The Devin’s Advocate: What Is Wrong With io9’s Readers?

One of the best sites on the web runs a March Madness scifi movie showdown, and the results are… troubling. Join me for a discussion of the pros and cons of the democracy of the internet.

I like io9. It’s the best site in the Gawker empire, it has lots of actual original content and it has a fascinatingly wide sweep of interests. The people who write for io9 are, for the most part, really smart and some are even very good writers - which puts the site leagues ahead of most others. I have some philosophical problems with their obsessions about transhumanism and ‘The Singularity,’ but whatever, they’re passionate. io9 is one of my favorite sites on the web.

Which makes their ‘March Madness’ scifi movie showdown all the more horrifying. The site has been doing one of those bracket things that people do every March because of the basketball March Madness - not terribly original, but I guess readers like it. We’re not non-profits out here on the web. Anyway, the problem I have isn’t that io9 is doing such a bracket thing, it’s that their readers have been using it as a way to show incredibly poor taste.

In io9’s defense this isn’t limited to their site. If you offer a voting option to the random masses online you will be shocked to see how poor the taste of the mob is. But what’s such a bummer about io9’s bracket results is that I kind of assumed their readers weren’t the kind of people who just reflexively voted for the newer movie. And yet The Matrix beat Brazil, and Serenity is on the cusp of beating Back To The Future. Serenity, it’s worth noting, already beat ET. By a HUGE margin. Jurassic Park beat Metropolis. The Incredibles beat Forbidden Planet!

I think this just goes to show why I don’t trust internet democracy anymore than the founding fathers of the United States trusted regular democracy (remember, we’re a constitutional republic and representative democracy). Democracy shouldn’t be a popularity contest, but that’s usually how it pans out. There’s no other way to explain how Serenity got 68% of the vote while ET, a better film using every single possible metric, floundered at 32%. People vote with their fandoms, not with their brains. And they vote for the familiar, not the best - even the readers of a smart site like io9.

This isn’t just on io9. Go to IMDB and look at the weird, idiotic discussions that happen about unreleased movies, or go to the angry comments on negative reviews for upcoming (unseen by the commenters) fanboy movies at Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a weird internet out there, and scary.

But here’s where I turn it to you, the faithful (and very smart so far!) readers of BAD - is there such a thing as bad taste? Am I just being a big old elitist when I look at Serenity edging out Back to the Future and act in horror? Is the democracy of the internet going to wash away stuffed shirts like myself, or is it the voice of the rabble magnified in an echo chamber of likeminded lunatics?

And how would YOU have voted in io9’s brackets? Here’s the original brackets, complete with winners to date.