White House Petitions Only Enable Us to Be Lazy


Are WhiteHouse.gov petitions faux activism?

Instead of getting "stuck in," people just sign their name to a petition on the White House site and send it to a few friends then sit back and feel smug. (For that matter are any online petitions worth anything more than a way for the organizers to data mine emails?)

This is not unique to the U.S. either, as online activists are always touting one or another petition on the Downing Street site to get the attention of the Prime Minister. Have either the American or UK versions ever resulted in any legislation or action? I rather doubt it.

This came to a head, of course, when the British and American media were both reporting on the duelling Piers Morgan petitions on the White House site.

There has been a spate of mocking petitions on the White House ranging from one urging the administration to build a "Death Star," which they refused, to one urging them to set up a reality show for Joe Biden. Of course, the amusing petitions upset the more civic minded

"The White House saw the project as yet another avenue for digital civic engagement and as well-meaning outreach — a nice gesture, at the very least. What they did not foresee at the time of the launch was the extent to which the site would be co-opted for epic quantities of taxpayer-funded trolling," wrote Mother Jones.

Some people might call it trolling, but to others it is reasonably mocking the faux activism and social awareness of online petitions. What is, of course, more concerning is the disdain and mocking the administration and its supporters have for the petitions of secession (from all 50 states) that have appeared since Obama was re-elected.

Over-taxed and ignored citizens seem to be using the tools of the internet and modern communications to make themselves heard.

Unfortunately, many in the media have been lumping the 50 state petitions with those that are more clearly non-serious. Currently, there is a petition to officially mark "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and even a petition to make it harder for American citizens to get a response from the White House for their petition.

Next time you get an email from forthright person or interest group imploring you to sign a White House petition (or any other), it might be a good idea to ask yourself if that action is worthwhile and will further the cause. Or is there a better way of making your voice and the cause heard?