Secondary Activism: Vote Surveillance Reform Up on Change.org
Jon Pincus of Get FISA Right points me to a competition of ideas at Change.org. People are invited to submit their ideas for presidential priorities in the new administration, and/or to vote up or down the ideas others have submitted:
Submit your ideas for how to change America, discuss with others, and vote for your favorites. The “Top 10 Ideas for America” will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day. We will then build a national campaign to advance each idea in Congress…
The idea that Jon Pincus has submitted, “Get FISA Right, Repeal the Patriot Act, and Restore our Civil Liberties,” is currently in sixth place. If it can stay in the top 10 until December 31, then it will be “presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day.”
Sounds pretty nifty, huh? I mean, Change.org is the new presidential transition website for Barack Obama, isn’t it? Boy, it sure looks like the presidential transition website for Barack Obama, right down to the Barack Obama quote and the weird glowy white text on the blue submit button:
But no, Obama’s transition website is change.gov. The change.org website is a completely separate entity run by a consortium of nonprofits representing a variety of interests but holding one feature in common: they depend on heavy fundraising to keep their activities going. Change.org is very interested in having you join up with an account, added to which is information about your e-mail address and mailing address and phone number. Most of the “actions” that you are encouraged to engage in on Change.org aren’t direct actions, like calling Congress or marching in the street or setting up a picket line. They’re secondary actions in which you support an organization (one of the organizations fronting the website) that will have its lobbyists do the work for you.
There’s an element of the smarmy and slightly deceptive about Change.org, I have to say that. But in its privacy page, Change.org claims to be walking a fair path about all this:
Your personal information is just that – yours. We will never give your personal information to any nonprofit without your explicit consent. If you would like to receive direct communication from the nonprofits you support, you may choose to have us pass them your name, email and/or home address after making a donation. You can also opt in to sharing your email address with nonprofits while participating in actions, or directly sign up to receive their e-newsletter.
So it is with a mild caveat of caution that I encourage you to engage in the secondary activism at Change.org. The list of nonprofits engaged with Change.org is pretty long, as you can see by clicking through to that ideas page. And if these nonprofits really will abide by the Top Ten list generated through Change.org, then it makes some sense for Americans who care about the repeal of FISA and a return to constitutional government to vote for the FISA, Patriot Act, Constitution idea.