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PoTY training 2011

You know Time magazine. Always taking the easy way out while trying to come across as a radical opinion-maker. This time the mag's put 'The Protester' on its cover as 2011's Person of The Year (PoTY). Indrajit Hazra writes.

columns Updated: Dec 17, 2011 22:39 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Protestors-escape-tear-gas-during-clashes-which-broke-out-at-the-massive-protest-march-in-Athens-Greece-is-hit-with-another-general-strike-against-austerity-as-Prime-Minister-George-Papandreou-seeks-to-convince-the-cash-strapped-country-s-eurozone-partners-to-extend-the-repayment-of-a-massive-rescue-loan-AFP-Photo-Louisa-Gouliamaki
Protestors-escape-tear-gas-during-clashes-which-broke-out-at-the-massive-protest-march-in-Athens-Greece-is-hit-with-another-general-strike-against-austerity-as-Prime-Minister-George-Papandreou-seeks-to-convince-the-cash-strapped-country-s-eurozone-partners-to-extend-the-repayment-of-a-massive-rescue-loan-AFP-Photo-Louisa-Gouliamaki

You know Time magazine. Always taking the easy way out while trying to come across as a radical opinion-maker. This time the mag's put 'The Protester' on its cover as 2011's Person of The Year (PoTY). Dumbnuts.

But that doesn't surprise me one bit. (The choice of 'The Protester', that is, not me saying 'Dumbnuts'.) The annual 'ceremony' has dodgy origins. Charles Lindbergh became the first 'Man of the Year' in December 1927 after Time missed the story of Lindbergh's solo non-stop trans-Atlantic flight in May the same year. To make up for it, they plonked Lindbergh on the cover seven months after his historic flight.

Things have improved for Time since then. The magazine did extensively cover the Arab Spring, the protests in Europe, the Occupy Wall Street movement in America, protests against I-forgot-what in Israel, the Anna Hazare campaign in our own backyard, and most recently, the protests against the Russian election results. But while 'The Protester' has indeed been in the news throughout 2011, does she or he make the grade of Time's incredibly strict (irony train passing) criterion for becoming PoTY?

Apparently, the winning entry has to be a "person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that for better or for worse... has done the most to influence the events of the year". Let's hear how Time's editor defended this year's choice: "Everywhere, it seems, people said they'd had enough... They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair... They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change."

That's cute. But wrong.

A lot of people did say that they had had enough. But clearly not enough. Or at least not enough people said that they had had enough.

Barring the riotous lot in Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia, I don't think the other protesters have had much success. There were looters in Britain, and gun-toting civil warriors in Libya. The folks in Bahrain, Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan may have come out and made a ruckus, but the sheikhs are not stirred. And in China, the 'influence' of the protesters has been as effective as attempts to infiltrate pictures of Vidya Balan in the last few issues of the Economic and Political Weekly.

In India, the Anna campaign has, indeed, influenced the way everyone looks at corruption. But just because the other protests across the world didn't have a similar Captain Jack Sparrow leading them, the Time lords decided that having Anna Hazare on the cover would be terribly unfair.

But then, Time's insistence on a PoTY needing to do "the most to influence the events of the year" is a weasel clause. Who do you think was the person to influence the events of the year most in 2001? If you said Osama bin Laden, you've been reading Newsweek too much. Time, in its infinite wisdom named Rudi Guliani, the then mayor of New York City, as its 2001 PoTY.

Which is where I step in to correct matters. My PoTY is not the Protester, but the Anti-Protester. He is PoTY because in terms of sheer influence, he's managed to keep the status quo despite the media's and social media's channelling and trumpeting of the Protester. Imagine the impact of all those protesters if there was no 24x7 news television or Facebook. Even in the face of such opinion overload, the Anti-Protester not only stood his ground, but he also proactively staved the protesters off.

By depicting the protesting mob as destroyers of society and Parliament, of being harbingers of chaos and worse, of being childishly naïve and dangerously tyrannical, the Anti-Protester has come across as the true counter-revolutionary. In drawing rooms, on the internet, in op-ed articles and television debates, the Anti-Protester has been fighting the Protester and ripping his halo off.

And if you need to see his influence, then look around: the world, our world, at the fag end of a tumultuous year, still looks pretty much the same, even after the news that Anna Hazare has managed to pull off the 'incredible' feat of extending Parliament's winter session by a few days.

Like it or not, he's protected our sacred status quo in which we all know and maintain our place. If the walls have gone damp in many places, the Anti-Protester reminded us this year that that's part of the larger plan. At least the house didn't get burned down.