"I don't want to debate the merits of the Occupy movement; it's not my area of expertise," says Huffpost contributor Josh Scheinert in a critique of my critique of Time's "Person of the Year" cover. It's an odd thing to say considering the subject matter of my piece is the one thing he doesn't want to argue. But of course, Scheinert can assume I didn't read the article merely because I didn't side with him.
Rather, the core of Scheinert's argument seems to lie within the fact that the magazine's "Person of the Year " is not necessarily that year's hero, but the most influential. Thank you. I was scratching my head as to why Hitler made the cover in 1938, and Stalin in 1939, and then again in 1942. But Scheinert's sole argument still doesn't hold. The Occupy Movement protesters still have no business being a part of "Person of the Year."
Egyptian protesters are influential. Libyan protesters are influential. Syrians are likely to be. We see this because, at least in the case of the former two, they have actually accomplished something-- something that represents a societal shift in the history of their nations' politics. So yes, please do throw them on the cover--they deserve it.
But the protesters walking between the skyscrapers on Wall Street and Bay Street are not part of this group. They are not influential, they have not accomplished anything except for striving time and time again to fill out the stereotypes that the right-wing media drew for them back in October, and to fill up Twitter feeds with incessant slogans and the now-desperate-seeming message of goodwill. Libyan rebel forces got Gaddafi out, they got rid of a depraved, despot dictator. Occupy Wall Street engaged in a drum circle.
Further, the Occupiers' presence in North America is exaggerated. It's easy to think something is much bigger than it really is when people on Facebook and Twitter won't stop talking about it. The sentiment is that people want Occupy to be more successful than it really is, especially the younger generation who, for the past several years, have been designated as Generation Y ("[One] click from the very end of the alphabet," as Kurt Vonnegut might say). They have been searching for something to help give shape to their otherwise vaporous form. But this desperation has led to a lack of conciseness, and at best, the rise of the armchair activist. This isn't influence.
Of course, the types of protests that are happening around the world are all different. And the way in which they are being conducted and reacted to are even more unique. UC Berkeley has a pepper-spraying officer. X has tanks rolling through Y Square as troops begin to fire on innocent civilians. This is not meant to diminish the protests in America; this is to bring light to the impact they've had, and furthermore, to observe the "big picture" as Scheinert puts it, and look at what's happening on Wall Street from a more critical perspective.
Look at the impact protests in the Middle East have had on the world. Now take a look at Occupy. What does the latter have to show but incessant claims of police "brutality" (remember, perspective here--Time's throwing them in with people who rebelled and ousted Gaddafi), and evictions from parks which now look like barren wastelands?