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I'm so sick of these useless White House petitions. Yes, they can bring a small amount of attention to issues but otherwise they accomplish nothing other than making people feel good for "signing" a petition.

Has there been a single White House petition that resulted in anything other than an official comment?




The point of the petition system is to raise awareness and to create another line of feedback. Currently, the Constitution does not provide for action based on activity on petitions.whitehouse.gov.

In the history of legislative and executive actions that have ever taken place, though, it's worth noting that many of them were spurred because of public awareness and outcry that preceded them. Does anyone here really think that SOPA was indefinitely tabled because Congressmembers suddenly read the bill and had a change of mind? Or was it because their offices received more calls and emails in than they likely did in the run-up to the Iraq and Afghan wars combined?


> Does anyone here really think that SOPA was indefinitely tabled because Congressmembers suddenly read the bill and had a change of mind? Or was it because their offices received more calls and emails in than they likely did in the run-up to the Iraq and Afghan wars combined?

Or, alternatively, because the executive branch believed it already had the authority the bill would have provided (since they shut down MegaUpload the very next day).

I'm very cynical about things like 'awareness', because it's all too easy for politicians and lobbyists, who think about these issues every day, to slip something else by eventually. Most of the policy changes that we deride today as regressive were themselves not a 'first attempt'.


> I'm very cynical about things like 'awareness', because it's all too easy for politicians and lobbyists, who think about these issues every day, to slip something else by eventually. Most of the policy changes that we deride today as regressive were themselves not a 'first attempt'.

Ironically, I'm even more cynical than you. I don't think that politicians think about these issues every day...I think they think about the "big" hot-button issues (health care, taxes) and otherwise spend most of their time campaigning to stay in office... and that is why the SOPA protest worked...SOPA would've sailed through considering it's extremely wide bipartisan support...but it's not because the politicians were in a backroom scheming about it. All it takes is a few politicians who agree with the lobbyists; the rest will go along with a given issue as long as there's no political fallout...because there is always political fallout in voting against an ally.

Once people started e-mobbing the offices en masse, then the just-go-with-it majority realized there was political fallout. And for better or worse, that legislation and virtually any similar legislation in the future, will not be seen as benign. That is a huge hurdle for lobbyists to overcome.


> And for better or worse, that legislation and virtually any similar legislation in the future, will not be seen as benign.

That's simply not the case, though. It's trivial for them (lobbyists) to disguise it as an unrelated issue, using whatever common bogeyman is popular at the time (drugs, child porn, terrorism).

This is exactly what has happened time and again.


I do see reference to the petitions in news stories though. When reporters write, "... and already well over 25,000 people have signed the petition to the White House..." I think it lends credibility to the story. If these petitions are good for nothing else, they stand as a monument to public outcry.


I actually think the Whitehouse petitions are harmful to causes, precisely because they give those who participate a false sense of accomplishment.


I agree. They facilitate evaporation cooling of causes and movements.

Let the less dedicated participants feel that they have done their part, and numbers will dwindle. As numbers dwindle only the extreme remain, and in few enough numbers that the entire cause is then written off as fringe.

It is a phenomena usually seen when cults start ejecting their more moderate members, but in this case it is harnessed by a separate party.


"evaporation cooling"

Exactly if you give people a "complaint department" and a method to file a complaint you put distance between their anger and the thing they are angry about and they will many times cool down and not explore other more viable options (not sure if that is what you meant but it's one of my thoughts about a process like this).


That is actually a better way of explaining it I think. Give the majority a safe way to vent and you'll deflate growing sentiment.

My (probably unnecessary) expansion on this is that when you deflate the sentiment, all those who remain angry will become more extreme (just by nature of not being surrounded by less extreme people) and will become easily to marginalize/fire.


I first noticed a similar behavior many years ago when the electric company pulled the power and we had some issues as a result. We were furious.

Their first response was to toally agree with us and give us the distinct impression that they were going to "make good". As a result we didn't do anything we just waited because we didn't think there would be any problem in restitution. Well time passed and later I had lost my steam when they finally came around and said "sorry but we're not going to do anything".


They facilitate evaporation cooling of causes and movements.

Also known as "letting a hundred flowers bloom." How'd that work out for the "flowers?"


Should be conceptually simple to resolve that question empirically. Has anyone done studies on whether people who sign a petition are more or less likely to engage in future actions (and if so, of what types)?


I partially agree. Petitions alone seem fairly empty of impact. The weight of your vote seems so easily dismissed.

I had that exact thought and built a site where petitions are paired with giving the charity to add extra "oomph" to your opinions. The idea being that you can either donate to charity on behalf of your idea in order to make the importance clear -or- you can donate to charity if/when the objective is met as a form of incentive.

So far, I've not been able to get any traction though, so the idea remains to this day an experimental concept. Nevertheless, I've channeled all of my own charitable giving through the site for the past year on behalf of ideas of interest to me.

I figure, why not? I possibly win by convincing the powers-that-be and/or the charities win by receiving donations.

I invite you to take a look: https://brianstaskforce.com/blog/more-than-a-petition


They also serve a very important function of reaffirming a belief you want to behave consistently with.


A very small practical result is that it could get a mention in half a sentence on CNN and Faux News ("... petition with 25,000 signatures ..."), sewing a sliver of doubt in public sub-consciousness.




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