A magical season is upon us, in which lights sparkle upon Christmas trees, carols are sung amid drifting clouds of snow, and Time Magazine makes its annual bid to be relevant for a few minutes. Time does this by selecting a “Person of the Year.”
This award is not always bestowed upon an actual person, which seems like cheating. In 2006, the magazine took the ultimate cop-out and named “You” as Person of the Year. If you’re going to grandstand for a little attention, editors, at least put your backs into it.
This year, Time decided to flatter the Left’s most carefully cultivated new constituency, and named “The Protester.” Mr. Protester was too busy shutting down ports on the West Coast, and doing real damage to the middle class, to accept the honor in person.
Kurt Andersen of Time tries to gussy up this naked pander with some hilariously over-the-top balloon juice about today’s protesters serving as the drive shaft of history, which only recently got started again after Francis Fukuyama poured sugar in its gas tank:
Once upon a time, when major news events were chronicled strictly by professionals and printed on paper or transmitted through the air by the few for the masses, protesters were prime makers of history. Back then, when citizen multitudes took to the streets without weapons to declare themselves opposed, it was the very definition of news — vivid, important, often consequential.
[…] And then came the End of History, summed up by Francis Fukuyama’s influential 1989 essay declaring that mankind had arrived at the “end point of … ideological evolution” in globally triumphant “Western liberalism.” The two decades beginning in 1991 witnessed the greatest rise in living standards that the world has ever known. Credit was easy, complacency and apathy were rife, and street protests looked like pointless emotional sideshows — obsolete, quaint, the equivalent of cavalry to mid-20th-century war. The rare large demonstrations in the rich world seemed ineffectual and irrelevant.
On and on this goes, in an interminable history lesson that does more to undermine Time’s case for throwing out this silly award than justify it. “The Protester” is Person of the Year 2011 because they make us nostalgic for the glory days of protests in the 1960s?
Of course, Time throws wide the global net to rope in the “Arab Spring” protesters as well. The Person of the Year is meant to stand astride the global stage, not just American politics and culture. Unfortunately, making this particular award global just makes them look parochial. The benighted corners of the world have been filled with “protesters” for a long time, and this year’s crop actually accomplished much less than Time gives them credit for.
Granted that profound change doesn’t necessarily have to be for the better to meet Time’s criteria, the jury is still out on whether the “Arab Spring” really changed things all that much… or merely installed new management to run the same old dungeons. Hosni Mubarak is going to be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more totalitarian Salafists in Egypt, assuming the military junta is willing to surrender power? Yippee! And you might have noticed the Libyan “protesters,” a group about which we still know very little, didn’t accomplish much until NATO got involved. Why isn’t NATO Person of the Year? Or SEAL Team Six?
On the domestic front, the sainted Occupy movement hasn’t actually accomplished anything. All illusions to the contrary are deliberate and sustained media fictions. The “national conversation” hasn’t been changed a bit. It has simply been decorated with a rather unsavory crop of new ornaments, used by liberals to liven up the same weary arguments they’ve made all along. Attend an Occupy protest and you’ll hear the same moldy, toxic twaddle the world got more than enough of from Time’s Person of the Year in both 1939 and 1942. If Time actually wanted to celebrate “protesters” who actually made a difference, against the occasionally vicious opposition of the media, they should have done it last year.
Person of the Year 2012 should be a much more interesting challenge, especially since the year could well be dominated by a bitter contest between Person of the Year 1995 and Person of the Year 2008. A lot of people groused about those selections at the time, but they were much more reasonable expressions of what the award is supposed to represent. I would imagine every new crop of Time editors is ready for a good number of critics to lambaste any choice they make. Fair enough, but when they can’t even bring themselves to name an individual, they end up making a statement rather than a judgment.