04/29/2011 04:41 pm ET Updated Jun 29, 2011

Think Again: The Folly of the Time 100

It happens every spring -- or at least has done so now for the past eight years. Time publishes a special issue in which it names the 100 most influential people in the world and then throws a party to celebrate how special it makes everybody feel to be part of it.

I don't mind the party. Advertisers are an insecure lot and need to be stroked, even if they're not invited to sit at the cool table with Chris Matthews, Jonathan Franzen, and Patti Smith. What I do mind, however, is the "program" they print to go with the dinner, which is treated everywhere else as a copy of an actual edition of the newsweekly Time, with real journalism and everything.

The Time 100, however, is the opposite of journalism. It is a series of pre-packaged lies and public relations exercises that, in many cases, are unlikely even to be authored by the people claiming the bylines. Were they to be taken seriously, they would fall afoul of every conflict-of-interest rule known to the profession (and a few they may have invented on their own).

I wrote about last year's issue, focusing on the oddity in particular of inviting Ted Nugent to lie on behalf of Sarah Palin. But even the adoring profiles that did not lie--or were not written by lunatics--still enjoyed zero journalistic value, and were useful or significant only to the people who got to put framed copies of their alleged wonderfulness on the walls of their studies.

Well, why mess with a formula that apparently works? I loved Amy Adams in Mark Wahlberg's Christmas flick, "The Fighter," which garnered her an Oscar nomination, losing only to Melissa Leo in the same film. If you knew Amy, might you expect that she might hope to work with Wahlberg again? If so, is it likely that she--or her publicist--would say anything in Time that had not been previously vetted by Wahlberg's PR people?

Let's see. According to Adams's tribute to Wahlberg: He's apparently "good-looking, a commanding presence, and a casual swagger that can only be associated with true confidence." Check. Has "deeper character." Check. Is "insightful, instinctual and extremely funny." Check. He "never shies away from the truth." Check. And "puts people at ease with his honesty, because people will always respond to truth." Gotcha. He's "a powerhouse ... a work ethic that is incomparable. He is where he is because of his hard work, his talent and his sheer force of will. I have no doubt that he can and will accomplish anything he sets his mind to. I can't wait to see what's next."

I'll bet she can't.

The issue is filled with these sorts of conflicts. Did you expect Defense Secretary Gates to tell you anything about David Petraeus that is not straight out of the Pentagon propaganda desk?

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