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Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger for Time’s ‘Person of the Year’

The Los Angeles Times called it a “cop out.” The Huffington Post said it was “so appropriate.” Frontpage described it as “dishonest and delusional.” The buzz is around Time Magazine’s selection of “The Protester” as Person of the Year, the weekly publication’s annual end-of-the-year anointing of a person, group or idea that the editors believe had the greatest impact – for good or evil – on culture and the news during the past 12 months.

“The men and women around the world but particularly in the Middle East who toppled governments, who brought a sense of democracy and dignity to people who hadn’t had it before, and I think, speaking of the year ahead, these are the folks who will change, who are changing history already and they will change history in the future,” Time magazine editor Richard Stengel said.

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 says. “In 2011, protesters didn’t just voice their complaints; they changed the world.”

Mohamed Bouazizi was the name of the Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself on fire in December 2010 in the town of Sidi Bouzid, sparking the revolutions that spread to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria. Protests broke out in Spain and Greece (which had its own protest dog, Loukanikos), where people railed against their countries’ economic crises. In Bolivia, Mexico, India and Chile, citizens mobilized against crime and corruption. The protests finally hit the U.S.A. in September in the Occupy Wall Street protest that spread to cities across the country and to a Decolonize Wall Street response from Indian country. Most recently protesters in Russia demonstrated against possibly rigged elections.

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Occupy Wall Street protester Jesse Spector was excited about Time’s recognition. “Real change is beyond any one person. It’s actually about the movement, about a group of people, about a wave of change. So the fact that a whole concept, an idea, a gathering of occupy that spread around the country is now being named as the person and the thing of the year is incredibly exciting for what it means for social change.”

Others distinguished between the revolutions against dictators in the Middle East and other protest around the world. “I think what’s happening in the Arab world really deserves to stand on its own. The bravery of protestors in the Arab world and what they’ve achieved in the space of a year really deserves to be taken on its own as an epochal change,” said Matt Duss, of the Center for American Progress.

While Time Magazine goes to great lengths to honor the Arab protesters who risk their lives for freedom, there’s an ironic twist to the inclusion of the American Occupy movement: Protesters in the streets of New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities and towns all over America are protesting against the unrestrained capitalist system in which the government is controlled by the greed and corruption of huge multi-national corporations – corporations like Time Warner, which publishes Time magazine.