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Trump's Time Cover Is Not "Normalization"

Trump's Time Cover Is Not "Normalization"

time person of the year controversy

Time's choice for Person of the Year achieved exactly what it intended to do.

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Time magazine has been criticized for "normalizing" President-elect Donald Trump.

From assessing the cover photo of Trump, posed sinisterly, with half of his face looking at the camera, the other half obscured, and a dark background with his reflection casting a shadow, the cover of Time expressed the angst that many in the country feel when they look at photos of Trump.

But that doesn't mean it's "normalizing" him.

Several people on Twitter drew similarities between Trump's cover photo and that of Hitler, when the German leader was named Person of the Year in 1938. Hitler was sitting in a similar chair facing the camera, whereas Trump's photo is a reversal of that.

The magazine called Trump the "President of the Divided States of America." He wasn't happy about that. "When you say divided states of America, I didn't divide them," Trump told the Today show. "They're divided now. I think putting 'divided' is snarky, but again, it's divided. I'm not president yet. So I didn't do anything to divide."

In a statement explaining why Trump was chosen as Person of the Year, editor Nancy Gibbs wrote, "For reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it, for empowering a hidden electorate by mainstreaming its furies and live-streaming its fears, and for framing tomorrow's political culture by demolishing yesterday's, Donald Trump is Time's 2016 Person of the Year."

This puts him in a category with Vladimir Putin, Hitler, Stalin, Nixon, and Ayatollah Khomeini, as many people on Twitter were quick to point out. Also, let's not forget that prior to this cover, Trump was put on the cover twice during the presidential campaign.

The first cover, from the August 22 issue, featured an image of a melting Trump with the headline "Meltdown." The other cover, from the October 24 issue, featured Trump's face melting in a pool of his own head with the headline "Total Meltdown." As Voxpointed out, despite those two last covers, Trump beat all odds and secured the presidency.

The cover story describes Trump as doing "what no American politican had attempted in a generation, with defiant flair." And that will continue. It was just announced that Trump will stay on as an executive producer on The Apprentice, the show that gave him a national platform of celebrity outside of New York, where he was already well-known.

"Instead of painting a bright vision for a unified future, he magnified the divisions of the present, inspiring new levels of anger and fear within his country," wrote Michael Scherer, a reporter for the publication.

Despite the negative descriptions of Trump and the accompanying photos that made him and his associates, such as Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, look like movie villains, Trump celebrated his new title. "It's a great honor," the president-elect told Today's Matt Lauer.

Many on Trump's social media team shared the cover, celebrating along with the president-elect.

Trump called himself an avid reader of the magazine. "It means a lot, especially me growing up reading Time magazine," he told Today. And it's a very important magazine, and I've been lucky enough to be on the cover many times this year -- and last year. But I consider this a very, very great honor."

But did Trump really grow up reading Time, as he claims? If he had, he would understand this is not a time for celebration.

Post-election, there's been a lot of discussion of whether the "mainstream media" will be able to hold Trump accountable as we move into a new era of governance. The Blaze, a right-wing website owned by Glenn Beck, wrote an article with the headline, "Donald Trump clearly got the last laugh with Time and the mainstream media." The site pointed to how Time mocked Trump by claiming he was having a meltdown, and then a "total meltdown." "Looks like Trump got the last laugh," The Blaze wrote.

Anyone who read the cover story would think otherwise. There's no doubt Trump was flattered by being on the cover of Time, but it's doubtful he even read the article. What would he think of this description of his campaign?

"In a country that seemed to be bending toward its demographic future, with many straining to finally step outside the darker cycles of history, he proved that tribal instincts never die, that in times of economic strife and breakneck social change, a charismatic leader could still find the enemy within and rally the masses to his side."

It's not exactly how Time would describe President Obama or Hillary Clinton.

How Trump won the election continues to be a point of contention for many, including Jennifer Palmieri, the former communications director for Clinton's presidential campaign. She wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post Wednesday titled, "Our campaign lost the election. But Trump's team must own up to how he won." Palmieri wrote the article after getting into a spat with Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager, about how Trump empowered the white nationalist movement by giving white supremacists a platform.

Conway denied any such claims, but Time didn't. "His rhetoric had in fact opened up a new public square, where racists and mysogynists could boast of their views and claim themselves validated," the magazine wrote. "And to further enrage many Americans, Trump regularly peddled falsehoods, without offering any evidence, and then refused to back down from his claims."

Several Twitter users claimed the magazine went so far as to put Trump's head under the M to make it appear like he has devil horns. Bur "any resemblance to cats, bats or devil horns is entirely coincidental," said a statement issued by the publication.

Historically, the Person of the Year nod is given to the person who has the most influence on the country, for good or ill. There's no doubt that Time made the right call, despite what critics say. Trump has dominated political rhetoric since he announced his plans to run for for the presidency. It's true that the media failed to predict his upset win, but that's not to say that simply because a big-name publication puts the president-elect on the cover that it "normalizes" him or absolves him of contributing to the creation of what Time calls the "Divided States of America."

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Trump's Time Cover Is Not "Normalization"

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Yezmin Villarreal

Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.
Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.