The Atlantic magazine has released its 2012 list of Brave Thinkers,”people risking their reputations, fortunes, and lives in pursuit of big ideas,” and two of the winners might surprise you.
Mixed in among the likes of Fawzia Koofi, an Afghani woman running for president of her country despite death threats, and Taylor Wilson, an 18-year-old skipping college to find a way to harness energy from nuclear fusion, are two familiar names — Lena Dunham and Michael Bloomberg.
The Atlantic honors the actress in HBO’s series “Girls” for her “radical message” that “women do not necessarily exist to be liked.” This doesn’t seem like a new concept, and the magazine avoids discussing a disturbing instance of Dunham radicalism: her creepy and insulting “First Time” ad for the Obama campaign. The ad compares first-time voting to losing one’s virginity, harping on how uncool it is for a young woman to say she hasn’t done either. Apparently Dunham’s “pursuit of big ideas” includes the message that women don’t necessarily exist to be respected, either.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also on the list for what the magazine calls “the Bloomberg way.” A look at the ideas Bloomberg has championed, however, reveals how overbearing this “way” has been. For example, Bloomberg pushed and passed the large soda ban, something that earned him criticism and the nickname “Nanny Bloomberg.” If throwing the rights and individual choices of his city’s residents out the window is considered a brave big idea, then let’s add some dictators to the list. Bloomberg claims he is fighting obesity, but even good intentions can cross into dangerous territory if they come at the risk of personal freedoms.
It is also interesting to note that on The Atlantic‘s website readers can rate these brave thinkers from one star — “not taking much risk” — to five stars — “risking it all.” Dunham is ranked lowest out of all 22 honorees, with an average of 1.8 stars at the time of this article. Even the “Sticker Lady,” who was jailed for vandalizing Singapore with stickers, has garnered an average of 2.9 stars. Bloomberg is middle of the pack, with an average of 3.2 stars.
Surely two other people in the world must exist who have done more original — and constructive — thinking than Dunham and Bloomberg. Fingers crossed for next year’s list.