My first internet commandment — unbroken so far — is never to sign email petitions.
It sounds tough, I know, but so is never taking anything from anyone looking hopeful on a city pavement. I ignore pamphleteers too, as best as I can. Why? I suppose I just figure the likely downside — having to throw a leaflet in the next bin, looking like a fool —will outweigh any upside. So best not to approach me if you’re any type of religious convert, and even better not to send me any email campaigns. I’m afraid I won’t do it.
That’s not to say I’m not tempted occasionally. I did think about adding my name to the petition protesting the Brazilian Congress’ plan to increase the amount of logging in the Amazon rainforest. But I smelled a rat, or rather two — I was sent it twice. Some well-meaning friends added their names. How could you not complain about the destruction of a gigantic, irreplaceable expanse of nature that plays a vital role in the production of the planet’s oxygen?
Trouble is, the decision was being made last year, and the congress dropped it last May like a hot McDonald’s pattie after huge and inevitably global protest. There must be university theses to be written about how these petitions erupt into bubbling life.
My advice is, if you feel strongly about an issue that crosses your screen, try to investigate the original source. It’s harder, I know, and more time-consuming, but you will feel less of a — and here I quote a relation of someone who signed the Amazon rainforest one — dickhead. One usually hard-headed journo signed it toward the end of last year — again well after Congress’ plan was dropped.
Tree-huggers can find out day by day the fate of the world’s forests at www.forests.org. If you happen to speak Portuguese, you can find out what the Brazilian government’s planning for the Amazon at www.brasil.gov.br.
I’m also told there’s another email doing the rounds (more slowly, much less widely distributed) which refutes the earlier one. Read it, sympathise, but don’t sign that one either.
Broatch is a Computerworld journalist. Send email to Mark Broatch.