The Internet desperately wants the White House to do two things: pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden and to deport man-boy pop icon, Justin Bieber. Today, a petition to deport the Biebs on the White House’s citizen portal passed the magic 100,000-signature threshold to require an official response.
The monumental civic victory provided the procrastinating masses a fleeting moment of entertainment at the digital water cooler this morning (and a hearty chuckle from this reporter). Honestly, I just love the Internet sometimes. “We the people of the United States feel that we are being wrongly represented in the world of pop culture. We would like to see the dangerous, reckless, destructive, and drug abusing, Justin Bieber deported and his green card revoked,” wrote the petitioners.
But, unfortunately, the Internet can’t have their Bieber cake and justice too. The tiny new media staff is cramped in a nearly windowless room on the White House grounds. As a brand new unit with brand new tools, they spend much of their time interfacing with lawyers and overly-worked senior coms people who need a carefully crafted petition response that doesn’t derail other issues.
A White House petition to pardon Edward Snowden has been waiting since June, along with a number of other petitions. Some members of the White House staff tell me they simply don’t have the bandwidth. The President keeps his inner circle small, so there’s a deliberately tight team that can answer (and research) these types of issues. Trust me, there was no Georgetown University foreign policy class that prepared the senior advisors on how to toss out a drunk-driving teen idol out of the country.
And, even if they did want to work on the Snowden issue, convincing tech-skeptical senior staff why they should spend their time with a platform that has become a prank of idle citizens is an uphill climb.
To be sure, the WeThePeople petition platform has given momentum to important tech issues, from millions in scientific funding to consumer choice over cell phones. To some extent, it has democratized access to the White House, once enjoyed only by the homogenous circles of the press corps.
The White House has a delightful sense of humor when it comes to these pranks. The official petition to build a Death Star–and the White House response–can still brighten a gloomy day. And, in some instances, the press coverage can even increase engagement with other related issues as citizens explore the White House site for the first time.
But, keep in mind, we’re still at war, overhauling the healthcare system and trying to prevent another economic meltdown. Oh, and, by the way, we also want the government to stop spending tax money on more staff. So, if we want a timely response, we gotta prioritize.
If you think that the White House petition to pardon Snowden won’t turn up any new information, then sign away to expel the Biebs and his tall hair back to Canada. I’ll help build the catapult.