The 1995 Blog

1995: The year the future began

What ‘Time’ forgot in its look back to 1995

“Does 1995 feel like just yesterday or a lifetime ago?” Time magazine asked in a recent writeup online that offered a puzzling look back at 1995.

Puzzling for what Time forgot, or failed to note.

HughGrant_mugshot

Hugh Grant: Made Time list (Photo credit: The Smoking Gun)

The writeup cited these 15 events or moments of 1995:

The World Trade Organization was officially established (January); the Denver International Airport opened after many delays (February); the singer Selena was shot to death (March); the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed (April); the final episode of the Full House television program was aired (May); the Superman actor Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident (May 27); South Africa won the Rugby World Cup (June); the actor Hugh Grant was arrested in his car for patronizing a prostitute in Los Angeles (June); the group Grateful Dead played its final concert (July); the massacre of Muslim men and boys took place in Srebrenica in Bosnia (July); the predecessor to eBay went live online (September); the animated motion picture Toy Story was released (November); Operation Desert Storm, code name for the 1990-91 Gulf War, officially ended (November), the final Calvin and Hobbes comic strip was published (December), and the jangly Jagged Little Pill was named, in 1996, the album of the year of 1995.

The list is interesting in its variety and in its nod to aspects of pop culture.

But some events in the Time lineup scarcely qualify as memorable (see, for example, the final episode of Full House) and some are fairly trivial or mundane (the creation of the WTO and the official end to the Gulf War).

Almost entirely absent are the events and developments of 1995 that have projected lasting effects and influence. There’s little sense of the year’s pivotal, watershed character. As I write in my new book, 1995: The Year the Future Began, the year was “a moment of surpassing exceptionality.”

One entry on Time’s 1995 list that does qualify as a momentous is the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and signaled the rise of security-oriented precautions and restrictions that have sincere become more intrusive and severe. The bombing was, and remains, the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in American history.

The attack in Oklahoma City is discussed in a chapter in my 1995 book, which additionally explores these topics, all of which have had lasting consequence:

  • the emergence of the Internet and World Wide Web into mainstream consciousness.
  • the double-murder trial of O.J. Simpson, which often was called the “Trial of the Century.”
  • the U.S.-brokered peace agreement ended the war in Bosnia, Europe’s most vicious conflict since World War II. (The massacre at Srebrenica gave momentum to negotiating an end to the war.)
  • the sexual dalliance between President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern 27 years his junior, that began during the partial shutdown of the federal government in mid-November 1995. The Clinton-Lewinsky affair led to his impeachment in 1998.

It’s commendable that the Time 1995 list included eBay. But it’s baffling that neither Amazon.com nor Netscape were included. Amazon began selling books online in 1995 and Netscape, the maker of a popular Web browser, went public in 1995 in a stunning IPO that catalyzed the dot.com boom of the late 1990s.

Also notably absent from Time’s lineup was its infamous 1995 “Cyberporn”cover story, which suggested the Internet was awash with little more than pornography.Cyberporn cover

It was an exaggeration, based on a highly selective study by an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University.

Time’s story, as I discuss in 1995, gave rise to “an early and impressive demonstration of the Internet’s capacity to debunk and deflate, to act as a potent vetting mechanism. In the days and weeks following publication of the ‘cyberporn’ story, the corrective power of the Internet was on display in a blizzard of condemnation and commentary posted at online discussion forums” that dissected and impugned the story.

For example, the online magazine HotWired took on the “cyberporn” story in a scathing article titled “Journoporn.”

In the face of such criticism, Time walked back from the story, acknowledging doubts about the study’s methodology and how its data were gathered.

“Cyberporn” was memorable as one of several prominent media failings that comprised a subtext of 1995.

WJC

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