Tuesday, December 04, 2012

White House Petitioners Want a Death Star by 2016...

A few years ago, the Obama Adminstration unveiled an initiative called "We The People" in order to grant everyone the ability to directly petition the White House.  Basically, anybody can submit a petition to the website, and for any petition that gathers 25,000 e-signatures, the White House will issue an official response.

Sounds great, right?  Philosophically, the idea can be linked to such noble democratic aspirations as direct democracy, the wisdom of crowds, governmental accessibility, transparency, accountability... you name it.

But in reality, "We The People" has often become a case study in Web 2.0 gone awry.

Last month, in the wake of the President's re-election, 20 petitions were submitted calling for states to secede from the Union.

Now, topping that, an actual petition has been submitted to the White House (thank you Star Wars fanatics) calling for the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016.  It's even framed in terms of economic stimulus...

By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.

Everyone's having fun with it.  Politico writes, "The petition needs 24,505 more signatures to generate a White House response — and several hundred years of technological progress to become a reality".

Commenters on the website itself are also game.  Zach Claywell writes, "As President of Earth, I would vote in favor of such a program. [However, instead of a planet-destroying laser (which could fall into the wrong hands on Earth, or a villain on Dr Who), I would have it play an awesome laser light show.]". 

Likewise, Brad VanHorn adds, "Hmm...might work! But change it to an exploratory ark that will launch to the abyss with all republicans on it".

All of which is super-amusing and if this doesn't put a smile on your face than you're surely made of stone.  That said, it also highlights everything that's wrong with trying to directly crowdsource public policy.  Unfortunately, the "We The People" experiment seems to have become a joke.



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