Wednesday, August 10, 2005

There's nothing calculated, nothing planned

I know it's easy to pick on some of the sillier causes found online, in a rather melodramatic lament for the state of democracy, but a laundry list of absurd comparisons is missing the point: For example: When crowds took to San Francisco streets last month to support the Giants anti-mascot Crazy Crab -- ditched in 1985 in part because fans were hurling bottles at it -- it made for a few humorous stories on a slow news day. But when the same fight was taken to the Web, it seemed kind of twisted. Can citizens really be more concerned for fictitious animals ("Bring Back the Crazy Crab!": 776 signatures) than real ones ("Put an End to Fox Hunting": 395 signatures)? [...] Here's proof: In the last year, petitions have surfaced supporting "Drivers Against Females Driving" (46 signatures), "Nude pictures of Dick Cheney" (50 signatures) and something called "We Like Big Butts" (610 signatures) -- which appears to be aimed at turning a Sir Mix-A-Lot rap into a legislative mandate. Here's more proof: "Save the Puppies" has compiled 21 signatures, while a petition demanding a " 'Saved by the Bell' 10-year Reunion Special" has gathered 6,241. [...] But it's still hard to get past the fact that "Please, Lindsay, Eat" (41, 135 signatures), requesting that actress Lindsay Lohan eat a sandwich, is beating out a petition that denounces the slaying of gay teens in Iran (19,607 signatures). Here's the thing: Rational people genuinely committed to a cause don't usually sign online petitions. They're self-evidently worthless, lacking even the evidence of effort to physically canvass for the opinions of one's fellow citizens. Even signing a physical petition is next to worthless, when it comes to effecting some kind of political change or action; it becomes all too obvious that the signers don't care enough to express an opinion of their own volition. (Or, interestingly, happen to have names like "J. Godzilla" and the like.) Is this a secret? Of course not - and that's why I'm neither surprised nor upset that so many have so little regard for the supposed sanctity of petitions. When the informed citizens of western civilization choose to express their opinions exclusively via pleas to bring back Saved by the Bell, then I'll worry as much as the author of this piece, and not before. (Via TV Tattle.)

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