In another sign that frustration with Congress has spread well beyond people who follow political news, the irreverent FAIL Blog announced today that its audience just voted Congress the biggest “FAIL” of the year. The blog doesn’t focus much on politics—previous FAIL of the Year winners include Kanye West and Justin Bieber.
If you are over 35, perhaps you are wondering what FAIL means, (or whether you can find something else to read). It refers to a major or “epic” error or failure, often embarassing, and it grew into an Internet trend where people emblazon the word “FAIL” over an image. (FAIL blog even includes a form where people can make and share their own nominations.) For example, here are this year’s winners:
About 60,000 FAIL readers voted in the survey, settling on Congress despite stiff competition from famous train wrecks like Kim Kardashian, Charlie Sheen and Casey Anthony (who all finished in the Top Ten).
FAIL Blog is part of the very goofy and very successful Cheezburger blog network, which has grown to draw 24 million visitors every month, under the leadership of Ben Huh, its 33-year-old founder. Mr. Huh got started by plowing $10,000 of his own money into buying an offbeat and user-driven site called I Can Has Cheezburger, which focuses on, as the New York Times once reported, the pairing of “photos of cats with quirky captions.” With sales from ads, merchandising and five spin-off books, the company generates revenue in the tens of millions of dollars. The Times noted that the sites are not just popular because they are fun—they are popular because they run on a constant, pulsing feedback loop of user-driven content that reflects how people are feeling this minute:
One secret to the company’s success is the way it taps into the Internet zeitgeist. It seeks clues to what is funny right now by monitoring the Web for themes bubbling up on community forums, blogs and video sites.
So the site’s take on politics, when it does weigh in, probably reflects something real. For his part, Mr. Huh says this years’s FAIL results show that the distaste for Congress is more widespread than ever. “Our fans have spoken and it has to be somewhat expected,” he said, “in a year of D.C. scandals, gridlock, crises and a Gallup approval rating of 13 percent.”