The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Feel Better?

I recieved an e-petition in my inbox this morning from a well-meaning family member. There was no actual petition, however, just the name of the problem, " PETITION TO LOWER GAS and Diesel PRICES IN THE UNITED STATES" and a list of the first 1533 people who have signed it, with the message,

"PETITION FOR PRES. BUSH Presidential Petition Please do NOT let this petition
stop and lose all these names. If you do not want to sign it, please forward
it to everyone you know. To add your name, click on "forward". You will
be able to add your name at the bottom of the list and then forward it to
your friends. Or, if necessary you can copy and paste and then add your name
to the bottom of the list. THE 2,000TH PERSON PLEASE SEND IT ON TO THE
FOLLOWING E-MAIL ADDRESS:
President@WhiteHouse.gov

Thank you very much. "



There was no statement given to which the undersigned agreed, no statement, in fact, whatsoever but that one should not let this petition stop.

So I did what I usually do -- checked it out at Snopes.com (the Urban Legend people) and found that, while this petition was not specifically mentioned, there was a great article regarding on-line petitions. According to the folks at Snopes, the signing and circulating on-line petitions is not an effective way to get one's message across or of remedying important issues for a variety of reasons. No one is actually keeping track of the mushrooming
messages with lists of names, for one; often these do not have an intended recipient who is in a position to remedy the situation being petitioned. Then there is the sad (but safe) fact that no one can verify the names on such a petition is another. These lists of names, even if they reach someone with the authority to do something about the petitioned situation, are treated with no seriousness.

According to Barbara Mikkelson, of Snopes.com, "In a world beset by complex problems, the solutions of which will take enormous amounts of time, money, and commitment, such simplification as the e-petition provides a welcome relief. Imagine having the power to solve those problems! Moreover, imagine having it merely at the click of a mouse! " Ms. Mikkelson
goes on to explain how comforting the action of joining a petition is to those who participate: at last, something John and Jane Everyman can do! But she continues, "E-petitions are the latest manifestation of slacktivism, the search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without having had to actually gets one's hands dirty or open one's wallet."

Further, there may be money involved. Because of the interest in these on-line petitions (though not, as far as I know, regarding the above 'petition' I received this morning) web sites emerge to 'service' these petitions. Ms. Mikkelson explains, "Many of these sites display banner ads that generate revenues for the sites' operators. That means every time someone visits
to view or sign a petition, the site's owners earn revenue." Now that isn't necessarily an evil thing, but it does make one wonder if the purpose of the website isn't ultimately to make money for the owner, and if so, one wonders where those funds are directed.

So sign a petition, if it will make you feel better. I would suggest not adding your e-mail address or other identifying factor for obvious safety reasons, but then, without identifying yourself, you realize that your signature is nothing more than a way to vent your discontent.

If signing a petition doesn't do it for you, and you feel upset enough about an issue to do something, you might try doing it the tried and true way. Pick up a pen and paper and write to your Congressman, your Representative, even Presidebt Bush. Write it on the computer if you like. Use a format that includes your address. Then print it out and sign your name to it. Put it in a stamped envelope and send it to the proper address. The chances that you will be heard, that your voice from the wilderness will be noted by those who can actually do something about the situation, will increase at least one-hundredfold.

There now. Feel better?

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