The surprise winner of the Prospect/Foreign Policy global intellectuals poll is Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Turkish Sufi cleric with an international network of 5m followers, many hundreds of thousands of whom propelled him to a landslide victory (see the full results here).
Those who had a pop at Prospect for pandering to the forces of pseudo-democratic populism by running such a poll will feel vindicated by the result. After all, the fact that the Fethullahçi—the collective noun for Gülen’s followers—successfully mounted an orchestrated campaign for their man does away with any claim of objectivity made for the poll (not a claim we ever made, of course).
Yet on the other hand, as I describe in my piece that accompanies the results, perhaps we can see in Gülen’s victory the emergence of a new kind of public intellectual: one whose influence is expressed through a personal network, with the help of the internet, rather than more traditional institutions like journals or universities.
And Gülen himself has strong links to Turkey’s ruling AK party, which finds itself on the receiving end of an attempt to ban it by the country’s secular establishment. As David Goodhart describes in his editorial, this is probably the biggest political battle in Europe—and anything that draws our attention to it must be a good thing. (Ehsan Masood explores Gülen’s life and work here.)
If you have any questions about the poll, or the various voting campaigns that it spawned, post them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.