Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina appears on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican

Global Hive Mind Failed Miserably on Pope Sweepstakes

The crowd wasn’t very wise when it came to gaming the papal race.

In the past 30 days on Twitter, newly named pontiff Jorge Bergoglio was the least-mentioned among the twenty favorites to succeed Pope Benedict. And exactly one person in the entire world searched for “Pope Francis” on Wikipedia in the past month.

Bettors didn’t prove to be any more prescient — they had the Argentinian cardinal as a 33-1  long shot.

On Twitter, Bergoglia drew miniscule notice. The 76-year-old was the subject of only 0.04 percent of all tweets mentioning the names of any of the leading twenty candidates. Ghanian cardinal Peter Turkson got approximately 100 times as much play on the social media site.

But Bergoglia was hardly plucked from obscurity. He reportedly finished second in balloting behind Joseph Ratzinger at the 2005 papal conclave, and insiders say that his route to the papacy this time around has been clear all along — he was a fallback candidate who could be tapped by his colleagues if none of the other frontrunners could muster the required number of votes. (Apparently, none could.)

The blindness extended well beyond Twitter. As Peter Turkson was emerging an online celebrity and Angelo Scola was generating huge amounts of buzz, web searches of Bergoglio’s name were so sparse that — as of Wednesday afternoon — he didn’t even register on Google trends.

Is there an obvious explanation for how the whole of humanity was so clueless?

The lesson seems to be that a crowd of billions can be wise — but it can also be pretty dumb.

And there’s this delightful coda: We’ll probably never know who the lone soul was who searched the term “Pope Francis” on Wikipedia last week — but it’s fun to imagine that it was Jorge Bergoglia, gaming out his new moniker in the world’s dominant language.

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