Time magazine has rejected the will of the people and selected Mark Zuckerberg as person of the year.
Julian Assange won the popular vote, but as the editors at Time remind us, Zuckerberg is something of rebel himself:
“Like two of our runners-up this year, Julian Assange and the Tea Party, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have a whole lot of veneration for traditional authority.”
Insulting Harvard students isn’t quite the same as facilitating the biggest leak of classified documents in U.S. military history, but we get the idea.
Oh wait, there’s more?
In a sense, Zuckerberg and Assange are two sides of the same coin. Both express a desire for openness and transparency. While Assange attacks big institutions and governments through involuntary transparency with the goal of disempowering them, Zuckerberg enables individuals to voluntarily share information with the idea of empowering them. Assange sees the world as filled with real and imagined enemies; Zuckerberg sees the world as filled with potential friends. Both have a certain disdain for privacy: in Assange’s case because he feels it allows malevolence to flourish; in Zuckerberg’s case because he sees it as a cultural anachronism, an impediment to a more efficient and open connection between people.
Over the long haul, Facebook will probably have a greater impact on the lives of more people than Wikileaks. But for his ability to reawaken us to the horrors of war, to rattle those long entrenched in the seats of power and to truly test the limits of free speech and freedom of information, Julian Assange deserved this year’s award.
bpopper [at] observer.com | @benpopper