The Internet has a hard time taking things seriously and will happily enact silly vengeance on websites daring enough to leave important tasks up to a vote. Time’s coveted “Person of the Year” poll has been hijacked by thousands of pranksters who have voted up the not-so democratic icons, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and Egypt’s Mohamed Morsey. The up votes could be legitimate exercise in satire, punishing Time for even floating the idea of those two in a poll next to Obama and brave political dissidents. But, if Morsey–or worse, Kim–actually wins the poll, Time will have egg on its face (both Kim and Morsey have nearly twice the number of votes as 3rd place).
Time’s Person of the Year is a heralded tradition in American media, the winner showered with headlines. Last year, Mark Zuckerberg’s cover, selected over of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, sparked a political firestorm about privacy and even a Saturday Night Live skit mocking the ironic choice. Suffice to say, each year, Time has the rare honor of choosing a topic for national dialog.
Time’s annual poll, which supplements the “Person of the Year” with a Who’s Who? list in politics, business, and the arts, has also become a closely watched horse-race.
This year’s poll is chock full of admirable names, such as Barack Obama, Marissa Mayer, and political dissident, Malala Yousafzai. Breakout star, Psy, was also awarded with the honor for achieving YouTube’s most watched video of all time, Gangnam Style, a catchy pop-tune with a clever subversive message.
Time’s criteria for the poll includes people who “most influenced the news this year for better or worse.” Hence, the inclusion of Kim Jong-Un, leader of arguably the harshest dictatorship on earth. “Some had hoped that the Switzerland-educated basketball fan, who is believed to be 29 or 30, would change his country’s tragic course by rebuilding the economy, fighting hunger or dialing back nuclear gamesmanship. He has not,” wrote Time.
Morsey holds Egypt’s fragile new democracy in his hands. While there was hope he would lead the beleaguered country into an era of freedom, a recent decision to give himself near dictator-like powers, has given the world a pessimistic pause. Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBarardei called him the “new pharaoh”.
Morsey could be an Abraham Lincoln in disguise and lay down his new powers, but his top ranking on Time’s list, along with Un, is a clear message by the Internet that unqualified cultural heroes will not be taken seriously.
This isn’t the first time that online voting has gone awry. Online skit comedy website, College Humor, once successfully galvanized its viewers to select the ugliest of Nebraska’s choice of license plates, after the state dared to offer up the different designs for a vote. “This isn’t a victory for Collegehumor. This is a victory for all of us. Together we pranked the entire automobile-owning population of Nebraska. Congratulations.”
Today, it looks like the Internet is establishing a new tradition, and Time is about to get punked.