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Time’s Person of the Year: The Protester

Posted on Dec 14, 2011
Jessierocks (CC-BY)

Journalist and activist John Knefel reaches for his glasses after police threw him to the ground in the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden at the end of a peaceful march against Goldman Sachs on Monday.

For “once again becoming a maker of history” two sleepy decades after political soothsayer Francis Fukuyama declared Western liberalism the end point in the evolution of human society, Time magazine named “The Protester” 2011’s Person of the Year.

Nathan Schneider, author and editor with a number of publishing outfits—including ‘Waging Nonviolence,’ a blog devoted to analysis of nonviolent movements around the world—was pleased with Time’s decision. He pointed out, however, that the mainstream American press was slow to get to the uprisings at home and beyond: “As I first saw this announcement percolating on Twitter, being spread around proudly every which way by Occupy Wall Street-allied accounts, all I could think was: What took you so long? Where were you?” he asked.

“Where, I mean to say, was the American press when Tunisia—or Egypt—first started lighting up,” he continued, “when we at Waging Nonviolence were glued to Al-Jazeera and our Twitter feeds, wishing we had the means to be there ourselves? In the American news, the start of those revolutions was hardly a blip—that is, until Anderson Cooper got beaten up in Cairo.” —ARK


It’s remarkable how much the protest vanguards share. Everywhere they are disproportionately young, middle class and educated. Almost all the protests this year began as independent affairs, without much encouragement from or endorsement by existing political parties or opposition bigwigs. All over the world, the protesters of 2011 share a belief that their countries’ political systems and economies have grown dysfunctional and corrupt — sham democracies rigged to favor the rich and powerful and prevent significant change. They are fervent small-d democrats. Two decades after the final failure and abandonment of communism, they believe they’re experiencing the failure of hell-bent megascaled crony hypercapitalism and pine for some third way, a new social contract.

During the bubble years, perhaps, there was enough money trickling down to keep them happyish, but now the unending financial crisis and economic stagnation make them feel like suckers. But this year, instead of plugging in the headphones, entering an Internet-induced fugue state and quietly giving in to hopelessness, they used the Internet to find one another and take to the streets to insist on fairness and (in the Arab world) freedom.

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By ardee, December 17, 2011 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

I happened to read this article while sitting in my dentists office awaiting the extraction of two teeth. Probably the only scenario wherein I would have had a Time magazine in my hands. Oh , maybe when I return for the implants…...

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By Jorge X Rodriguez, December 15, 2011 at 8:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@ gerard: Joseph Couture has primarily heard about Joseph Couture.  His contribution here seems to be an advertisement of his accounts of this experience.  Unless you are into sitting around in London bars with Nazi skinheads, these accounts may not be very interesting.

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By balkas, December 15, 2011 at 7:27 am Link to this comment

that the protests against rulers in egypt, bahrain, tunis, u.s happened appears to a stupendous
events which wld lead to a better world for poorer people and a poorer world fro rich people.
and this is what Time and other MSM, army echelons, judges; in short ‘elite’ fear.
that’s the change they fear and that’s why OWS is criticized or feared.

did u guyz notice that u.s is the only country in the world that does not have a viable social
democratic party or a single social democrat in congress.
so, u now know, why u.s tolerates OWS! but for how long will u.s tolerate it? perhaps as long as
it stays apolitical; i.e., only protests. tnx

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By gerard, December 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm Link to this comment

So how about Gene Sharp. Mr.Couture?  Never heard of him?

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, December 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment

Time?  There goes the neighborhood.

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By PatrickHenry, December 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment

“Long live the fighters!”

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By YoungGringos, December 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

Joseph Couture,

Occupy doesn’t have leaders in the traditional sense- some people would love to co-opt it, but anyway, read your article and I would say that every Occupy movement is autonomous.  Occupy Oakland probably fits closer to your understanding of the nature of power and the current state of the world. 
“Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will.”

We will not go gentle into that good night.

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By Michael Cavlan RN, December 14, 2011 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment

It is my understanding that this was on the front page of Time in Europe, Asia and South Pacific. The front page of Time in the United States was “Anxiety- Is It Good For You?”

Getting played people. Getting played. I also have a great deal of hope that people are waking up to this media manipulation (including here in Truthdig) ignore it and create something real.

The corporate powers have overplayed their hands with Obama.

Rocky Andersen for President

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By Joseph Couture, December 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm Link to this comment

It can be a bit messy when a reporter drinks too much with his subjects.  I ran into some of the leaders of the local Occupy movement and had a few too many beers with them.  I promised I wouldn’t report what they said. 

So here is the half of the conversation I can tell you about:  “Drunk With Occupy London” at

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By ardee, December 14, 2011 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

Despite the increasingly frantic efforts by our resident righties to diminish, minimize and disparage the progressive protests now in progress everywhere in this nation some apparently do recognize its impact.

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