It should have been a vote to celebrate a hero, but the furore over the
Guardian's 'Person of the Year' competition has put two very different
individuals in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.
It should have been a vote to celebrate a hero, but the furore over the Guardian's 'Person of the Year' competition has put two very different individuals in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.
The trouble started after the British newspaper grudgingly appointed US whistleblower Bradley Manning as the winner of its reader-voted end of year poll for 2012.
The blog post, penned by an unnamed writer, appeared to point out the flaws in its own popular voting system as it named its victor.
“The winner, after some rather fishy voting patterns that belied earlier reader comments on the poll, is Bradley Manning,” the Guardian announced.
The article claims 14-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her education activism, took an early lead in the voting.
She was the clear favourite to win, collecting 70 per cent of the votes halfway through the competition.
British cycling champion Bradley Wiggins, Higgs boson researcher Fabiola Gianotti and film director Danny Boyle were also among the nominees.
Then, as the competition neared its end, something happened. Votes for detained US soldier Bradley Manning suddenly came flooding in.
"Manning secured 70 per cent of the vote, the vast majority of them coming after a series of @Wikileaks tweets," the Guardian article notes.
It's clear to see why WikiLeaks might have an interest in promoting Manning. The 24-year-old is currently awaiting trial in the US, accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the site.
The Guardian's apparent reluctant acceptance of Manning's win caught the attention of WikiLeaks, who responded with a tirade of tweets.
A WikiLeaks tweet said:
"Guardian horrified that popularity contest turns out to be popularity contest". guardian.co.uk/world/blog/201…"
Others weighed into the debate on Twitter, and that's when it started to get really ugly.
To greatly summarise the exchange, supporters for both sides of the argument accused the opposing party of trying to manipulate the results for their own interest.
The Guardian, apart from its initial post on the subject, has not weighed into the discussion further. Nor has it, critics claim, paid the competition goodwill and followed up with a more in-depth look at Bradley Manning's impact on society.
The comments from WikiLeaks speak for themself.
Regardless of the real or intended outcomes, it's a loss for all contenders who have now had their deeds overshadowed by a Twitter war of words.