Thursday, November 17, 2016
This morning a friend wanted advice about how handle the blizzard of internet petitions and appeals flying about in the wake of the Trumpocalyse.
Here's some of what I wrote to her -- nothing novel, but perhaps more widely helpful. Please add thoughts in comments. I bet we are all living with this and trying to figure out how to react. Our net activism isn't going to save the country, but it may be part of living in resistance.
1) Evaluate what you are being asked to sign. Have you ever heard of the group/individual who passed it on? Does the content of the petition make sense? Most important of all, even if this particular petition is substantively not crazy, would what is asked be effectual? There are lots of ills embedded in the U.S. governing system and petitions aren't going to change most of them. Petitions that require an amendment to the Constitution should be non-starters. Also ones that would require political leaders to accomplish feats of fancy footwork, like the current one suggesting we can get all the state legislatures to boycott and overthrow the Electoral College. Not going to happen.
2) In general, internet petitions are simply devices to collect email addresses. That's no crime. If the petition comes from an organization you know and respect, why not get on their mailing list? I sometimes sign ones I agree with — what I think of myself as doing is continuing to hear from their sponsors. (Later I often unsubscribe, but they usually find me again. :-)
These days they all also hope to get you to donate. Some of them will need the money. I'm thinking particularly of Planned Parenthood.
3) Impeding Trump's hate-filled racist authoritarian ambitions is going to require many tactics in different moments. The internet petitions that might be worth signing are those that connect you into broad networks that are following some strategy that might make it harder for Trump to follow his worse impulses.
At this moment in time, I would sign petitions and take actions that any organization is sponsoring to try to get Steve Bannon out of the White House. The Breibart editor is a known enabler of anti-Semitism, woman-hatred, racism, Islamophobia, and conspiracy theories. His appointment as Trump's counselor tests whether we’ll be obedient to the new boss and normalize hate in office. This is a significant test. If we don't protest, the next test will be worse. Screaming bloody murder now is appropriate.
I’ve signed on with organizations from J Street (!) to Peace Action on this one as well as the usual liberal suspects, like Daily Kos. It is also gratifying to see that 169 Congressional Democrats have spoken against Bannon, including such Senators as Sanders and Franken. Aroused people are great for putting backbone into politicians.
4) At this moment, I would also suggest supporting with emails and calls those state and city officials who are doing the right thing, promising to protect their residents against racial profiling and hate attacks.
California elected officials claim to be making a serious effort to preserve the progressive initiatives that state has embarked on. This too may well matter in tough days ahead.
Internet petitions aren't going to save us. But as resistance grows, even internet noise has to be part of the chorus. And then we get active!