… In short, Time: “I can’t even.”
And much of the Internet couldn’t either. Within a span of hours, feminists had predictably rallied on Twitter to condemn the magazine and hurl insults at Katy Steinmetz, the author of the poll. (Steinmetz, for her part, explained the word’s inclusion as media commentary. More on that later.)
On 4chan, meanwhile, the gleeful hordes gathered round to game the vote in feminists’ favor. Throughout the late afternoon and evening Wednesday, users of the forum’s notorious /b/ board stubbornly plugged the vote in successive threads and pasted reactions from peeved feminists on Twitter. As of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, feminist was indeed beating out all other competitors by a double-digit margin … if being ruled the worst word of 2014 could truly be termed a victory.
“Hell yes,” one 4chan denizen rejoiced. “The best part is that this really doesn’t even count as a rigged vote. They included that option as a serious one.”
But let’s not pretend, even for a moment, that America’s favorite weekly magazine did not know exactly what it was getting itself into. This is the magazine that previously saw 4chan hijack its “Person of the Year” poll not once, not twice, but three times: first in 2009, when they rigged the vote to push 4chan’s founder, Christopher Poole, to the top spot; then again in 2012, when North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “won”; and for a third time last year, when hackers, aided by and sometimes organized on 4chan, made sure Miley Cyrus rivaled Pope Francis.
In the wake of those rigged votes, and the Fappening, and a million assorted other 4chan pranks, many of which Time has covered — you cannot possibly put a vote about feminism on the Internet and not expect 4chan to troll you. Au contraire, putting a vote about feminism on the Internet is a savvy, calculated act of provocation. It is, in itself, trolling.
Maybe Time should be congratulated for this savvy strike against the Internet’s anonymous masses; maybe we should cheer them, really, for boldly trolling the trolls, and doing so successfully. Time wins, after all, no matter who loses its poll: outrage = clicks = $$.
But whatever Internet savvy may be contained therein, it’s hard to come away from this spectacle feeling anything other than a sense of resigned smh. (Oddly missing from Time’s list: smh, 143, and other newly overused acronyms.) Now that Time is trolling the trolls, and the trolls are trolling Time, the entire experiment is basically just a vortex of senseless, misdirected and only semi-sincere outrage, buoyed by pageviews and hate-tweets.
If there was ever a more perfect/damning metaphor for Internet media, I haven’t seen it. And Time, I mean that literally.