Protesting “The Protester”

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Time Magazine this week announced that it was still a publication. They did so by issuing their annual pronouncement of their “Person of the Year” as “The Protester”. My initial reaction was “Time Magazine still exists?” And then I proceeded to not care very much. After all, the award is said to have originated when Time failed to put Charles Lindbergh on their cover after the first transatlantic flight. Their pronouncement of him being “Man of the Year” corrected that error, and now provides them a lengthy feature to fill an issue when most newsmakers are trying to achieve downtime for the holidays.

The list of other recent inspiring awardees include “You”, and “Earth”. But this year’s award is actually a repeat of their 1966 award, provided to “The Baby Boomers”. The text itself is a celebration of the protest movement of the sixties, and laments that for decades “ ‘Massive and effective street protest’ was a global oxymoron until – suddenly and shockingly – starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history.”

Exactly one year ago eh? I guess Time Magazine completely missed the protests of the TEA Party. Or perhaps, they disqualify the TEA Party’s street protests as not being “massive and effective”. After all, they only spontaneously created hundreds of chapters across the country, mobilized thousands at protests in local areas and a march on Washington, battled not only the policies of the President who initially drew their ire, but the members of the Republican party whom they thought were providing aid and comfort to a system that they found fundamentally broken.

They provided the energy and message for one of the largest shifts of power during an election in the country’s history, and did so not just by voting out Democrats, but also by taking on and removing members of the Republican Party that most within the movement eventually aligned with to achieve their purposes. In the process, they were referred to as an “angry mob”, were decried as racists, and otherwise painted as fringe from many if not most media outlets.

Months into the Occupy movement, the central unifying force seems to be an apologetic media corps still trying to define the movement on behalf of the protestors who are still unable to articulate their actual positions, let alone map out a “massive and effective” strategy to implement change. Protestors in California continue to try and block ports to show solidarity with the dock workers. Those workers who are doing quite well and actually seem to want to go to work every day and get paid are not amused. Nonetheless, the Occupy protestors who don’t seem to have or want work, believe they know best.

Closer to home, the Georgia Green Party is planning to protest the annual Wild Hog Supper, a dinner held the night before the General Assembly is called into session where legislators and other Georgia elected officials meet at Underground Atlanta’s depot for a Barbecue with everyday Georgians. Ticket proceed benefit the Georgia Food Bank Association, but the Green Party wishes to use the dinner as an occasion to protest “an odious celebration of privileged excess and access”.

The right of the Americans to peaceably assemble and air their grievances is a tradition that is older than this country itself. It is the cornerstone of the very beliefs that our country is founded upon. Over romanticizing protest for the sake of protest, without looking to the coherence of message nor the validity or practicality of suggested policy changes or actions is nothing more than celebrating emotion without direction.

Among the first actions of the protestors who gathered to occupy Atlanta’s Woodruff Park was to deny a true protesting pioneer and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom John Lewis the right to address their group. These protestors who are being celebrated for being makers of history are so ignorant of their own that they deserve nothing more than brutal mocking. The ribbons for participation continue to be bestowed upon them by those sympathetic to their cause who are willing to overlook any sense of actual strategy and instead applaud just showing up.

In a world that no longer wishes to acknowledge individual achievement, it seems fitting for a publication to provide awards not based on merit, but by nebulous feelings of who should have won. Time magazine has reduced an award once reserved for the biggest newsmaker of the year, and reduced it to a certificate of participation.


  1. griftdrift says:

    You do realize it was about protesters world wide. There were some pretty major things that happened in the Middle East that were spurred by “protesters”. So sorry if the Tea Party (which was mentioned in Time’s year end article last year) got their feewings hurt.

    • T-Bone says:

      Exactly. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the guffawing and criticism of Time’s choice is coming from people that have not actually seen the magazine cover or read the accompanying article.

      • Charlie says:

        I read the article. Found it a shallow attempt to link the protests around the world that did effect actual change with the whining out of OCW and their related groups nationwide.

      • David C says:

        Indeed, even just read the cover, where it says “From the Arab Spring to Athens, from Occupy Wall Street to Moscow,” which hits the point very thoroughly. Street protests have very much been the story this year, a year of revolt and mass protest that echoes the worldwide revolts of 1968. Most of that story has been world wide, launching massive changes in the Middle East, upsetting the decrepit state of Putin’s Russia, and lashing out against the dictates of Euro bureaucrats from on high. In the US, Occupy Wall Street, for all the blah and scorn about being ineffective, did change the media narrative about the economy–and very much without the instant cheerleading Tea Party groups got from Fox, et. al. (For a note as to the impact of media focus ,compare their growth in coverage:

        Whining that the Tea Party was so much more effective is rather pathetic. “Boo hoo. Leftist protestors are getting attention too!” If you want the tea partiers to be people of the year, go yell at the Zuckerberg or Bernanke selections from the years when they really took off / mattered.

        PS: As to connecting it to “The 60s,” did you just stop mid sentence? From the article: “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. In the 1960s in America they marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam War; in the ’70s, they rose up in Iran and Portugal; in the ’80s, they spoke out against nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Europe, against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, against communist tyranny in Tiananmen Square and Eastern Europe. Protest was the natural continuation of politics by other means.”

        PPS: “Exactly one year ago, eh?” Yes, one year ago. Again, from the text:

        “It began in Tunisia, where the dictator’s power grabbing and high living crossed a line of shamelessness, and a commonplace bit of government callousness against an ordinary citizen — a 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi — became the final straw. Bouazizi lived in the charmless Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, 125 miles south of Tunis. On a Friday morning almost exactly a year ago, he set out for work, selling produce from a cart. Police had hassled Bouazizi routinely for years, his family says, fining him, making him jump through bureaucratic hoops. On Dec. 17, 2010, a cop started giving him grief yet again. She confiscated his scale and allegedly slapped him. He walked straight to the provincial-capital building to complain and got no response. At the gate, he drenched himself in paint thinner and lit a match.

        “My son set himself on fire for dignity,” Mannoubia Bouazizi told me when I visited her. “In Tunisia,” added her 16-year-old daughter Basma, “dignity is more important than bread.”

        The inciting moment of the Arab Spring was this man’s protest, taking place December 17, 2010. So, one year ago, tomorrow.

    • Engineer says:

      Considering nearly every “elected” president since TIME has been printed has been a person of the year (note President Ford was not elected and not a PoTY; additionally Coolidge and Hoover are not included), I’m not sure you can really gripe about that (Even Obama got one for winning the Presidency in 2008).

  2. James Fannin says:

    The linkage between the Tea Party and Arab Spring is that in both countries, the “official press” ignored the protesters or maligned them. Indeed the coverage of the protesters in Egypt and the Tea Party in the US by the main stream press was very similar. The Egyptian press made wild, untrue charges about the protests, underestimated their numbers and questioned their motives just as the status quo, left-leaning main stream press did with regard to the Tea Party patriots. Just read some of the vitriol on this site by lefties regarding the Tea Party. Some of those writing could be surrogates for the Mubarak regime. But what the Arab Spring protesters learned from the Tea Party movement is that you could not rely on the entrenched media to carry your message, you had to rely on alternative media and social networking and like the Tea Party, they were able to get the word out to a wider audience and make great changes to the status quo. The thing that is amazing to this child of the 60s and a Vietnam era vet is the way my generation has gone from “trust no one in government” to “Obama and the govenment know best.” Even Reverend Jim Jones couldn’t imagine dispensing that much Kool Aid

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