Ding ding. Round 28.
We have 2 online petitions.
DON’T PLAY POLITICS,
ONE MAN + ONE WOMAN,
This is the Green Site.
The Coalition for Equal Marriage have the other one at c4em.org.uk, which currently has 32,690 apparent supporters for the slogan (incorporating an Irish rugby player, but if I mention that Laurence and his fellow muckrakers at Political Flapbook will start flapping again):
Don’t Let Bigotry Stop
Two People In Love*
This is the Pink Site.
The problem is that neither petition is running on a website that allows it to be audited independently by someone we can all trust, or alternatively linked irrefutably to a real identity.
So we have no authoritative idea who has really signed, whether they are real, whether the signatories are actually legitimately able to be part of a UK political process, and all the other problems associated with Flatpack Politics.
If you think these ‘process’ points don’t matter, then consider the Make the Pope Pay petition from early 2010 run by the National Secular society on their own website.
A great flapdoodle followed about 28,000 ‘signatories’ demanding that the UK Government not fund that particular State Visit.
There was even a PR stunt in Downing Street.
No one mentioned, and I suspect that the NSS themselves didn’t notice (or chose to ignore), that the petition was heavily ramped.
For example, on February 3rd and 4th, following a pointer from the US Pharyngula blog, the petition jumped from 5800 signatories to 11,400 signatures in one day, as recorded at the Internet Archive and in the comments on the blog post.
I have no idea how many of those were valid UK signatories, but Pharyngula receives roughly Guido levels of traffic (100k visitors a day or so), and the inability to prove who the objectors are makes the whole project a farce.
The petition had been launched on February 1st, and the run rate including ‘wow, lookee here’ media stories was around 700-800 signatures per day (28,000 in February, minus the extra 4,000-5,000) .
How many others were questionable beside the 20% cast into doubt by that single incident?
For the current ‘marriage’ petitions, we do not even know whether one person has signed either the “Equal Marriage” or “Coalition 4 Marriage” petition 948 times under different identities.
And neither petition appears to do even a reasonable mininum to ensure even that email addresses are genuine, which means that each email address should be validated and not accepted until a confirming link has been followed, and that signatories should be reviewed.
The C4M petition sent me an email confirming my signature, but not requiring that I prove that I had access to the email address I had given. The Equal Marriage petition didn’t even send me an email.
So does Winnie the Pooh believe in gay marriage?
I’d say he’s equivocal about it.
I signed both petitions on behalf of the Winnie the Pooh about 10 days ago, with my mattwardman AT gmail DOT com email address. Neither has issued a peep of protest about how I’m mocking their marketing-publicity efforts. Screenshots are at the end of this post.
So, never mind the reality, feel the width, and we are back with the problem that makes most web polls risible.
It looks as if I could have signed both as all the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White, every character from Lord of the Rings, and Jesus H Christ (who signed to Make the Pope Pay) and it would just have added to the numbers.
Whatever your views on marriage, and who should have access to use of the word, these petitions (and nearly all other online petitions) are not worth the paper they aren’t written on, and are a cross between a social media penis-size competition and a parlour game.
But they will serve up many gossipy stories of factional competition of interest to our mainstream media, who on the whole are probably too boneheaded to notice.
Expect a Polly-rambulation any day soon.
With luck we may even have the amusement of some of our sillier politicians quoting them in Parliament.
My serious view is that the Roman Catholics and their friends have chosen the wrong side on this debate, both theologically and politically, and that they are barking uncomfortably far up the wrong tree with no rescuing Fire Engine in sight.
This is not a battle which will be won, and losing this one may cause others to be lost.