Mark Tapson is the Shillman Fellow on Popular Culture for the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The end of one year and the beginning of another is a natural time for reflection, both personally and culturally, and one way to examine ourselves as a culture is to think upon the figures we held up as the most admired persons in the past year. The people we define as heroes and role models also define us and what virtues and values we consider important. Unsurprisingly, as polarized as Americans are politically, left and right have sharply contrasting heroic ideals.
Of course, there are many examples of heroic and/or admirable behavior that we can all agree on: a man who pulled a driver from a burning vehicle; a high school coach who defused a possible school shooting with compassion; a cancer-stricken teen who founded a movement to help sick, homeless, and foster children. But beyond those, there is a stark difference between heroes embraced solely by the leftist media and those only the right would claim.
Let’s begin with Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” selection. Because the news media lean almost exclusively left, teen climate Cassandra and globe-trotting anti-capitalist scold Greta Thunberg predictably was chosen for 2019. Of course she was – did anyone imagine that token Republican Rudy Giuliani, who was among the final ten candidates, would win? In all fairness, Time did select Giuliani in 2001, amid the patriotic spirit that swelled across the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But these are different times; now the spirit swelling across the country is a wave of sheer panic about the environmental apocalypse that the left assures us is coming within the next twelve years if we do not jettison our exploitative capitalist system and embrace Green New Deal socialism.
In the Time cover photo, Ms. Thunberg poses fearlessly and humorlessly in the face of breaking waves of the oceans that Barack Obama promised to heal. Like the heroic proletariat of Soviet agitprop posters, she gazes toward a glorious collectivist future in which the government bestows equality upon all and the planet flourishes once again as humans revert to a pre-industrial economy.
In all fairness, “Person of the Year” is not necessarily intended as an honorific. Time bestows this designation on whomever had the greatest impact on the year’s news, regardless of whether he or she is an admirable human being. Thus, the honor has gone to such notable monsters as Osama bin Laden, Vladimir Putin, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Adolph Hitler, and Josef Stalin (twice). Time has even awarded, probably with gritted teeth, Donald Trump with the title. In that respect, the media-ubiquitous Thunberg is a justifiable selection. But Time’s reverential profile of her demonstrates their admiration for her and support for her fear-mongering crusade.
By contrast to Time’s Thunberg, FrontPage Mag chose to honor the freedom-loving, Trump-supporting Hong Kong protester as its Person of the Year. Imagine Huffpost doing that. The right-wing Washington Free Beacon chose “the American troops” as its “Men of the Year.” Try to imagine the leftist Slate or Salon doing the same.
Thunberg isn’t the only Progressive icon celebrated by the left-leaning media at year’s end. Sports Illustrated recently unveiled its 2019 Sportsperson of the Year – foul-mouthed soccer lesbian Megan Rapinoe – in a hagiographic profile in which the magazine scourges itself for its “entrenched gender biases” (Rapinoe is only the fourth woman to take Sportsperson of the Year in the award’s 66-year history). Rapinoe, who was also shortlisted for Time’s Person of the year, first drew controversy by protesting during the national anthem in solidarity with cop-hating former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, another hero of the left who has just been lionized – again – by sports apparel giant and China sycophant Nike with another signature shoe.
On the SI cover, Rapinoe is posed in men’s dress shoes and wielding a sledgehammer, because “she’s smashing the patriarchy,” according to SI. Sure, whatever. Asked what expression she wants to have in the cover photo, Rapinoe replied, “What about a smirk? It’s kind of like a little, F— you, I’m coming.” This may play well to her leftist fans, but the right does not consider smirking narcissism an heroic or admirable quality.
Granted, Rapinoe led the soccer team to a World Cup championship – kudos for that – so it’s reasonable to consider her for the award. But does anyone think that she would be Sportsperson of the Year if she were MAGA hat-wearing and “heteronormative”? On the contrary, it is precisely because of her leftist activism and patriarchy-smashing that SI picked her – just as Nike picked Kaepernick as spokesperson not because of his on-the-field achievements, but because of his political radicalism.
According to a year-end Gallup poll, President Trump tied with former President Barack Obama as the most admired man of 2019. Former First Lady Michelle Obama is the most admired woman of 2019 in America, for the second year in a row. Pleasantly surprising, considering how the mainstream media shun her, First Lady Melania Trump came in second place. I think it is fair to assume that the votes were divided sharply along politically partisan lines. The left idolizes the “let’s fundamentally transform America” Obamas; the right favors the “let’s make America great again” Trumps.
As for admired celebrities, the left reveres Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferers like Jane Fonda, who has trendily turned to protesting climate change, or hysterical actress/activist Alyssa Milano, or any number of profanity-spewing, deplorables-hating Hollywood stars. The right’s most beloved celebrity activist is arguably actor Gary Sinise, who has quietly committed himself off-camera to improving the lives of wounded veterans. From the Gary Sinise Foundation website: “We serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. We do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.” Every single day of 2019, Sinise did more concrete good in the world for a worthy cause than all of Hollywood’s virtue-signaling egotists put together did in the entire year.
Among “ordinary” Americans, an overnight hero of the right who emerged at year’s end is Jack Wilson (pictured above), a 71-year-old former reserve deputy sheriff, who stopped what surely would have been a ghastly mass shooting by dropping a shotgun-wielding killer with a single shot during services at the West Freeway Church of Christ in the Fort Worth suburb of White Settlement. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” Wilson told reporters, which is exactly what selfless heroes say. “I see myself as doing what needed to be done to take out the evil threat.” Wilson is a living refutation of the left’s denial that good guys with guns are the best defense against bad guys with guns, which is why the left hasn’t applauded his lifesaving courage under fire. On the contrary, leftists have lamented that Wilson and several other parishioners were armed in the first place; apparently they would prefer that the churchgoers be unarmed and slaughtered rather than empowered to defend themselves.
This is just a smattering of samples (others that come to mind: for the left, the so-called “whistleblower” of Trump’s purported Ukraine scandal; for the right, Rep. Elise Stefanik, who emerged as a key Trump defender in the impeachment hearing), but to sum things up bluntly: the figures most admired in 2019 by the left are anti-Trump, anti-capitalist, and/or anti-American; the heroes of the right are pro-Trump, pro-freedom, and pro-American. This fundamental difference is one that not only defines America as we enter 2020, but will define the choice America makes come November.