Time Magazine has announced its person of the year: the protestor.
Protesters are ready to rumble in Egypt and Tunisia if democracy and freedom seem too compromised. Emboldened protesters may yet sweep away regimes in places like Jordan and Yemen. In Libya, a bloody revolution, assisted by NATO, brought down the 42-year-old regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The protorevolution is still under way in Syria, where thousands of protesters have been killed.
And in Russia, the recipe for surprising protest circa 2011 — pseudodemocratic regime overreach, high Internet use, robust new media and suddenly galvanized middle-class youth — is being baked and served. On Dec. 5, after Putin's party, United Russia, did badly in parliamentary elections despite apparent ballot-box stuffing, more than 5,000 Muscovites gathered to chant, "Russia without Putin!" and called for his arrest. It was the largest Russian antiregime protest of the 21st century — and just as in Tunis and Madrid and New York City, nobody saw it coming.
While I, of course, agree that the protests this year were of enormous significance, I cannot help but feel that this award is somewhat contrived.
The inclusion of the Occupy movements across the United States in the same article as the bloody overthrow of Gaddafi? Seems a bit much.
That is not to say I wish to undermine the importance of events in Egypt, Libya, and so on. My point is simply that Time's award seems an attention-grabbing measure, more than it is a genuine endorsement of the importance and humanitarian significance of the protests and revolutions that have occurred (and continue today) across the world.