Shortly before 8 pm yesterday, an anonymous person or group hacked the USC Elections site. Voters were redirected to a page that welcomed them to the “Justin Bieber Hairstyle vote 2012” and informed them that “a vote for Bieber is a vote for world peace.” As of now, the motivations behind the defacement of the site are unknown. Still, the act raises an important question: was it just an example of wanton e-vandalism perpetrated by ne’er-do-wells or something more – something political? In the often superficial and super-sensational world of USC presidential elections, a vote for the Biebs’ luscious locks may not be so different than a vote for any of the candidates.
A frequent criticism of the annual USC elections is how many of the candidates’ promotional videos, twitter feeds, debates, and displays in the UCC are heavy on style and light on substance. In many instances, information about the candidates and their platforms took a back seat to flashy presentations. Between the eerily similar videos that featured little more than video of the candidates walking set to music, free goodies in the UCC atrium, and constant pop culture references during debates, it’s not hard to see how some students might feel that the real issues were lost amid the tumult of ostentatious campaigning.
Far from going unnoticed, the reliance on flashy campaign techniques by the candidates was criticized heavily by students on Facebook and Twitter, as well as in this publication. In light of such widespread condemnation, the defacement of the USC Elections site could be seen as a pointed criticism of the political climate at Western. The carefully manipulated cult of personality that follows Bieber is unsettlingly similar to the ones that were constructed around the USC presidential candidates. When students are being swayed politically by showy productions and cookies, is Western really so different than Bieber’s world of industry image management?
Instead of dismissing yesterday’s hack, it should be seen as a wake-up call for Western’s voting community. Not that elections that admittedly cater to a fun-loving demographic shouldn’t be fun themselves, but we would do well to focus more on the issues next time around. After all, what does it say about Western as a democratic and open institution when a vote for a USC presidential candidate is gained through the same means as Justin Bieber’s popularity?