In the Loop

In the Loop: April 4, 2007 Archive

Would the Fuhrer love online petitions?

Posted at 9:40 AM on April 4, 2007 by Sanden Totten

According to UK Labor Member of Parliament Kelvin Hopkins:

"Dictators like Hitler would have loved the Internet, sending out petitions asking what people think of the Jews and claiming he was communicating directly with the people . . ."

In a recent article, members of the British Parliament slammed the rise of e-democracy. They claim the practice of sending online petitions straight to the top (i.e. Tony Blair) undermines the very idea of a representative democracy.

Kelvin Hopkins may have been going to the extreme with his example, but it's clear that e-democracy has changed what it means to be politically active. Even the founder of a UK on-line petition site admitted that these campaigns run the risk of "infantalising democracy."

You don't have to look far to see how easy it's become to speak up on any given issue. Sites like Petition Online let you create your own document of unrest . .. anything from "Stop the dolphin and whale killings in Taiji " to "Final Fantasy 13 version for xbox360." And spots like Progressive Portal offer you a handful of petitions you can sign at the drop of a hat. They claim changing the world is "quick, easy and effective!"

But is it effective? This on-line petition doesn't think so. To quote from it: "It's my firm belief that internet petitions are a waste of time . . . No one is going to care if you have a thousand nameless internet people sign your petition to get your local council to build something . . . So, please sign my petition petition and remember that no one will do anything about it, no-one will care about it and no-one's going to read it."

So maybe the real problem with online petitions is, as British MP Tony Wright puts it, they "produce disaffection, as people register their dislike ... and then nothing happens".

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