As it has for the past eight decades, Time magazine selected its person of the year Wednesday morning. The distinction goes to the man or woman (or sometimes group or idea) the magazine’s editors believe had the greatest impact during the past twelve months, for good or for ill. In 2011, they chose: “The Protester.”
“No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent,” the magazine writes. “In 2011, protesters didn’t just voice their complaints; they changed the world.”
Over the past year, “the protester” has voiced dissent against authoritarian leaders, first in Tunisia, and then in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. The protester in Spain and in Greece, which even had its own protest dog, struggled with a floundering economy. The protester voiced anger over possibly rigged elections, in countries as diverse as Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the U.S., the Occupy Wall Street protester began demonstrating first in New York, and then in Washington, Chicago, and cities as small as Trenton, N.J.
In this year’s report, Time pieced together what all these revolutions have in common, why they protest, and what the legacy of the year’s protests will be. The magazine profiles a citizen journalist who started the live stream for Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park, and a protester in Mexico who has had enough of the drug violence in that country.
“The protester” this year beat out Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, newly royal Kate Middleton, Navy Adm. William McRaven, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
“There was a lot of consensus among our people,” Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel told the “Today” show about the choice of the protester. “It felt right.”
“Many are outraged by this choice and will hold a demo,” joked Andrew Stroehlein, of the International Crisis Group, of the choice.
At first glance, the social media universe greeted the choice with few complaints — unlike with last year’s contentious decision. So many people were upset when Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg took the title over WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Time editor spoke out in defense of the cover.
There are some hints of dissent. “Time's ‘Person of the Year’ is the person they did not put on their U.S. edition covers,” The Post’s Anup Kaphle wrote on Twitter.
In a viral screengrab, Internet users complained about the Dec. 5 cover story selection. Time Magazine put a protester with the headline “Revolution Redux on the cover of its Europe, Asia and South Pacific editions, but opted for the headline “Why Anxiety is Good For You” on the cover of its U.S. edition.
Although Time’s now-famous distinction began as “Man of the Year” in 1927, evolving to “Person of the Year” later, the magazine has in recent years rewarded ideas and groups, including its choice of “The American Soldier” in 2003, “The Good Samaritans” in 2005, and “You” in 2006.
“So... it's ‘me’ again, minus the mirror,” New York Times’ J. David Goodman wrote of this year’s choice.
Below, see images from Egypt, post-revolution: