Time is not known for pulling wild cards. Last year–though it was a close race between Mark Zuckerberg and Julian Assange for person of the year–no one was exactly surprised about the contenders. The choice was influenced by all the normal things: Hollywood movies, headlines, and quickly-produced paperbacks. This year, we were pretty sure it was a cinch to go to Steve Jobs, keeping with the white-boy-of-the-moment (albeit, dead white boy) vibe that Time is famous for promoting.
Curveball: this year Time chooses to honor a population of people rather than a single man. A group of people as famous for their non-achievements as the ‘Person of the Year’ is for their power and influence. That’s right: the ‘protester’, that shady but ever-increasing demographic, holds the torch for 2011.
Is it a bold, or even particularly flattering choice? After all, Time and publications of its ilk are constantly accused of being the reason for the protester’s bad (or at least, simplified) name. We can’t really say what it’s about. What we can say is that it shows a definite, if useless, change in atmosphere. Is it enough that protestors are being considered on such a massive scale, or is somehow counter-productive to admit that the biggest movement of the past year still doesn’t have a single, recognizable face attached to it? But then, that might have been what Germany was asking itself in 1934.