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War in Ukraine. Zelensky as Hitler the American magazine’s man of the year? We explain the manipulation

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A compilation of the covers of “Time” magazine with Adolf Hitler and Volodymyr Zelensky is circulating on social media. This message is supposed to show the president of Ukraine in a negative light. We explain why such a list is unjustified.

One of the messages of Russian propaganda says that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is like Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Third German Reich. In the middle of the year we have already written about the false message comparing the photo of Olena and Volodymyr Zelensky hugging, published by the magazine “Vogue“, with an allegedly joint photograph of Adolf Hitler and his wife Ewa Braun, which was also to be published in this magazine in 1939.

Now advertisement by American biweekly “Time” (until March 2020 it was published as a weekly – ed.) of the President of Ukraine as the Man of the Year resulted in a new version of this message appearing on the web. This time the allegation is that a German criminal also received the title 84 years ago. Internet users to social media posts add a set of illustrationswhich are supposed to depict magazine covers with Hitler from 1938 and Zelensky from 2022. Sometimes the cover of Time is also shown with Joseph Stalin as Man of the Year (he was twice in 1939 and 1942).

Such juxtapositions are intended to show the president of Ukraine in a negative light. We found critical comments in various languages, also in Polish: “History repeats itself”; “Man of the Year, Beast of the Year, or who is nominated by Time”; “Is this a symptom of the impending World War III?”; “Interesting choices”; “On the bumper of democracy. Now and then” – Internet users wrote.

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The case was also discussed by the first channel of the Russian state television “Rossiya 1”, which was noted and briefly discussed on Twitter BBC journalist Francis Scarr.

We explain why the titles given to Hitler and Zelensky cannot be equated.

Internet users compare Zelensky to HitlerTwitter

It’s about influence. Also the negative one

In 1927, Time magazine began its Man of the Year award. In 1999, the name of the award was changed to – Man of the Year. Indeed, this title was given to Adolf Hitler in 1938, a year before he unleashed World War II. As checked by the portal Australian Associated Press Fact Check since at least 2016, posts, graphics and memes have been circulating on social media criticizing the magazine’s editors for this choice. They are accompanied by English-language comments, such as “What’s the moral of this? Mainstream media is not your friend”; “Verily Time is a propaganda tool” (ed. trans.).

The title of Man of the Year is awarded not only to outstanding personalities in a positive sense, but also to those perceived negatively. In the latter case, this award should not be treated as an honour. In the face of repeated controversy, the magazine has already clarified this several times. For example, in 2014 informedwhat is the criterion for awarding this title by the editors: “The person or persons with the greatest influence on world events, on our lives – positive or negative (Editor’s bold) and which best embodied what was important that year.”

“A lot of the news is bad news and a lot of the people behind the news were very powerful [w sensie negatywnym]” – continues to write the magazine and reminds that the title of Man of the Year in 1938 was given to Adolf Hitler, and a year later and again in 1942 – to Joseph Stalin. “These men have had a tremendous impact not only over the years, but throughout the century,” states the magazine. Recall that other Time nominations were also considered controversial. Such a title was also given to, for example, the Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev in 1957, or in 1979 the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini.

In this article “Hitler continues to be a symbol of evil. 130 years since birthpublished by Time in 2019, one journalist discussed the magazine’s awarding of Hitler as Person of the Year, writing: “The choice was in line with the saying of Time founder Henry Luce, who stated that the award of the title The Man of the Year award is not an honour, but it should be an honor given to the event maker with the greatest good or bad influence on events in the world.”

Time in 1938 on Hitler: The Greatest Threat

The currently popular message from social media equating Hitler and Zelensky because both of them received the title of Man of the Year is manipulation. The pronunciation of these two titles is diametrically different.

The article in which the title was given to the leader of the Third Reich was very critical of him. The entire archival edition of the magazine from January 2, 1938 is available on the Time website. The article predicted – as it later turned out to be unfortunately accurate – that the German dictator could make 1939 memorable. Time magazine then rated him as the greatest threat to the democratic, freedom-loving world. “What he did terrified civilized men and women. Civil rights and liberties disappeared,” wrote the weekly in 1938.

“Time” in 2022 on Zelensky: contagious courage

84 years later, the same weekly presented Volodymyr Zelensky in a completely different light. The title was awarded to him “for proving that courage can be as contagious as fear; for inspiring people and nations to unite in defense of freedom; for reminding the world of the fragility of democracy and peace.” As indicated by the editors, this year’s choice did not raise any doubts. “He was the clearest we can remember.”

According to Time magazine, “Zelensky’s success as a wartime leader is due to his contagious courage.” “It spread through the political leadership in Ukraine in the early days of the invasion, when it was important for everyone to know that the president was nearby,” it said. “Time” emphasizes that Zelensky did not evacuate from the war-torn country. “After Russian bombs started falling on February 24, his decision not to flee Kiev but to stay and seek support for Ukraine was decisive.”

“Zelensky’s biography does not indicate his willingness to fight. He has never served in the army and has shown no interest in these matters. He has been president only since April 2019,” indicates “Time”. He adds that working as an actor helped Zelenskiy maintain his composure even under pressure. “He knew how to understand the crowd, react to their moods and expectations. Now the whole world became his audience” – it was emphasized.

“Volodymyr Zelensky electrified the world in a way we have not seen in decades (…). The impact of this story on 2022 is the quintessence of what it was created for [koncepcję] Man of the Year; the idea that tragic events on the global stage are shaped for better and worse – by the talents, priorities, fears and weaknesses of individuals.

Bottom line: Social media messaging lacks context, making it misleading. Adolf Hitler was named Man of the Year for his negative impact on world events. Zelensky – for his heroic attitude at the time of the Russian invasion and the ongoing war in his country.

Main photo source: Twitter

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