Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What's Wrong With This Picture?

From the BBC News:

"Former US President Ronald Reagan has been voted the "greatest American" of all time by his fellow citizens.
Mr Reagan, who died last year aged 93, topped a list of 10 contenders, which featured six former presidents.
He edged out Abraham Lincoln, who abolished slavery, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Some of the most notable names of US history such as Albert Einstein and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, did not make the top 10.
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey is the highest ranked female contender at ninth place, making her the greatest American woman. "

Is anyone else shaking their heads at this?

I think the reason why Ronald Regan topped the list had little to do with his greatness as a human being. Instead, I propose that the reason why President Regan as voted #1 was because he was incredibly media-savvy.

The Poll itself is suspect, it was organized by the Discovery Channel and AOL (part of media giants themselves, so voters may not be fully representative of the american population.) But let's suppose, for arguments sake that they were able to poll a large section of the Country and get a moderately accurate representation of their feelings on this matter. The list is as follows:

Top 10 greatest Americans
1 Ronald Reagan
2 Abraham Lincoln
3 Martin Luther King
4 George Washington
5 Benjamin Franklin
6 George W Bush
7 Bill Clinton
8 Elvis Presley
9 Oprah Winfrey
10 Franklin D Roosevelt

Excluding the fact that America is a young country, I feel a disproportionate number of people in the top 10 rose to public life within the age of mass media. This then, may not be a list of the greatest American per se, but rather a list of the most popular Americans. After all, it would take work to actually find the greatest American not represented in the media, and who has time for that these days?


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