The Uselessness of Online Petitions - VeggieBoards

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#1 Old 01-08-2011, 02:09 PM
 
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From a post from a dear friend of mine, the blog of Jim Blanston (used by permission):

"Repeat this to yourself, over and over again, until you get it: 'online petitions are USELESS'.

Online petitions is the epitome of slacktivism.

Slacktivism, as so succinctly defined by Wikipedia, is:

'Slacktivism (sometimes slactivism) is a portmanteau formed out of the words slacker and activism. The word is considered a pejorative term that describes ‘feel-good’ measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts also tend to dilute awareness campaigns and require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist.'

So I am sure that you will read comments about a trying issue, with people writing and encouraging you to sign this or that online petition.

But I submit that:
1) Online Petitions are Useless. As far as I have seen, no online petition requires a full name and address. Who, in authority, will pay any attention to a 'petition' of practically anonymous authors? No one, that is who.
2) Online Petitions are Pernicious. They are evil. People think that it absolves them of all social and moral duties. As in, 'I did my part [concerning this pressing issue]; I signed this online petition. So don’t bug me.'

Bottom line, signing an online petition may make you feel all warm and snuggly inside. But you are just fooling yourself: you did not accomplish anything.

So, please, please, please, if you truly care about an issue (and I am sure that you do), do not sign an online petition, and, above all, do not encourage others to sign that petition.

For an excellent essay on this subject matter, please visit Snopes.com."
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#2 Old 01-09-2011, 12:40 AM
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I've felt like this for a long time but I was never quite sure if my suspicions were accurate. I'll be interested to see what people who disagree with your post have to say.
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#3 Old 01-09-2011, 12:50 AM
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it's probably a good thing with some petitions.

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#4 Old 01-09-2011, 08:31 AM
 
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I fully agree! Is there some kind of online petition I can sign in support of the no-existence or uselessness of online petitions?

I believe everything.
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#5 Old 01-09-2011, 05:45 PM
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But I love signing petitions for random causes I don't really care about...

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#6 Old 01-09-2011, 06:05 PM
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Mark Hawthorne, author of a book on animal activism called Striking At The Roots, has investigated online petitions and determined that they ARE effective. Read the reasoning here: http://strikingattheroots.wordpress....ism-effective/
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#7 Old 01-09-2011, 07:06 PM
 
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I think they make people who might have been previously unaware of an issue take notice which is a positive thing so I'm not going to whinge about it. But whether that leads to anything further getting accomplished is arguable I guess. I say it probably does for some people who sign up.

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#8 Old 01-09-2011, 07:46 PM
 
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I've signed at least a couple of petitions that supposedly were successful. I think it depends on what it is and who the petition is being sent to. Is it something that you know will fall on deaf ears? Might be a waste of energy.

A petition for more re-runs of the Rhoda show? Probably also a waste of energy.
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#9 Old 01-10-2011, 10:37 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

Mark Hawthorne, author of a book on animal activism called Striking At The Roots, has investigated online petitions and determined that they ARE effective. Read the reasoning here: http://strikingattheroots.wordpress....ism-effective/

I just read the article that you linked to, and the entire article is almost entirely about emails, not online petitions. There is a big, big difference!

An email can at least be traced back to a single individual. An online petition? No such trail: anyone can sign, multiple times, multiple aliases (fake names, fake addresses). Officials who receive these so-called "petitions" are well aware of this fact, I assure you, and judge its importance accordingly.

To heavily paraphrase Krishna in the sublime Bhagavad-gita (chapter 12, verses 8 through 12 ["if you cannot do this, then try this... if you cannot do even that, then try this other thing..."]):

If you want to convince someone of something, the best technique is face-to-face. If you cannot do that, at least phone that person for a one-on-one conversation. If you cannot do that, at least mail that person, with your own, personal signature. If that is beyond you, try email (which is the gist of the article you mention). And even if that requires too much effort from you, try an online petition.

But that does not mean all of these actions are the same: different action, different result, different effectiveness. This is a common-sense route to follow. No one can deny it.

So, even if online petitions have any miniscule value at all, they are at the very bottom of the list in effectiveness. If it makes you feel better, pretending to yourself that you actually did something worthwhile, go for it: "sign" that petition. That will be the entire result: you felt better about it. But the final, desired goal was not achieved.

As I wrote in an earlier post, online petitions have an adverse effect, into fooling people into thinking that they have done something positive, when, in fact, they have done something negative: encourage others to "just sign this (useless) petition, and do your part; that is all you need to do".
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#10 Old 01-11-2011, 10:52 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Yajnavalkya dasa View Post

1) Online Petitions are Useless. As far as I have seen, no online petition requires a full name and address. Who, in authority, will pay any attention to a 'petition' of practically anonymous authors? No one, that is who.

I've rarely come across a petition that didn't require full name and addresses personally. I don't believe that they do much good in all honesty, but they do raise awareness and maybe spur some people to do something, even if they absolve others of guilty feelings. In my experience, people who feel better after signing online petitions generally aren't the people that then get up and agitate for it in real life as well.

I think there might be some petitions that work, but require a concentrated effort and probably the backing of a recognised organisation.

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#11 Old 02-08-2011, 08:17 AM
 
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I do agree with the last poster (that many petitions include name, address and so forth) however other than that I completely agree with the original poster.

I'd also like to say that it's not just online petitions but it's any petition or any type of activism that only requires someone to put their name down. It absolutely fills people with a sense of self respect and happiness that they were able to do something and promotes the message that all we need to do is sign papers and let other people take care of the rest of our activism.

While the petition may be good (which they rarely are because they usually promote animal welfare and not animal rights) the very act of encouraging people to stop at signing their name stunts future activism.

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#12 Old 02-12-2011, 09:17 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Kappa View Post

I've rarely come across a petition that didn't require full name and addresses personally.

I assume you are referring to an online petition? As far as I have seen, no online petition requires a full name and verifiable address. And yet you claim that you have "rarely come across a petition" that requires otherwise?!? Can you show some examples?

I can show you plenty as to the contrary (the lack of accountability)! Just go to www.ipetition.com and www.gopetition.com. Physical address is optional, not a requirement.

I cannot believe that you cannot admit that almost all online petitions have no paper trail... no accountability... which thoroughly and completely eliminates their effectiveness.

As far as I have observed, the internet petition sites are nothing more than vehicles for advertisers.

Maybe you should correct Snopes.com as to their assertion of the questionable nature of online petitions.

In the meantime, I continue my assertion that online petitions are pernicious: not only do they do no good, but they give sincere, concerned people the false belief that they actually did something good, robbing them of the energy to actually accomplish something.
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#13 Old 02-14-2011, 07:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yajnavalkya dasa View Post

almost all online petitions have no paper trail... no accountability... which thoroughly and completely eliminates their effectiveness.

The lack of a paper trail may be an issue, but that does not mean there is "no accountability," nor does it "eliminate effectiveness."
In fact, plenty of petitions are designed to limit or restrict false signatures by recording IP addresses, using captchas, verifying via email, etc.
And an online petition can be influential to decision-makers, particularly petitions with a large number of signatures that are also tied to a letter-writing and phone-calling campaign. Just ask your representatives if they pay attention to online petitions. Some will say they do and others will say they don't.
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#14 Old 02-14-2011, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Yajnavalkya dasa View Post

So, even if online petitions have any miniscule value at all, they are at the very bottom of the list in effectiveness. If it makes you feel better, pretending to yourself that you actually did something worthwhile, go for it: "sign" that petition. That will be the entire result: you felt better about it. But the final, desired goal was not achieved.

As I wrote in an earlier post, online petitions have an adverse effect, into fooling people into thinking that they have done something positive, when, in fact, they have done something negative: encourage others to "just sign this (useless) petition, and do your part; that is all you need to do".

I think there might be a piece of the puzzle that you're missing here. People who become active in a movement often start with the form of activism that they consider to be most accessible and least risky. Some of those people will move on to do other forms of activism that are more "difficult." Rarely do people just jump in and do the forms of activism that they consider most difficult and risky (and frankly, unpopular), regardless of efficacy. Most people simply aren't motivated to perform activism based on efficacy. There are usually other factors involved in their decision-making.

So, when you close off online petititions and you act as though they're meaningless, you are essentially removing the first step in a ladder of activism. By knocking out that first rung, you're limiting the number of people who jump your hurdle and climb the ladder anyway. You're likely reducing the total number of activists.

I will agree that online petitions could be more effective. They could encourage people to take a follow-up action or they could ask for a donation of money or volunteer hours. There are lots of ways to make them better. But it's ridiculous to argue against them. Think about it. Even if they are completely pointless, they're not going anywhere any time soon. Better to spend time doing your own highly effective activism and encouraging others to join you, rather than attack people who have good intentions and are trying to do a good thing.
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#15 Old 02-17-2011, 11:21 AM
 
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I think you missed my point. My whole argument is that they are not only useless, but pernicious. Do you know what "pernicious" means? It means, "having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way". And I'm not going to repeat my argument proving that (which you seemed to completely gloss over). It was in an earlier post.
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#16 Old 02-20-2011, 11:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yajnavalkya dasa View Post

I think you missed my point. My whole argument is that they are not only useless, but pernicious. Do you know what "pernicious" means? It means, "having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way". And I'm not going to repeat my argument proving that (which you seemed to completely gloss over). It was in an earlier post.

I don't think Elaine missed your argument: I think she simply disagrees. That will happen, you know - people will from time to time disagree with you.

I suspect that people who sign a petition and then do nothing further are probably not people who would have done anything/much even if there had been no petition.
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#17 Old 02-21-2011, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Yajnavalkya dasa View Post

I think you missed my point. My whole argument is that they are not only useless, but pernicious. Do you know what "pernicious" means? It means, "having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way". And I'm not going to repeat my argument proving that (which you seemed to completely gloss over). It was in an earlier post.

1. There's no need to be mean.
2. If you think they're worse than nothing, prove it. (I offered evidence to the contrary. Even the Snopes article you cited said, "a petition festooned with a zillion signatures can have some influence" and "No matter what else can be said against cyber petitions (and so far we've said a great deal), they do serve one actual valuable purpose: They can sometimes be useful tools with which to acquaint folks with situations they might otherwise have little, if any, knowledge of.").
3. Even if you're right and petitions are pointless, then whining about how petitions are pointless on a web forum is probably just as or more pointless than you think petitions are.
4. Online petitions probably aren't going to disappear, so if you're not going to simply ignore them then you should suggest one or two better alternatives. That is, whenever you criticize anything, offer a solution.
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#18 Old 03-04-2011, 10:55 AM
 
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ElaineV:

Well, I guess we have two completely different schools of thought, don't we?

I believe that online petitions are useless. I have presented my evidence.

You think that online petitions are oh-so-valuable. You have presented your so-called "evidence". Good for you!

So you go ahead and sign the online petitions, especially if it makes you feel all warm, fuzzy and snuggly inside.

Oh, and by the way, your comment, "don't be mean" is not a valid argument as to your position: if you cannot handle the truth, then do not consider an opposing argument as being "mean".

So, whose side are you on? Really? Without lying to yourself? Are you on the side of minimizing valid endeavors? Why do you encourage meaningless (and pernicious) activity, such as signing useless online petitions? Are you a shill of the meat industry? Why such endeavor to encourage the "signing" of useless online petitions? What is your real motive?

Oh, and by the way, your snarky comment that "if you're not going to simply ignore them then you should suggest one or two better alternatives" is a philosophical fallacy, exposing the weakness of your so-called "argument".
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#19 Old 03-24-2011, 05:47 PM
 
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http://www.change.org/victories

I'm just going to leave this here.
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#20 Old 03-24-2011, 10:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yajnavalkya dasa View Post

ElaineV:

Well, I guess we have two completely different schools of thought, don't we?

I believe that online petitions are useless. I have presented my evidence.

You think that online petitions are oh-so-valuable. You have presented your so-called "evidence". Good for you!

So you go ahead and sign the online petitions, especially if it makes you feel all warm, fuzzy and snuggly inside.

Oh, and by the way, your comment, "don't be mean" is not a valid argument as to your position: if you cannot handle the truth, then do not consider an opposing argument as being "mean".

So, whose side are you on? Really? Without lying to yourself? Are you on the side of minimizing valid endeavors? Why do you encourage meaningless (and pernicious) activity, such as signing useless online petitions? Are you a shill of the meat industry? Why such endeavor to encourage the "signing" of useless online petitions? What is your real motive?

Oh, and by the way, your snarky comment that "if you're not going to simply ignore them then you should suggest one or two better alternatives" is a philosophical fallacy, exposing the weakness of your so-called "argument".

Wow, are you for real?

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http://www.change.org/victories

I'm just going to leave this here.

Stop shilling for the meat industry with all your "so-called evidence" and "rational arguments"

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#21 Old 03-31-2011, 11:48 PM
 
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But I submit that:
1) Online Petitions are Useless. As far as I have seen, no online petition requires a full name and address. Who, in authority, will pay any attention to a 'petition' of practically anonymous authors? No one, that is who.
2) Online Petitions are Pernicious. They are evil. People think that it absolves them of all social and moral duties. As in, 'I did my part [concerning this pressing issue]; I signed this online petition. So don’t bug me.'
Snopes.com."


1) Every online petition I have signed requires my full name and address.

2) And, much like being a vegan, I don't think that signing them absolves me of anything. You'll still find me out there protesting, leafletting, donating, making art to raise awareness, and generally raising hell. Same thing with my friends who sign them.

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#22 Old 03-31-2011, 11:51 PM
 
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I think there might be a piece of the puzzle that you're missing here. People who become active in a movement often start with the form of activism that they consider to be most accessible and least risky. Some of those people will move on to do other forms of activism that are more "difficult." Rarely do people just jump in and do the forms of activism that they consider most difficult and risky (and frankly, unpopular), regardless of efficacy. Most people simply aren't motivated to perform activism based on efficacy. There are usually other factors involved in their decision-making.

.


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#23 Old 04-01-2011, 06:27 AM
 
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A few years ago I went to TAFA, a conference hosted by HSUS. A number of speakers there, all very professional, all very down to Earth did real research about online petitions. They all came to the same conclusion:

Online petitions work, but online petitions are mostly effective as part of a strategy that includes real world action ( pushing your chair away from the blog or pushing your chair away from VB ).

In other words, icing......still tasty, but not nearly as good without a cake.
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#24 Old 04-14-2011, 11:17 AM
 
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1) Every online petition I have signed requires my full name and address.

Wow! Great! Fantastic! Good for you! After my 20+ years on the internet, I've never, ever, seen any. Only those that "require" an email address, which anyone could easily spoof (e.g., 'environmentalwacko@environmentalwacko.com'). What is the validity of that? And what government or corporate official would give any credible consideration to such a dubious signature?

Can you name a few online petitions that requires your full name and address, please? Or a couple? If you cannot do that, just name one. I am sure that you can do that.

But I am confident that even you must admit that most do not.

Do you admit that most do not require your full name and address? Yes or no?

And do you understand why the "powers that be" would find little validity in such spurious "petitions"? Yes or no?
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#25 Old 04-14-2011, 04:33 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Yajnavalkya dasa View Post

Wow! Great! Fantastic! Good for you! After my 20+ years on the internet, I've never, ever, seen any. Only those that "require" an email address, which anyone could easily spoof (e.g., 'environmentalwacko@environmentalwacko.com'). What is the validity of that? And what government or corporate official would give any credible consideration to such a dubious signature?

Can you name a few online petitions that requires your full name and address, please? Or a couple? If you cannot do that, just name one. I am sure that you can do that.

But I am confident that even you must admit that most do not.

Do you admit that most do not require your full name and address? Yes or no?

And do you understand why the "powers that be" would find little validity in such spurious "petitions"? Yes or no?

As per request:
http://www.change.org/
Every petition requires full name and address.

I will not answer your questions because I don't feel the need to respond to demanding, condescending rudeness.

Also...
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=online+petitions+full+address

Next time, instead of demanding that I produce evidence, go find it yourself. I will no longer be responding to your posts.

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#26 Old 04-20-2011, 07:28 PM
 
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I think there's a middle-ground here that we've lost track of because we're getting a little too heated and militant...

The effect on a person after signing an online petition (useless or otherwise) will vary from person to person. Many will feel absolved from taking further responsibility regarding the subject because they "made a difference" with their minor action -we can see this is examples such as the Facebook "make your profile picture a cartoon character to fight pedophilia" ordeal. But others may take the initial incident as their call to action to get more involved, doing actual work for the cause.

I do agree, though, that petitions are more or less useless, as the essay on snopes made a good point that for all those signatures to have any potential weight, the petition would have to be sent by the right people, to the right people. Most online petitions just exist for the sake of existing. But more importantly, a petition means very little unless you're offering it to someone who's willing to be persuaded. We could have everyone in the nation hand-sign a petition against cruel practices in factory farms and sent it to the heads of every industrialized farm company in the country, and it wouldn't matter at all if they were still making a good profit. The fact is, money talks, and signatures stand silent.

An added note here:
The link Elaine posted... I find a bit easy to disregard. While it's great that they went to a source - a step up from nearly all online journalists - it's really hard to believe what a politician (or an aide to a politician) has to say. All the words are fudge to sound nice to the ears of the public. They could give every email the time it deserves, or they could redirect them all to their spam folder to ignore - regardless of the reality within the office, the response will be whatever sounds better.
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#27 Old 04-23-2011, 03:02 PM
 
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I never sign these things.

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#28 Old 08-23-2011, 04:53 PM
 
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Our entire future is going on line, so to say it doesn't mean anything is ridiculous. I get my bank statement on line, it doesn't mean I would have any less or more money than if I received it on paper. If you are happy to support the cause sign it. On line, telephone etc it still makes a statement.

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#29 Old 08-25-2011, 05:53 AM
 
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I do not disagree with online petitions in themselves. What I disagree with, and man this has landed me in some unfortunate arguments, is the signing and then doing nothing. I have argumented this for years now, started out with me flat out refusing to like groups of facebook and copy, paste the stupid statuses. my arguments were always the same, if I honestly thought I could do something to change the world, I wouldn't start with liking a facebook page. And then the so called evidence, we got an old soda back into 1,5 liter bottles! we got them to show pacific blue on tv! Well good for you, heard anything about those animal shelters you "liked" 2 months ago?

I argued this so much in the end I realised I was right if I wanted to do something I needed to do it and not sit around on my ass growing more and more frustrated about people liking "stricter punishment for animal abuse...oh btw I'm making a wicked steak for dinner lol". So I did, I became vegetarian and every day I'm learning something new. And there are so many fights! I don't like signing my name on a piece of paper, even symbolically online if I don't truly support that case and is willing to follow it through. and the fact is, I'm not an activist, I think if I ever started being an activit I would spend my majority of the time being annoyed about how people are doing it wrong. I have so much respect for people who go out, stand up and fight for something, but I think a lot of people are doing it wrong and it's not for me because I don't want to argue that everyday.
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#30 Old 08-25-2011, 11:54 PM
 
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I don't think that a lot of people get just what a massive influence the internet is.
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