As a former Time magazine “Person of the Year” myself (2006—look it up), I was intrigued by the editors’ choice of my latest successor: As you may have heard by now, POY for 2011 is “The Protester,” an amalgam of Occupy Wall Street and people being gunned down in the Middle East.
Since the visage on the magazine’s cover is half concealed behind a mask, I am going to hazard a wild and crazy guess that it belongs to somebody risking something more lethal than the warm embrace of President Obama or kind words from Nancy Pelosi, scary though those might be.
The essay that accompanies the award is a gem. Penned by former New York Magazine editor Kurt Andersen, it utterly fails to distinguish between spoiled brats, heroes, and dangerous radicals. They’re all part of the same phenomenon. As Andersen puts it, "Everywhere, it seems, people said they'd had enough."
I guess the Occupy crowd had had enough of sitting around the student center debating gender theory or taking courses in the epistemology of Lady Gaga, while racking up enormous college loan debts and then finding to their consternation that debts don’t pay themselves (they want us to pay them, and, given President Obama’s propensities, I fear that we may).
Some of us might find it difficult to lump the Occupy Wall Street protestors, featured in a New York Observer fashion spread ("Hottest People at Occupy Wall Street") with the poor Tunisian vegetable vendor—his dream was to own a truck—who set himself on fire because he wanted liberty.
From Andersen's vantage point, however, it’s all the same—and it’s, like, wow:
It's remarkable how much the protest vanguards share. Everywhere they are disproportionately young, middle class and educated.
That Andersen, well into middle age, is still enamored of the hip is quite obvious and not at all attractive. The New York Observer should do another protest fashion shoot, this one on the protestors Andersen describes: filmmakers, a jobless philosophy major at Occupy, and a Muslim Brotherhood member with a Tigger Notebook--oh, my! The problem with TIMEs' take of the protests of 2011 is that it is unserious.