They are relentless. They are prolific. They are often inane. They are mostly useless. They scream “urgency”. And now they are becoming exhausting.
They are the petitions. The dozens of pleading, begging, urgent emails, calls, letters etc to save…the whatever or influence whomever?
But they are worse than that, because so many are disingenuous, merely veiled efforts to raise funds. And others are so trivial; I hate to fill my email box with a lot of junk. How this all got to where it is today is a bit of a mystery, but clearly the ease and convenience of the internet and email has caused this proliferation of mostly garbage to solicit various interest groups. And this outrageous volume is also making the initiation of new petitions somewhere between weak and useless. But, clearly that hasn’t stopped the process.
There are a number of things wrong with these multitudinous petitions, and the first reason is the one that bothers me the most. Those who are perpetrating them are trivializing a vital method of protest. In fact, The Petition Clause of the very First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of the people "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Similarly, petitions grant citizens the right to sue various parts of their government when an injustice --of some magnitude-- is done. Petitions have been used in recall campaigns as was the case in the 2003 California recall election. They helped free Nelson Mandela from prison. So, they have a serious, hallowed, and significant historical role in democratic societies. No longer. I have received petitions for everything from protesting restaurant food, drinking water, the land, the sea, the air the…? But even more trivial are those that urge us to “save” my brother, son, nephew, aunt, uncle, brother-in-law or…? Even as I write this, three more came in for Social Security, military assaults, and food stamps. And oh yes, one more to “support the Philippines.” All worthy causes, but to what avail? Oops, excuse me a minute, here’s Nancy Pelosi, one more just arrived (really!). Give me a break.
The bottom line of all this is I am sure congressmen and women do not give a damn about this stuff; they are smart savvy and know that with a click of a mouse you can gather hundred, thousands, and even more signatures that are canned and packaged to support some cause. How do they know? Because they are doing it themselves.
Moreover, every petition has been created to support the cause of a special interest group. Get on a list (which is likely sent, sold or offered a sister group of say progressive voters) and now with the flick of your mouse you are “signed.” All well and good, but flip that same coin over, and the conservatives are running the same kind of program. Thus, those you are petitioning are getting hundreds of emails (or whatever other kind of delivery is being made), so the weight of any single group’s clout is minimized to very little or zero. In fact, nothing has been gained, except perhaps one thing. And that would be…money!
That is another of the disappoint parts of the voluminous petitions now received. Most now are just transparent ways to seek funds. Almost a bait and switch. “I want your opinion on this vital subject”. “Great…now donate to the cause.” It is an aggravating kind of subterfuge, I would prefer to just have them solicit me upfront, I will or will not give, and get on with it honestly. But to pretend that my opinion counts or my signature will change the course of any current event is simply disingenuous and frankly cheap.
Well, by now I am certain you get my point about the petitions of today, especially those found in great abundance on the internet. They trivialize our democratic process…they are mostly useless in influencing public policy…and they are a sneaky way to get funds. Having said all that, here’s my plan. I am going to start a new petition to: “Stop Petitions on the Internet.” Any signers? Oh…and don’t forget that with a simple click of a button you can contribute to my cause (credit cards accepted).