I find it hard to believe this is true for most Americans: Time has declared the top U.S. news story of this year “Occupy Wall Street Protests Spread.” Here’s the magazine’s explanation:
On Sept. 17, a couple hundred protesters demonstrating against the excesses of corporate execs and the pervasive influence of high finance in U.S. politics set up camp in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park and refused to leave. It was an unlikely occupation, one without leaders, agendas or even a clear sense of goals, but it soon was echoed in myriad cities across the U.S. and the world. To some, Occupy Wall Street is the left-wing iteration of the Tea Party, directing their rage not at big government but at the big banks that gutted the world economy and took billions in bailouts from the U.S. government while awarding themselves hefty bonuses.
But many in the movement see their cause as part of a more global zeitgeist, in keeping with the anti-austerity demonstrations in Europe and the leaderless uprisings of the Arab Spring. The Occupy movement has remained leaderless, amorphous and spontaneous — demonstrators carry signs advocating everything from financial reform to healthcare reform to a ban on fracking — it’s still unclear what sort of real lasting political effect the movement can have. But the sheer persistence of the occupations, galvanized by incidents of heavy-handed policing in New York and California that shocked the nation, have given the protesters’ appeals for economic justice a weight that may play a real role in the upcoming presidential election.
So “sheer persistence” with “unclear…lasting political effect” — and it’s particularly unclear, given that the movement was greatly diminished within two months of its beginning — makes for the year’s top story? A year in which the U.S. military is vacating Iraq after eight years of war; the economy is still stagnant, two years after that was Time’s top story; and the Republicans waged an unpredictable primary? (If you’re wondering where the killings of Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi are, they’re Nos. 2 and 5, respectively, on the list of top world news stories.)
Get back to me when they’ve achieved something other than destruction of property.
In case you’re wondering, the birth of the tea parties didn’t merit a top-10 mention by Time in 2009; it wasn’t until last year, when they achieved results in the midterm elections, that the story of the tea partyers received a No. 2 ranking.
Ideology isn’t the only explanation. Time’s OWS explanation refers to the tea party, so it’s more likely that the success of the tea party makes the magazine’s editors more likely to think OWS, too, can have a large effect.
The write-up does, however, betray a kind of hopeful anticipation of said large effect. And while the editors might not have referenced last year’s edition while crafting this year’s, I challenge you to find balance and impartiality in Time’s selection of photos for the tea party and OWS (you’ll have to click those links; I can’t post Getty images here).
So, who agrees with Time that OWS is really the year’s top story?
– By Kyle Wingfield