Rule 1 of the Internet: Nothing is sacred, except Ron Paul and anonymity. Especially not the White House’s online petition site, which, as of last year, has offered citizens a grand, democracy-emboldening proposition: You, the American citizen, may petition the president of the United States of America on an issue of your choosing. Draw up a petition online, submit it, and, if you manage to get over 25,000 signatures, the administration—probably its least senior intern—will, wait for it respond to your query.
Yes, the administration will issue an official “response.” Or at least officially refuse to, as they have done with regards to Bradley Manning and Zeek Rewards. By way of comparison, in Finland, 50,000 signatures to any petition means the legislature will consider any citizen-submitted law.
So far, the petition site is most famous for the flood of post-election secession propositions; there’s now evidently one for every state. Way to stick it to the man, tech-savvy Republicans—you have finally proven to the world that you can operate the internet and that you have a sizable amount of free time. Now, the (mock) interest in the petition site has soared, and ever-resourceful internet pranksters have found a new venue with which to sling their snark. They’re making petitions about everything from hipsters to Halo to Twinkies. Some are clever, some are funny, and most are, as you’d expect, far beyond dumb.
What’s that? Not a joke? A call to debate the nation’s most racist and repulsive sheriff? My bad.
Woops again. Apologies. On the internet, it’s easy to forget that people are insane.
You get the point. There are a number of legit petitions along with plenty of tin foil hat propositions, too. But people are officially using the White House petition site as a depository of various blends of nonsense. And, seeing as how the entire enterprise is an ill-conceived, totally half-assed effort in the first place, I fully endorse it.
Get serious about soliciting online participation in governance in the first place, and show some respect for users by offering honest answers. Don’t force them to start a petition entitled Actually take these petitions seriously instead of just using them as an excuse to pretend you are listening, reply with “Seriously, we’re listening,” and then proceed to duck the next serious question. And then maybe folks won’t treat the whole thing as place to make jokes about Twinkies.