Change.org is one of the most popular online petition websites in the world, with millions of signatories to a wide array of petitions. Chances are you’ve seen petitions hosted by Change.org show up in your social media feeds. In a perfect world, the popularity of such sites would be seen as a positive thing reflecting on the public’s desire to use their collective voices to speak out against injustices in the world. While there are plenty of legitimate petitions that fit this description, it seems that lately online petitions are just merely a being used as tools for people to legitimize their absurd grievances by making outlandish demands and finding others to sign on it, because, why the hell not?
In May, Alabama Public Television chose not to air the controversial episode of the children’s cartoon Arthur that contains a scene featuring a same-sex wedding. Liberals were, of course, outraged at the decision by APT not to indoctrinate children. Soon after this was reported, a Change.org petition was launched called “Change the Alabama State Flag to Mr Ratburn’s Wedding.”
Yup. You read that correctly.
“The Alabama Public Television directors have refused to air the episode of Arthur ‘Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone’ where Mr Ratburn gets married,” explains the petition. “Apparently they are scared of gay cartoon aardvarks and want to make their prejudice official.” It’s ridiculous enough that such a petition even exists, but that’s hardly the most disturbing thing.
This farcical petition has accumulated over 27,000 signature in two weeks, closing in on its 35,000 signature goal. According to the activist who started this petition, the Alabama state flag is “ugly” and thinks that “in this dark hopeless world of ours a cartoon rat and a cartoon aardvark getting married is g*****n beautiful.”
Can you imagine? Over 27,000 people have signed this petition. Do online petitions even mean anything anymore? They did at one point. Online petitions have been effective at achieving their goals by showing public support or opposition for a policy or act. Maybe some still do, but I think the important thing to acknowledge here is that petitions such as this one, or the recent petition to remake season 8 of Game of Thrones (which, as of this writing, has accumulated over 1.6 million signatures) reflect a society that has fewer and fewer legitimate societal injustices to petition— which is a good thing. As sad as the aforementioned Arthur and Game of Thrones petitions (and others like them) are, they tell us that the United States has moved beyond the blemishes of its past, of which there are many, to the point where we are scraping the bottom of the barrel for things to be outraged at.
The Alabama state flag won’t be replaced, and the last season of Game of Thrones won’t get remade. As silly as these petitions are, we should be glad that in today’s world there are enough people who can waste their time being outraged over such petty things.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in July 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis