Time magazine came up short when they chose Fed chairman Ben Bernanke as the Person of the Year, but The Times of London got it right: Neda Soltan, the 26-year-old Iranian woman who was killed during anti-government protests in June.
The shocking and graphic video of Soltan being shot through the chest and dying in the street spread around the world and her death has become the iconic moment of the Iranian peoples' struggle. Neda is important because this uprising of the citizenry may well signal the end of the oppressive and internationally combative regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and, further, her documented murder at the hands of a government militiaman may be the tipping point.
More broadly, the capturing of the horrible event by cell phone video and the spreading of it over YouTube, as well as the use of the Internet -- especially blogs and Twitter -- to organize and follow the protests, mark an important point in the realm of popular uprisings. The printing press, in essence, made democracy possible -- and hence, the United States came into being. The Internet is another key juncture on that road. The "information superhighway" has its positives and negatives, but it does seem to be a tool that is difficult (not impossible: see China) for tyrants to manage.
And so Neda Soltan's death is meaningful for a number of reasons, and she is, I think, the better choice. Bernanke did some good things and some not-so-good before and during the current economic crisis. However, even if the housing boom and financial meltdown are the only things that matter, former Fed chair Alan Greenspan's faith in the markets is more integral to causing the crisis -- and his statement before a Congressional committee that his worldview was "flawed" is an admission that laissez-faire capitalism does not work. That stands as a key moment as well.
Photo from The Times of London web site.