Now that “The Protester” is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, should sites like Wikipedia and Google temporarily go dark to protest the controversial “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) currently before the US Congress?

Time Person of Year 2011 Protestor illOpponents claim SOPA requires search engines and ISPs to censor Web sites without recourse to appeal, and could open up worse security holes than it covers. (It doesn’t help SOPA’s case that employees of Sony, Universal and Fox, companies that have lobbied for the bill, were recently caught pirating via BitTorrent.)

“[Wikipedia founder] Jimbo Wales has suggested that English Wikipedia restrict its services for a period to protest against the anti-piracy SOPA bill in the United States. This follows a similar action by the Italian Wikipedia last month.”

To its credit, Time Magazine seems to have understood what few other mainstream news outlets managed to wrap their heads around: that the 2011 protests had no leader.

“Time’s editor Rick Stengel announced on The Today Show that ‘The Protester’ is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: From the Arab Spring to Athens, from Occupy Wall Street to Moscow. ‘For capturing and highlighting a global sense of restless promise, for upending governments and conventional wisdom, for combining the oldest of techniques with the newest of technologies to shine a light on human dignity and, finally, for steering the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century.’

Not every observer appreciates Time’s choice of an identityless protester, as represented by Shepherd Fairey’s iconic image.

The initial gut reaction on Twitter seems to be one of derision, as Time has gone with a faceless human mass instead of picking a single person like Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi who Time mentions in the story and is widely acknowledged as the person who set off the ‘Arab Spring.’ In 2006, Time chose “You” with a mirrored cover to much disappointment, picked the personal computer as ‘Machine of the Year’ and Earth as ‘Planet of the Year,’ proving ‘that it should probably just be “Story of the Year” if they aren’t going to acknowledge an actual person,’ writes Dashiell Bennett. ‘By not picking any one individual, they’ve basically chosen no one.’”

Or everyone. Here’s the same mistake made by the City of Bangor haplessly trying to talk to the Occupy movement’s leader:

According to the letter [by director of parks and recreation Tracy Willette], a seeming lack of central organization at the occupation is troubling city officials.

“I have personally been on the site on two different occasions,” Willette wrote, “and have not been able to find anyone associated with organizing the event.”

That, ladies and gents, is new media.

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