Something you see with unfortunate frequency around times of high political contention are otherwise legitimate sites and publications taking the bait and turning a bullshit story into headline news. Case in point: this absurd story about states filing petitions to secede from the union in the wake of last Tuesday's election.
To give credit where it's due, that's a fantastic headline. The way it's worded, you would think that we're on the verge of collapsing into the next Civil War. Residents? In more than a dozen states? How many more states are we talking? Four? 31? Is it all of them? Holy shit, it's all of them, isn't it? We're doomed. Every state wants to secede. DOOMED!
The Huffington Post isn't the only site to jump on the story. Over at BuzzFeed, as we write this, it's the eighth most popular story in the "Hot on BuzzFeed" category, despite featuring not one picture of a boob as far as we can tell, so we're not sure what's so hot about it.
Clicking through to either of those stories reveals no hint that what you're about to read is a whole bunch of useless information. Instead, we get "facts" about how the Obama administration will issue a response when the petitions reach 25,000 signatures. That's followed by scary screenshots showing just how close we are to Texas finally becoming its own country.
But there's a lot of information to this story that's being left out. For example, the petitions in question are being posted directly to the White House website. That's a tantalizing detail if, say, a group of ragtag "patriots" defaced the White House website with signature requests that the government never wanted there. Or maybe if an armed militia stormed the White House IT department and force-posted the documents there. But that's not what's happening. Instead, these angry demands for freedom are being posted on a public section of the website. "Public" meaning open to anyone who wants to participate, even lunatics who think that Texas should break from the U.S. and rejoin with Mexico again or whatever. That person could be a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist or a bored 12-year-old kid trying to get a rise out of people. There's no way of knowing.
What we do know with like 132 percent certainty is that what's happening here is a non-issue. These are the ramblings of a small group of political zealots who actually care enough about spouting their particular brand of crazy that they figured out how to upload something to the Internet. To make the case for secession even more problematic, in case anyone is actually reading this and getting jazzed at the thought of needing a passport to travel to South Carolina, have a look at some of the signatures from that very state:
Sure, there are over 16,000 signatures, but, not even ten in, already half of them aren't even from South Carolina. If you recall, the Texas petition was somewhere in the 18,000-signature range. What are the chances that most of the people who signed this petition also signed the petitions for the other states "hoping" to secede? Suddenly we've gone from thousands of people in dozens of states hoping to break away and start their own country to just thousands of people in the country hoping that pretty much any state will secede. And, well, we've always kind of known that those people exist, right? We didn't need a Whitehouse.gov petition to tell us, and you certainly didn't need us to tell you (that's why you read BuzzFeed and HuffPo).
If for some reason you're still bothered/aroused by this, there's one more petition you should see. It's gained just as much momentum with the petition-signing community, and the idea behind it is just as silly:
That should put this story to rest then, yeah? But really, it's not like anyone is fooled by this blatant sensationalism, right? It's not like people are jumping on this story and spreading it far and wide across the Internet or anything.
You've disappointed us, America. Anyway, while we certainly don't want to see this adorable band of petition-signing rabble-rousers deported or anything, there is one petition out there that we wouldn't mind hearing a response from the Obama administration about:
We only need 25,000 signatures. Let's make it happen.