Assange, Mexican Twitterati Unite in Criticism of FP

Assange, Mexican Twitterati Unite in Criticism of FP

Julian Assange and a huge number of Mexicans on Twitter look to have something in common: Neither are particularly happy about Foreign Policy’s Global Thinkers issue.

On Monday, FP launched the fifth annual iteration of that issue, which selected a range of thinkers from the worlds of surveillance and privacy, statesmen and activists, innovators and artists in attempt to distill some of the most important and consequential individuals of 2013. Among them is the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda during his first year in office. He hasn’t always delivered on that promise, but his vision for shaking up Mexico’s petroleum industry and its education system has made him a man to watch in Latin America. 

But his selection provoked a virulent response on Twitter, with an outporing of disdain for a man many Mexicans view as little more than a figurehead — and a stupid one at that. The release of the Global Thinkers issue is typically accompanied by a fair amount of controversy as the selections are debated and picked over. This year, Julian Assange joined the Mexican Twitterati in denouncing FP.

On Monday night, the WikiLeaks Twitter account, which Assange has a key hand in running, criticized FP for what it saw as a long-running marginalization of Assange.

The "DDB" referenced here is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Assange’s one-time collaborator turned WikiLeaks skeptic who was selected as a Global Thinker in 2011. That list did not include Assange, a slight the group’s head looks to have remembered. This year’s list included NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and that was a decision that sparked some conspiratorial thinking over at WikiLeaks headquarters: 

At the risk of stating the obvious, the selection of Snowden as one of this year’s Global Thinkers hasn’t exactly resulted in a deluge of ad revenue. If that changes, we’ll certainly let Assange know.

But the criticism from Assange was milquetoast in comparison to the Mexican Twittersphere, which reacted with outrage to Peña Nieto’s selection. 

Translation: It seems like the Onion inflitrated Foreign Policy and included Peña Nieto in their list of "thinkers" of the year.

In his citation in this year’s Global Thinkers issue, Peña Nieto was credited with "shaking up Mexico’s moribund institution," a reference to his efforts to reform his country’s petroleum industry and educational system. The criticism of Peña Nieto’s selection centers on the notion that he isn’t a "thinker" and that he is in fact a deeply ignorant man, but that argument seems less an indication of the qualities of the policies he has proposed than his personality. Politicians are far from perfect people, and few are intellectuals, but for better or worse they remain a remarkably powerful, influential force in today’s world. Even if Peña Nieto didn’t dream up the Pact for Mexico in a burst of creative genius, he has chosen to embrace a set of policies that will have deep impact on Mexican society.

On Tuesday, a newly released poll showed that Peña Nieto’s approval rating has slipped during his first year in office, and the Twitter reaction to his selection as a Global Thinker provides some anecdotal evidence for the idea that he has a ways to go in convincing a skeptical Mexican public of his proposals. 

But all of that doesn’t mean that he isn’t worth watching and taking seriously.