Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Are you a top public intellectual?
The simple answer is: depends on how many friends and relatives you can convince, charm, browbeat, bribe into voting for you! Prospect magazine ran an on-line poll to discover the top 100 public intellectuals of the world. The results are most amusing, if not illuminating. The top slot went to Fethullah Gülen (my response exactly, who???). More interestingly, the remaining nine in the top ten were captured by Muslims, to the consternation of the Western world. Some of these are quite distinguished -- like Muhammed Yunus, Orhan Pamuk and Shirin Ebadi (perhaps even Altaz Ahsan) but the rest would probably leave most people flummoxed. Noam Chomsky made it to 11, our very own Amartya Sen to 16 and even Ramachandra Guha makes a cameo appearance at 44, above Ashish Nandy and Sunita Narain. You can take a look at Christopher Hitchen's article on public intellectuals in the same magazine. However, let us return to number 1. Gülen is a Turkish Sufi cleric (yes!) whose followers the Fethullahçi who are known for their discipline, mounted a concerted campaign to vote for their leader. Many of the little known figures in the top 10 also owe it to concerted campaigns, clearly. Which goes to show how online campaigns can be hijacked if you just have the numbers who will take the trouble to click a mouse button. There are some links on the same site which explain the whole process. There is one other such instance that I can recall. The BBC ran an online poll to discover the greatest actor in the last 1000 years (do we know the names of too many actors from, say, 1024 C.E.?). The winner -- Amitabh Bachchan -- see the results here!!