Petitions Don't Work. What will?

Is it just me, or is discouragement playing a role in limiting on-line participation from the left? I just got an email from Jim Dean of Democracy for America. He says the "fiscal cliff" is not real, is merely a scare tactic. We all know this.

What does he propose? A petition to Congress. "Pretty please would you please please not run this scam that has been years in the planning and has most powerful people firmly behind it?"

Some time during the last 4 years, I stopped bothering to sign these petitions. Anyway, I feel as though I see the future, and it is murder. Such petitions strike me as worse than useless--they encourage a delusional feeling of participation and are usually more about maintaining the public standing of those who put them forward than they are about seriously addressing the problems we face.

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Not just you George.

Big Al's picture

I am deflated. I have thots and ideas, but as you say, they are drowned out by the daily cacaphoney of manufactured reality. People just cannot stop themselves, and as you say, it gets the best of em. Petitions do work at the state level. We got marijuana legalized because of petitions that got it on the ballot. That's because they're tied to a system that requires they be listened to if enough sign. That's what we need at the national level, a national petition/referendum or inititative system, which I think is built into the national system. But no one wants to talk about it or even take such ideas or options seriously.

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Now that one scares me

geomoo's picture

Nation-wide petitions.  I think they're problematic.  "Problematic compared to what?" you may ask, and you will have made an excellent point.  Give me throwing a deck of cards down the stairs to the current system.  Still, a huge problem with them is that a specific thing can pass irrespective of how it affects the entire system, with financials being the worst problem there.  Citizens decide some great thing has to be done everywhere all the time and the government has to figure out how to pay for it.  I can imagine that flaw being gamed, also, by Rove/Norquist types who wish to drown the government in debt.  Anyway, that's one negative argument.  I'm not feeling totally negative, and not wanting to rain on this parade.  I'm interested in discussing it.  Sounds like a good idea, and some good things have been done.

These things frighten me.  Another aspect is that, based on CA, it seems to me anecdotally that money definitely pays--we've seem some things fail that I'm pretty sure most of the people in the state would favor if they knew what hell was going on.  I would like to be wrong about that money thing--perhaps it's more immune to money influence, or alternatively more amenable to counteracting money through citizen activism than personality politics.

Isn't the Gray Davis recall an example of Enron gaming the system, engaging in execrable behavior, truly beyond the pale of human sympathy?  That's a little different, but it's a referendum being manipulated for hidden reasons, and it worked.  Hello Governator.  Cut slash burn.

Sorry to be so negative.  What are the chances of getting a bill like that snuck through congress.  Maybe no one will notice the extreme democratic element to the bill, an element that they all would detest.  Yeah, I think that would be a pretty good way to apply pressure, merely mount support in favor of such a bill, make it an issue.  We want national referenda.  Damn if I haven't changed my own mind.

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Do petitions divert people who were going to ...

BruceMcF's picture

... do something from doing it?

I think that they are indeed primarily a tool for the people promoting the petition to collect contact details of people at least mildly interested in an issues area.

Whether or not anything useful comes of it depends on whether anything useful comes of that organization getting that information. For those in the "veal pen", who make their living in soliciting contributions to pressure Congress and the Administration to put window dressing up at the slaughterhouse, obviously not much useful is going to come from it.

If, hypothetically, there was an effective and committed progressive movement, and they could parlay one out of a thousand petition slacktivists into people making some small but real and effective contribution, then the petitions could do a tremendous amount of good.

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I feel so dejected.

type1error's picture

I feel like the too many people are disengaged and aren't willing to listen. I'm relieved that Obama won because I feel like he was the lesser of the two evils but now I'm so depressed because I see where this country is going. How do we stop it?

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I guess we have to decide what we're more afraid of

Big Al's picture

ourselves, or the ruling class.

Like I said, even bringing up those type of things, I could add the Article V Convention process, state Constitutions, etc., bring up those comments.  Talk about term limits or a draft and people get all scared, oh no we can't do that.   Well, absolutely no one has a fucking clue what to do and they're too scared to try shit. 

That's why I'm a One Percenter by voting for Stein.  I'm still alive.  

Maybe we deserve what we get.

No offense geomoo, just my tude tonight.

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Not a Whiff of Offense

geomoo's picture

Thanks for laying it out there.

Let me run this by you.  I say there is an untold story of this election.  It may have been told--I don't watch much news.  That story is the definitive statement that people like us can be safely ignored, can even be goaded into actively hating the president.  It doesn't matter.  But, you know what is most unsettling of all, this story is not even important enough to report.  Everybody knew that anyway.  Where's the news?  Liberals have been caricatured and mis-represented in every medium from action movies to comedy to advertisements.  Liberals can be comics, but when the bullets start flying, we're all happy there's that asshole Bruce Willis standing there, prepared to jump over shit and blow shit up in our behalf.  And if we take it seriously and forget all that conspiracy shit, we may even get to marry his daughter.  We'll grow up some day.  That's us.  Challenging times.

I like your ideas for finding avenues to apply grass-roots pressure.  We should deploy them all at once.  But I'm no organizer, so there you have it.

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That's the thing, I'm not either.

Big Al's picture

"I'm just a pawn in the game of life".

I remember years ago writing that we needed a couple liberal billionaires to pony up their money so we can organize.  Money talks bullshit walks. 

But all the fricking liberal billionaires and most of the liberal millionaires are phonies, like the Hollywood phonies.

I'd also like to see all those smart people on the internet who are on our side turn from paying attention to the daily manufacutured reality toward finding solutions, organizing specific actions, using the system against itself. 

If I had a million bucks I'd fly them all into a convention center in a midwest city and make them stay there until they came up with a plan.

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A multi-faceted plan

geomoo's picture

What I would do with that billionaire's money, btw, is create a competing media empire.  My assumption is that, even with money, the game is rigged somehow so the market can't be penetrated.  I'm curious what happened to Ted Turner.  I know very little about what happened, but once I did see him on a news show pleading his case that government policy was somehow putting him at a disadvantage against Rupert Murdoch.  He was pleading, I can stop this guy, but I need whatever.  I've always wondered what went on there.  I know people don't like him, but he wanted to be liberal.  Those peace games he funded, that was a philanthropic venture, and for something I believe in.  If he could be running CNN the way he wanted, he would likely be trying to create cultural connections with the muslim world.  I mention Turner, because he's as close to what you mention as I think we'll see.

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Hell, take away the Pentagon and CIA's propaganda

Big Al's picture

budget and we'd make alot of progress right there.   The media is the elephant in the room, that and our educational system.  That's what creates and conditions the sheeple.  And you know as well as I that's it's worse than ever and has reached Orwellian proportions.   We need plans that take that into consideration, that can work with that reality somehow.

I've used the term before, use the system against itself. 

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Yes indeed

geomoo's picture

What is disturbing is that, what I call propaganda, is not just about ideas and believing things--it creates a different kind of person, it creates values, and those values have a huge impact on behavior.  Here's an example.  This is the preview to a Tom Cruise film coming out soon.  I happened to see it the other day.  This is what I mean by propaganda.  The earlier trailers said, "If he's coming for you, you deserve it."  See?  Just like drone attacks and targeted assassinations.  What first got my attention was the preview I saw.  At one point, accompanied by loud music with heavy bass, all very viscerally involving, the screen flashes in huge block letters,

THE LAW HAS LIMITS.

HE DOES NOT.

The closing narrative is "He doesn't care about the law, doesn't care about proof.  He only cares about what's right."  Just like Colbert's gut feeling.  Just like the military commissions. That's what I mean by propaganda.  It doesn't even occur to people that they're being subjected to it.

Here's the trailer for that film.  How much sympathy am I going to get making a serious critique of this film and claiming it contributes to our lack of outrage when the rule of law is undermined?  It would just piss people off if I got in the way of their entertainment.  This sort of thing affects our values, affects how we treat one another and who we are.

 

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