One of the consequences of having all of these humans taking up space on the planet and offering their pesky interpretations of things is that the meanings of words and ideas and phrases tend to transform over time.
With that in mind, let us revisit what the "Nobel Peace Prize" was supposed to be for. According to the will of Alfred Nobel, the Peace Prize should be awarded to the person or organization that "...shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
Now, at least in my view, if that's what Alfred wants for his prize, that's what Alfred should get.
Which brings us to the matter at hand: the fact that, this year, two nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize are WikiLeaks and the Internet... you know, like, the whole Internet.
It's worth noting, of course, that these were among 241 nominees, so neither has won anything yet.
Nevertheless, last week we polled site visitors on the subject, asking which -- if either of these -- is more deserving of the Prize. Here's how nearly 100 people responded:
According to our poll takers, the Internet (with 41 percent) is more deserving than WikiLeaks (18 percent) of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize -- but 30 percent of our voters still say it should go to neither.
Well, I hope none of you got your hopes up... because these votes don't actually count for anything. But let's analyze this situation anyway, shall we? What makes either of these worthy of a Peace Prize?
Reuters offered this when reporting on the nominations:
WikiLeaks grabbed the world's attention and angered a number of governments by publishing thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables... Some pundits have said the Internet or social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which have been used to help organize dissent in countries with oppressive governments, could be rewarded.
I don't know about you, but that just doesn't do it for me. In fact, it would take putting on some serious blinders to not consider all opposing arguments: WikiLeaks put people's lives in danger. Internet access was cut off in Egypt and Libya. The Internet has been used as a tool to further oppress people, to spy on them. It has been used to disseminate false information. It has allowed this dancing banana video to be seen over 19 million times.
We discuss often on this site how the Internet is used as both a tool for good and evil. While it has been the medium that has allowed citizens in oppressed countries to communicate with one another, suggesting it should be rewarded for that, is to look at the situation from a feel-good perspective and not in a well rounded way. What about the role the Internet plays in really, really bad things? Think of those things (cyber-bullying, child pornography, terrorist recruitment, dissemination of what.the.ferraro, etc., etc.!) and try to explain how the Internet fits the description Nobel offered.
It's just not rational, and it doesn't consider the whole situation. Rather, this nomination feels much like the endless array of breathless articles and books articulating the Internet's power that bother not with contrarianism or challenging arguments.
Barack Obama's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 caused a great deal of controversy, as he was given the award based on what he could potentially do rather than what he'd already done. Should the Internet or WikiLeaks get the Nobel Nod, it will feel like a similar situation, where more worthy candidates lose out to the power of hope and hype.
— Nicole Ferraro , Executive Editor, Internet Evolution