Time Magazine named “the protester” its Person of the Year for 2011.
The magazine’s website introduces Kurt Andersen’s cover story as follows: “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. In 2011, protesters didn’t just voice their complaints; they changed the world.”
The protests began in Tunisia, setting off the Arab Spring, and continue to the present with anti-government sentiment in Russia.
In between, Andersen writes about protests spanning the globe, from other loci of the Arab Spring to the popular unrest in Greece and Spain to America’s own Occupy movement.
“This year, do-it-yourself democratic politics became globalized, and real live protest went massively viral. But as they've rejuvenated and enlarged the idea of democracy, the protesters, and the rest of us, are discovering that democracy is difficult and sometimes a little scary,” Andersen wrote.
He takes the reader through not just the details of what happened but some of the other mechanisms, like Twitter and Facebook, that enabled sudden protest to become "the defining trope of our times."
Given the international focus of most of the protest movements, this can be considered the first time a non-American has won since 2007. In truly ironic fashion, that winner was Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who now faces protests of his own.
The winner of the magazine's online poll was Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi in second.
Last year's winner was Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.