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Opinion
The Unspin Room

Dalton Delan: Crime Magazine's Worst Ones of the Year

With the seating of the 118th United States Congress earlier this month, we are in for a bumpy year. The endemic here and war over there stretch on through a long winter in the world.

About 10,000 a week stream across our border. Shadow jockeys ready at the gate to declare candidacy for the 2024 presidential mud slog.

Media moguls blow hard and swallow lesser potentates. The bad get worse. In December, the shell of Time magazine made its choice for a good guy “Person of the Year”: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and “the spirit of Ukraine.”

Looking ahead, as an alum of the once-great Time empire, I am taking early nominations for someone closer to home: the Unspin Room’s official “Worst One of the Year” winner.

That’s right, folks, we need to salt our optimism with a little pessimistic pepper. It would be a wonderful world worthy of Louis Armstrong if good guys determined the fate of nations. Unfortunately, the energy seems to adhere more to the kryptonite crew than the karmic crusaders.

So in no particular order, here are a few advance nominees as 2023 cover criminals.

David Zaslav

Who is this, you ask? The $250 million dollar man is the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery.

If we’re calling out corporate carpetbaggers, isn’t Elon Musk top of the list? There’s little we can add to the legacy of that rocket man. It is precisely because Mr. Zaslav has flown under the popular radar, while picking up an obscene compensation package with a ratio of more than 1,000 times his average employee, that he makes the list. Last month, his acquisition of Time Warner added $1 billion on top of the $4.3 billion in pretax restructuring charges already announced.

That isn’t even what gets my goat. It’s that Discovery, his lowest-common-denominator trash-fire — home of “Dirty Mudder Truckers,” “Naked and Afraid” and “Hogs Gone Wild”— now dictates the destiny of a class act whose roots go back to Henry Luce and the Warner brothers, Time magazine and “Casablanca.” His first creative call: canceling the “Batgirl” movie starring a Latina actress. I can’t wait till he greenlights “Son of Flip or Flop.”

Xi Jinping

Readers of this column know not only am I no fan of Russia’s Raskolnikov, President Vladimir Putin, but that I worry even more about Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi is architect of his disastrous COVID-19 lockdown, as well as a laundry list of repression.

It starts with the Xinjiang region and its 11 million Uyghur Muslims, and stretches to Hong Kong, a city on a hill being brought low.

Kyrsten Sinema

Though on a far smaller scale, a new villain of this bad pol derby is Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona’s senatorial spoiler. She couldn’t resist rolling back midterm gains, as well as the good faith of voters, to bask in the footlights independently.

Maybe Mr. Zaslav will remake “The Odd Couple” starring Kyrsten Sinema and fellow Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Harry Styles

With bad actors, looking ahead instead of a backslap, let’s skip over Will Smith crying Oscar and focus on jokers still strutting their time upon the stage. You can’t beat the poor form of boy-toy Harry Styles letting director Olivia Wilde take all the heat for their on-set romcom, giving the lie to “Don’t Worry Darling.” A real gentleman wouldn’t have let the sexism land solely at Ms. Wilde’s feet while the singer, whose hair does his acting for him, dances off. We won’t hammer down on Kevin Spacey; the British can do that for us.

TikTok

No “Worst One” list would be complete without a special shout-out to TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance. It proudly pollutes 100 million immature minds monthly. With its ability to monitor keystrokes, and the invisible line between itself and our new cold warrior Xi Jinping in Beijing, it recently found itself in the crosshairs of Congress.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was yesterday’s deer-in-the-headlights at hearings on the Hill. A report last month from the Center for Countering Digital Hate revealed that within 30 minutes of a 13-year-old getting on TikTok — and at times as little as three minutes — the platform’s algorithms start to recommend content which has been linked to eating disorders and self-harm. Gavel down.

It isn’t just obvious perps who may earn our cover treatment. A “Worst One of the Year” may sneak up on us, while the usual criminals keep at it. We know what Donald Trump is, just as we know that former Veep Mike Pence should slink away after his literary exercise in self-justification. Let’s leave the primary fight to governing mouth-of-the-south Ron DeSantis. Similarly, no-one need waste breath on Kevin McCarthy; his far-right, elephantine peanut gallery will make his life miserable by themselves.

Choose your own cover girl or boy. Whomever makes your rogues’ gallery, remember: It can always get worse. Tweet that.

Dalton Delan can be followed on Twitter @UnspinRoom. He has won Emmy, Peabody and duPont-Columbia awards for his work as a television producer.

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