February 15, 2010

Facebook members lionize leftist politicians

We pay lip service to the great politicians of the past -- we even create public holidays in their honor. But what about when it comes to something that would cost us in order to affiliate with them? That would seem to give us a more accurate picture of who we truly admire.

There is a section for politicians among Facebook "pages," which are like encyclopedia entries on someone or something that members can join and become fans of. You like Starbucks? Go to their page, join, and your fan status will show up on your profile to signal to others what you like. Since that signal of affiliation is made public to those in your broad Facebook circle, you'll be pretty careful in your choice. Sure, you could become a fan of someone you don't really like, just because that person is approved of in your circle. Still, this is unlikely because when you look at what people are fans of, it's all over the place, conservative and liberal, hip-hop and punk, pro and anti-gay marriage, love and hate Wal-Mart, etc.

Below is a list of those politicians with at least 10,000 fans. I excluded those whose names I didn't recognize, in order to restrict it to famous politicians, not some provincial mayor from Tunisia in 1982. (I did quiz bowl in high school, so I'd recognize someone if they were big.) I also excluded recent politicians because their popularity is mostly due to fans jumping on the bandwagon. Older politicians have survived the test of time. Some political figures with lots of fans are not listed because they are in the "other public figures" section that I can't access -- people like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi. A few non-politicians slipped into the politician section, though.

The number next to the name is how many fans the politician has in thousands, and only takes into account their page with the most fans. For example, there must be 10 pages for Ataturk, but I don't know how many fans of the various groups belong only to one or to the others, so I can't simply add all fan numbers up to get the total number of Ataturk fans. Most, however, don't have multiple pages, so it doesn't matter.

Ataturk 304
Nelson Mandela 258
Che Guevara 212
Jinnah 70
Soekarno 51
Regan 37
Malcolm X 29
Harvey Milk 29
Lincoln 27
Tito 26
Allende 23
Rosa Luxemburg 23
Churchill 22
Castro 21
Yitzhak Rabin 19
RFK 19
Jefferson 19
Carter 18
Benjamin Franklin 18
JFK 17
Thatcher 17
Adam Smith 16
Washington 16
William Wallace 14
Nasser 12

Pretty sad! I'm sure that Ataturk's prominence is due to Turkish members, and ditto Soekarno, Rabin, Jinnah, and Nasser reflecting Indonesian, Israeli / Jewish, Pakistani, and Egyptian members. Most American college kids couldn't tell you who Ataturk was, although they know who Nelson Mandela, Castro, Che Guevara, and maybe even Rosa Luxemburg are, so their popularity is more real. Tito and Allende are less clear -- could be due to commie fans in the developed world, or agitators in the third world (Luxemburg might go in this group too).

Of those known to the typical Westerner, there are roughly equal numbers of liberal and conservative figures, but the liberal ones are much more popular and more likely to not deserve their popularity. All of the conservatives would rank highly on a conservative's list of who got stuff done for their cause. But Harvey Milk, RFK, and Carter? Why didn't they pick FDR, Huey Long, Lyndon Johnson, or anyone else who at least did a lot for their cause?

Conservative Facebook members thus appear more serious or intellectual -- if you polled conservative academics, you'd surely get lots of votes for Jefferson, Adam Smith, Regan, etc. But if you polled serious and intellectual liberals, I doubt RFK or Carter would get many votes at all. Again, FDR, Johnson, etc. would get those votes instead. Liberal people on Facebook view their political affiliation more as a fashion statement than a statement of their political philosophy or outlook. Gays are what's in, so let's become fans of Harvey Milk rather than that boring old fuddy-duddy Franklin Domino Roosevelt. And Che, isn't he one of those Zapatistas who liberated Mexico from Texas? -- whatever, he's that guy on that poster in Jayden's dorm room, so I'll totally fan him.

The presidents who we honor with holidays don't do so well when we're actually required to invest something in the endorsement. But perhaps that's for the better -- just imagine, based on this list, who'd win in a plebiscite to name the next political holiday: awww c'mon mr. agnostic, don't give us so much homework on harvey milk day!


  1. I assume you mean Reagan, not Regan.

  2. Unrelated, but you'll tremendously enjoy tearing into this Okcupid data blog post on how women in their 30s are better than younger women:


  3. dude, the Che Guevara thing is exasperating. Even when people kind of know who he is, they usually don't know enough. Most people would actually be against the policies he championed if discussed as policies rather than Che's actions. Most people would probably doubt the guy if they knew more about his failures everywhere outside of Cuba. And even then, I don't exactly call Cuba a success.

  4. Two of the top three are terrorists. People are idiots.

  5. Harvey Milk was a supporter of Jim Jones & The People's Temple. He got in front of television cameras supporting him against allegations flying around at the time. I didn't see the movie, but Ann Althouse did and said it makes Milk out to be a somewhat unpleasant character. But he got shot, which thereby makes him a Saint of Victimization. To an even greater degree than John McCain, who foolishly survived his capture in Vietnam.

  6. Wade Nichols2/17/10, 2:40 PM


    Who'd have thought that former Secretary of the Treasury Donald Regan would have so many fans on Facebook!

    "I'd shoot Donald Regan to prove my love for Lisa Foster." - Fans of MST3K will get this one!

  7. I work with several Turkish people. Ataturk isn't referred to as Ataturk. He's referred to as "The Savior." I wonder how common that is.

  8. Tito has a lot of supporters and fans in places like Bosnia and Macedonia due to happy memories of his reign over them when Yugoslavia was a working country making forward progress in the world, rather than a synonym for mass murder. Neither country has returned to their 1990 living standards in the twenty years since Yugoslavia collapsed and the, at least a decade, since open warfare ended in the former Yugoslavia.


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