Two Years After Tea Party, Time Calls 'The Protester' Their Person of the Year

Time is so liberal it was obvious they could not consider the Tea Party protests as a Person of the Year entry. But that’s not true with Occupy Wall Street, since Time’s 2011 Person of the Year is suddenly now "The Protester.” Kurt Andersen’s essay announced: "'Massive and effective street protest' was a global oxymoron until — suddenly, shockingly — starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history."

This is a bit bizarre since the regime being protested in the United States is the Obama administration elected by liberals like the Time editors and reporters. Suddenly now, America is a "sham democracy rigged to favor the rich and powerful and prevent significant change." Once again, Time blurs in Occupy protesters with Arab Spring activists:

In Egypt the incitements were a preposterously fraudulent 2010 national election and, as in Tunisia, a not uncommon act of unforgivable brutality by security agents. In the U.S., three acute and overlapping money crises — tanked economy, systemic financial recklessness, gigantic public debt — along with ongoing revelations of double dealing by banks, new state laws making certain public-employee-union demands illegal and the refusal of Congress to consider even slightly higher taxes on the very highest incomes mobilized Occupy Wall Street and its millions of supporters. In Russia it was the realization that another six (or 12) years of Vladimir Putin might not lead to greater prosperity and democratic normality.

In Sidi Bouzid and Tunis, in Alexandria and Cairo; in Arab cities and towns across the 6,000 miles from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean; in Madrid and Athens and London and Tel Aviv; in Mexico and India and Chile, where citizens mobilized against crime and corruption; in New York and Moscow and dozens of other U.S. and Russian cities, the loathing and anger at governments and their cronies became uncontainable and fed on itself.

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.

The Tea Party emerges on the second page online, as merely a "foreshadowing" of the authentic protests that has "outlasted" its expected shelf life. (This, as the Occupy crowd is already being swept out of the parks.)

In each place, discontent that had been simmering for years got turned up to a boil. There were foreshadowings. In the U.S., the Obama campaign was in part a feel-good protest movement that galvanized young people, and then its shocking success and the Wall Street bailout produced an angry and shockingly successful populist protest movement in the Tea Party, which has far outlasted its expected shelf life.

By contrast, Anderson insists somehow the Occupy Wall Street movement is just beginning a long march through American institutions. This comes through in when the Tea Party is cited again at the essay's conclusion:

The nonleader leaders of Occupy are using the winter to build an organization and enlist new protesters for the next phase. They have shifted the national conversation. As Politico recently reported, the Nexis news-media database now registers almost 500 mentions of "inequality" each week; the week before Occupy Wall Street started, there were only 91. But what would count, a few years hence, as success? According to gung-ho Adbusters editors Kalle Lasn and Micah White, it's already "the greatest social-justice movement to emerge in the United States since the civil rights era." Yet it took a decade to get from the Montgomery bus boycott to the federal civil rights acts, which were just the end of the beginning.

The wisest Occupiers understand that these are very early days. But as long as government in Washington — like government in Europe — remains paralyzed, I don't see the Occupiers and Indignados giving up or losing traction or protest ceasing to be the defining political mode. After all, the Tea Party protests subsided only after Tea Partyers achieved real power in 2010 by becoming the tail wagging the Republican Party dog. When radical populist movements achieve big-time momentum and attention, they don't tend to stand down until they get some satisfaction.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis