Despite Criticism, Time Magazine Rightly Picks Protesters As Person of The Year 2011


This year Time Magazine's “Person Of the Year” honor went to millions of people: “The Protesters.” The text on the cover read “From Arab Spring to Athens, From Occupy Wall Street to Moscow.” The choice was a controversial move, as many were put in mind of the 2006 Person Of the Year: “You.” Some felt that it was another generalizing cop-out by Time (“So… it's me again, minus the mirror,” tweeted New York Times journalist J. David Goodman) and that a single person — or at least a single movement — should have been put front and center.

Time's online poll revealed that the person whom most visitors wanted to be Person Of the Year was the same person almost as many other people thought was least deserving — Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey. Other candidates up for consideration: the “1%,” TV star Kim Kardashian, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi, Kate Middleton, and President Barack Obama (it would have been his second such honor). Several opinion pieces popped up immediately after the announcement, declaring preference for disgraced French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident artist, or yet another candidate up for consideration.

Brian Kilmeade, on Fox and Friends, expressed disgust at the equation of the Wall Street protesters and the Egyptian activists, expressing his preference for other candidates such as Steve Jobs, Gabrielle Giffords, or SEAL Team Six (the Marines unit which killed Osama bin Laden).

This year happened to be a particularly exciting year, and every one of the 31 candidates on the Time website was someone who would have made an interesting cover story; however, this year was, truly, and rightly the year of the protester.

Who would deny that the overthrow of several countries' despotic governments and the expression of discontent by dozens of others has been the most important event this year? Steve Jobs, though he changed the way we interact with music and technology, cannot claim to have affected that many lives in that significant a way. Whether or not you agree with the message of some of the protesters, it is very clearly their time in the spotlight.

Speculations are already rising as to who the Person Of the Year next year will be. Although it is of course impossible to tell what elections will be won, or what governments overthrown, or what culture revived, or what technology invented, there are two people likely to be in the running: Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Many have noticed the dearth of serious female candidates for the Person Of the Year award (the only female frontrunner this year was Kate Middleton; the last Time female honoree alone on the cover was in 1986). Both have expressed great promise and have held up surprisingly well under political and social pressure; both have long political futures ahead of them and will serve their constituents well. We'll just have to wait and see.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons