TIME Person of the Year: The Protester; And The Story Behind It

Posted on December 26, 2011 in GlobeScope, Specials

By Brototi Roy:

“The Protester” was named the TIME person of the year for 2011 on December 14.  The person of the year is the annual issue of the American news magazine, TIME, that features a person, group or idea that “for better or for worse, has done the most to influence the events of the year.”

“There’s this contagion of protest,” managing editor Richard Stengel said on NBC television. “These are folks who are changing history already and they will change history in the future.”

The magazine, featuring a cover photo of a female Arab protester, went on the newsstands on 16 December.

The selection committee was unanimous on backing street protesters: “the men and women around the world, particularly in the Middle East, who toppled governments, who brought democracy and dignity to people who hadn’t had it before,” Stengel said.

Referring to the North African popular revolts, he said: “We thought ‘these dictators are not going to be toppled.’ And then these people who risked their lives, risked their livelihoods to go out there and brought about change that nobody had expected.

“It really is a transformational thing and I think it is changing the world for the better,” he said.

“Is there a global tipping point for frustration? Everywhere, it seems, people said they’d had enough,” TIME editor Rick Stengel said in a statement. “They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets. They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change,” he said.

On almost every continent, 2011 has seen an almost unprecedented rise in both peaceful and sometimes violent unrest and dissent. Protesters in a lengthening list of countries includingIsrael, India, Chile, China, Britain, Spain and now the United States all increasingly link their actions explicitly to the popular revolutions that have shaken up the Middle East.

Adm William McRaven, head of US Special Operations Command and overall commander of the secret US mission into Pakistan in May that killed Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, came in at second place on the TIME list. Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei whose 81 day secret detention by authorities earlier this year sparked an international outcry, came in at No 3, followed by US House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.