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Armchair activists have rarely been so numerous — or powerful

From SeaWorld opposition to Chris Brown’s cancelled concerts, how Change.org amplified the act of protest

(external - login to view)By Martin Patriquin | Maclean's – 21 hours ago

At about 5 p.m. on a Sunday late last November, Mike Garrett sat down at his computer and wrote out a 222-word petition calling on the Barenaked Ladies to cancel its appearance at the Bands, Brew & BBQ concert at the Orlando location of SeaWorld. The marine mammal park is known for its choreographed displays of lumbering orca whales, and Garrett, an animal rights advocate from St. Catharines, Ont., was saddened that his favourite band would be playing there.
“We have supported BNL from its most humble beginnings and continue to endorse you as honourable representatives of our fun, creative, compassionate and caring Canadian spirit; however we now ask that you please not support the cruelty that exists at captive marine mammal facilities,” Garrett’s petition read, in part. It also included a link to the website for Blackfish, a highly critical documentary about the treatment of orcas at SeaWorld.
Garrett posted his text on Change.org, the San Francisco-based online petition site. He then shut off his computer, had some dinner and went to bed soon after. “I wasn’t sure I would get a response,” Garrett, 38, says today. “I never really wrote a petition before. I did not expect it to snowball so quickly, so rapidly.”


Snowball it did. Three days and 9,739 signatures later, the Barenaked Ladies pulled out of the concert. Garrett declared victory, and Change.org placed a green victory banner on his petition. But the victory didn’t end there.
Other petitions popped up on Change.org urging other artists to bow out of the six-week SeaWorld festival. Two weeks after the Barenaked Ladies, country music singer Willie Nelson bowed out of his SeaWorld appearance. Cheap Trick, Heart, Trace Adkins and REO Speedwagon, among others, followed suit. By mid-January, nine of the 11 bands scheduled to play the Bands, Brew & BBQ concert had cancelled. Pat Benatar and the Beach Boys cancelled their appearances at SeaWorld’s Busch Garden location. CNN picked up a story about an elementary school in Malibu cancelling its yearly trip to the marine-themed amusement park. Parent company SeaWorld Entertainment, a publicly traded company with 2013 revenues of $1.46 billion, was plunged into a months-long public relations disaster from which it arguably has yet to emerge.
The world isn’t lacking for causes to get behind. Yet by giving its users the ability to crowdsource their indignation to millions of eyeballs worldwide, Change.org has facilitated the act of protest to the point where a person like Garrett can wreak havoc on a huge corporation from the comfort of his own home. Another example: in November 2012, a Mississippi teen named Sarah Kavanagh started petition on Change.org calling on PepsiCo to cease using brominated vegetable oil, a food additive also known for its flame retardant properties, in its Gatorade products. Two months and 210,000 signatures later, Gatorade stopped using BVO. Kavanagh then launched a similar petition against Coca-Cola’s PowerAde. Last week, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo announced they were removing BVO from the ingredients of all their products.


More:ca.news.yahoo.com/armchair-ac...144542045.html (external - login to view)


As with most things 'internet' you have what is (or could be) essentially a double edged sword. Yes the platform allows for potential participation on a scale unheard of in the past, which would be just fine if everyone participating was well informed as to the issues. And that's the part I have my doubts about, whether or not everyone participating (essentially affecting change on what seems to be a potentially pretty grand scale) has researched and considered what it is exactly they are throwing their support behind. Because I can also see numerous lazy individuals throwing their name into the mix of whatever is trending too. And just because an idea might be popular doesn't necessarily make it a good idea.



I'm not defending SeaWorld or Gatorade, they've reaped what they've sown as far as I'm concerned, but I do have to wonder about the kind of pressure that ends in criminal charges being filed. I'm sure some would say that pressure was necessary to ensure justice was served, but that leaves me wondering if justice is being served or simply that enough pressure has been applied so that something was done. Perhaps not in the stated cases from the article, but in the future? I know the justice system needs oversight but I'm just not sure a bunch of people relying on popular news articles sitting in front of their computers is the oversight that's needed.