New Seven Wonders of the World: Utter Crap
This is the title of a very valid post on Gridskipper. While there has been an immense amount of hype, especially in the Indian media; something did seem amiss. The TOI has a banner on its front page, extolling our patriotic sense to vote for the Taj. Jingoism goes to a new level when CNN-IBN has a whole video segment on why we should vote. However no one bothers to dwelve into who is making the rules for this list.
New Seven Wonders of the World, right?
The “winners” will be 7 monuments culled from an original list of 177 possibilities, which was first compiled in November 2005. By January 2006, the list of monuments had been reduced to the top 21, which is right about the time we first called bullshit on the whole enchilada, to mix metaphors in a most unappetizing way. Quite simply, the entire New Seven Wonders project is a scam designed to enhance the prestige and coffers of its founder. You might even call it a “pyramid scheme,” though not for the usual reasons.
The man behind New Seven Wonders is Bernard Weber, a Swiss gent variously described as a businessman or an entrepreneur or even an adventurer (like Indiana Jones!). Sure, he’s quite the renaissance man, with many a colorful feather in his cap. Why the compulsion to come up with a new list of wonders? Was there a crying need for such a list? Had anyone gotten upset because they weren’t on the list?
Of course not — at least not until Weber made them upset by creating his new list. The New Seven Wonders is one of the most protracted and bizarrely successful publicity stunts in history, and it’s based exclusively on … well, exclusion. Getting on the list is of questionable value, but being left off the list is perceived as a definite snub. Weber and his representatives make airy proclamations about the democratic process giving the entire world a chance to select its wonders, rather than stuffy old Antipater of Sidon and his original list of wonders. But really the success of the list is predicated on large numbers of people getting whipped into a nationalistic fervor — a frenzy that has draw politicians, entertainers, and even phone companies into stumping for votes.
An amusing side-story developed when it looked like Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza — the only surviving member of the original Seven Wonders of the (Ancient) World — might not make the new list. Various Egyptians protested, even calling the whole thing a conspiracy to defame the pyramids. The New Seven Wonders folk compromised by removing the Giza pyramids from voting, declaring them an “honorary” eighth wonder on the new list. That’s got to be a huge relief to Egyptologists the world over.
But forget the blood and thunder — meanwhile, New Seven Wonders, which is most assuredly a for-profit corporation, has been raking it in. No public reports exist of the company’s finances, but just consider the claim that 70 million votes have been cast worldwide. Even if New Seven Wonders isn’t getting a payoff for the international phone voting, sending an SMS text message to vote will cost you $1 in the United States, with similar fees elsewhere. You can vote for free online via registering, but why not spend $2 on an official certificate documenting the happy occasion?
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