.
In its most desperately solicitous year, Time named "You" the Person of the Year in 2006.
You? As the magazine explained at the time, the honour went to all of us as content creators on the World Wide Web.
The year before, it went to "The Good Samaritans," otherwise known as Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates, who had organized the Live 8 concerts that year.
In 2003 we had "The American soldier" and the year before that "The Whistleblowers" took home the honour.
Other examples include: "The Peacemakers" (1993), "The Computer" ( given "Machine of the Year" honours in 1982), "American Women" (1975), "The Middle Americans" (1969), "The Apollo 8 Astronauts" (1968), "The Inheritor" (1966), "U.S. Scientists" (1960), "The Hungarian Freedom Fighter" (1956) and "The American Fighting-man" (1950).
In 1988, the magazine opted to award a "Planet of the Year," which went to "The Endangered Earth."
It bears repeating that none of this annoyance is in any way based on whether or not the recipients are deserving. All the examples, this year's included, are massive news-makers, no question.
But I've personally never understood people who feel this annual attention-grab must go to someone or something that is morally praiseworthy.
Everyone's favourite example here is Hitler, who has person of the year in 1939. Let's not forget that the magazine also gave the title to Joseph Stalin – twice.
If we're assessing the individual who had the greatest impact on the world in any given year, that person's moral standing doesn't seem all that relevant.
Part of the problem is that we refer to "Person of the Year" as an honour or an award, as I have here several times. We'd be better off going with the neutral term "title."
Time should finally figure out a better term for what has become one of its last reliable claims to cultural relevancy, however briefly lived it is each year.
"Person of the Year" is much better than the original title of "Man of the Year," for obvious reasons. But if the magazine is going to give the title to computers and vast social movements and literally every single one of us, they should come up with a better name.