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Looking At The Polls From A Different Perspective.

Dec 20, 1999
The Los Angeles Times ran an article on TIME's search for the "person of the century", and looked at it from a different perspective. This article by Erika Milvy, of which we give you a shortened version, is a nice follow up on our article "More polls" we ran last week. It describes what's going on behind the polls.

Is Elvis Really the Person of the Century?

As we bid adieu to the only century we've ever really known, editors and publishers nationwide are sizing up the century and proclaiming who and what has been most significant this last 100 or so years. On the Web, regular folk can add their 2 cents to the cacophony of opinions concerning millennial milestones, 20th century movers and shakers and the biggest bloopers of the past. Time magazine has been determining the man of the year since 1927, when Charles Lindbergh was the cover boy of choice. Kenneth Starr and Bill Clinton tied for the (dis)honor last year, and the year before, Andrew Grove of Intel fame made the grade. But when Time editors choose the person of the century (coming to a newsstand near you Dec. 27), the name will likely ring more of a bell.

This past year there has been a forceful, sometimes wacky campaign in cyberspace to get certain figures to the top of the Person of the Century Poll. Among those doing some furious spamming are several Jewish organizations intent that "anybody but Hitler" should achieve the rank. As a result, Yitzhak Rabin is currently holding second place at Time.com with 13.46% of the vote, with Hitler following with 11.63%. Since Jesus was disqualified for not living or personally accomplishing anything this century, Christian activists have set their sights on Billy Graham, who is currently No. 4 on the people choice scorecard. Elvis remains No. 1 on the list.

Time.com's system guys had their work cut out for them this year, identifying the barrage of votes that bombarded their server that were sent by "bots"--robots programmed to stuff the ballot box. Robotic attacks were generated to multi-vote for most of the major candidates, including Elvis and Rabin, as well as Gordon B. Hinkley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, the Mormons were such aggressive spammers that they crashed Time's servers and a second program had to be developed to ward off the bots. Says Time.com's editor, Dick Duncan: "There's a funny kind of collective dynamic that forms on the Internet--part of the Web culture is to fling a statement out there and better yet to manipulate the reality of the Web. If you can move numbers, you can change things."

Another Time ballot that created some zealous emotions is the Phonies and Frauds of the 20th Century poll. The list originally contained some religious leaders (the Rev. Moon, Jesse Jackson, Jimmy Swaggart) but complaints caused their names to be taken off. The fictitious J.R. "Bob" Dobbs now leads the voter poll, with Geraldo Rivera second and Rush Limbaugh third. Duncan says that this ballot has been less successful with voters, who were predominantly motivated by a venomous desire to bash other people's religious icons. He adds that leaving Dobbs' name on the list was a mistake. The 100 Worst Ideas of the Century can also be voted for. The list includes such amusing options as Milli Vanilli's Grammy and aerosol cheese. Those receiving the most votes so far are Prohibition, telemarketing and "That Teensy Programming Decision That Led to the Y2K Bug."

So will Time magazine's editors be swayed by the online voting for person of the century? Says Duncan: "Editors will know what the votes are. I don't necessarily think they'll have a compulsion to choose Elvis if Elvis wins."

Another last note by ElvisNews.com: Why do they organize a poll when they have the intention to ignore the votes? Let's make it even more embarrassing for them to ignore us... so VOTE!
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