"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Online Petitions–A Feel-Good Way To Show Your Colors And Not Worry About Results

As anyone who regularly uses Facebook knows, petitions circulate every day to ‘protest’ or ‘support’ a particular cause or person. I am asked to e-sign demands for the defeat of the XL Pipeline and for the candidacy of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Check here to ‘stand with Obama on the Affordable Care Act’.  “Join millions of others who reject Wall Street’s greed and venality.”


There are even web sites which offer visitors hundreds of causes to endorse and petitions to sign. ‘Todays hottest petitions’ headlines one (www.thepetitionsite.com), and adept curation makes it easy to invite the Brown, Garner, and Rice families to the State of the Union; to tell anti-wind groups to stop blocking clean energy legislation in Congress; to tell Shell to help stop the bloodshed in the Niger Delta.

Most of the online petitions and petition-focused websites are progressive; and digital strategy sites like epolitics.com have often asked why there isn’t a Republican equivalent of Care2 and Change.org.  Why don’t conservatives have a petition site or activist hub which could then become a recruiting center for organizations and campaigns aligned with its values?

The question has often been asked about talk radio.  Where are the Left’s Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reilly? One answer is that progressives are too ‘on-the-one-hand-on-the-other’ deliberators, and considered and moderate assessment of the facts doesn’t play well on red-meat radio.  Another is that liberals have no sense of humor. “Sexism is not funny”, they insist while circus talk radio creates a side show of Femi-Nazis, tree-huggers, patriotic six-shooting Americans and gun control pansies. Limbaugh and his colleagues are entertainers, and bashing the Left can be a lot of fun especially because progressives are such push-overs.

It is no surprise, then, that online petitions are for progressive causes.  The world is in danger and only with committed, concerted action can we do something about it, progressives lament.

Conservatives understand that the world has always been in danger.  A cursory look at history shows nothing but a trail of savagery, barbarism, territorial greed, sectarian violence, and self-interested aggression.  Given this ineluctable expression of human nature, why bother providing fuel for the Ferris wheel? Better to focus on one’s relationship with God, the Eternal, and personal salvation. The country was founded on such religious individualism and the Founding Fathers understood that personal enterprise within a context of mutual respect would replace Europe’s patriarchy and autocracy.

Progressivism is no different from any religion with its core philosophy (Communalism); its Ten Commandments (Gender, Race, Ethnicity); its Vatican (the Federal Government); its apostles (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Robert Reich, and Bill Moyers); and its Creed (Christianity and Socialism).

Like any evangelical religion, Progressivism must preach and warn about the coming Armageddon – the hellfire and damnation waiting for the One Percent, the environmental despoilers; the sexists, racists, and homophobes.  Online petitions are the electronic equivalents of The Lighthouse, the handouts pesky Seventh Day Adventists distributed door-to-door.

Lobbyists know that online petitions do no good.  A Congressman is likely to change his vote if and only if a majority of his constituents demand his head over a particular issue. Shell will make decisions about the Niger Delta, Togo, or Equatorial Guinea on the basis of profits and losses.  In fact, because of increasing insecurity in Nigeria and other oil-producing companies with shaky regimes, Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP and others pulled out and began to invest in oil shale and gas exploration in stable North America.  Few corporations, politicians, or institutions respond to generalized petitions.  Politics are local, and business is global.  Votes and money count.

Infrared Congo

The way to encourage Nebraska, South Dakota, or Michigan to repeal State Constitutional Amendments banning same-sex marriages is to become a Latter Day Seventh-Day Adventist and go door-to-door. LGBT organizations in Fargo and Omaha should recruit its members to flood the zone, distribute literature, show the disbelieving, Deuteronomy and Acts readers that gay sex is OK, and they will vote the right way.

The way to force Wall Street to reform its ways is total divestment of stock portfolios, paying off mortgages, and getting out of the commodity futures market.  The way to improve farm workers wages is to electrify the border, mobilize SWAT teams to raid suspected farms and deport all undocumented laborers.

The way to improve the environment is to ditch your car and walk; unplug the refrigerator, disable the AC; and wear three sweaters in January.  The way to stop corporate invasions of privacy is to drop Amazon and pay cash.

In other words, if progressives really wanted to do something about the causes they so passionately espouse, they would get down and dirty in the trenches.  

However, the real reason why progressives prefer to be online rather than be in the trenches is because their real motivation is to feel good and fly liberal colors - change is a by-product.   A ‘Save the Whales’ bumper sticker, marching in an Occupy parade, and circulating petitions to stop fracking and to raise the glass ceiling are all ways to enhance personal credibility and self-esteem – to look good to others.

In these days of social media, one’s credentials can easily be burnished through petitions.  No one is looking to see if John X actually did something to effect change other than to sign, demonstrate, march, or dissent. His visibility on progressive websites and petitions is enough.  His electronic persona is enough.

This is not to say that concerted expressions of political commitment have never worked.  Of course they have. Without the civil rights marches in Selma, Birmingham, and Mississippi Jim Crow might have lasted far longer.  These demonstrations, however, were not petitions, but downright bloody actions

Liberalism today has lost its cojones.  There is no menace, no danger, no threat.  Only online petitions for poor Bernie Sanders who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected President.

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