We should be ashamed.

What if you were in a prison cell facing possible execution for saying god didn’t exist?  Wouldn’t you want all the atheists, Christians, Muslims, and who the fuck ever back in the United States to pull out all the stops to try and help?  You bet your ass you would.

We got 8,000 signatures on a petition to the president to intervene.  8,000 signatures…with that petition going through every conceivable outlet in the atheist movement.  How many saw it and didn’t give enough of shit to take 60 seconds to register and sign it?  How many of us couldn’t find even that much empathy for a brave human being who was suffering?  What, was Wheel of Fortune on?

If you had the chance to sign it and didn’t, you should be ashamed of yourself.  Period.

If you want to help further or help at all, there are still ways it can be done.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • EllenBeth Wachs

    Nothing surprises me anymore with this community. NOTHING!! I have over 3000 “friends” on my facebook list. I don’t think any signed after I posted it and tweeted it.

    • http://www.nobelief.net Jasper of Maine (I feel safe and welcome at FTB)

      You mean – we’re like normal people.

      //Was signature ~1300

  • Jaketoadie

    But.. but.. I vowed not to eat marmite until he was free again, isn’t that enough?

  • Gordon

    Those of us outside the USA were not eligible to sign it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Mort.Q martintucker

      Got that far too.

  • loreo


    I donated a small amount to his legal fund. You are right, Mr. Eberhard.

  • davidhart

    Actually, I remember signing it and I am outside the USA, so if I was ineligible it didn’t tell me.

    Though one of the neighbouring bloggers suggests that it was “frustration at the pointlessness of talking to Obama” that was behind the low take-up: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/08/20/how-can-you-really-help-alexander-aan/

  • http://winlb.wordpress.com ToonForever

    You are right. I am sorry I did not sign it nor promote it when I had the chance.

  • b00ger

    PZ already explained this one. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we realize signing a white house petition will have zero effect. I gave up on signing white house petitions about a year ago. The only response you get is some canned shit and nothing ever changes.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

      PZ got this one wrong. There are plenty of reasons for taking action even when the probability of success is low. I spent a good chunk of time and energy explaining why in that first link in JT’s post. Personally, I think it’s worth reading.

      • pipenta

        In many ways, White House petitions are like those dummy buttons that are supposed to change crosswalk lights. I think the purpose is mainly to make us feel like we have a voice, even when they are ignoring us.

        And that is why a lot of people don’t sign petitions. I don’t believe PZ is advocating inaction. We just have to get louder: letters, boycotts, marches, we just can’t sit down and shut up. Petitions and voting are not enough. But they’re a good start. Something is better than nothing.

      • John Horstman

        Right; the necessary effort is so trivial that there’s really no reason to not sign. Even if the probability of any impact is low, it’s still infinitely greater than not availing oneself of that avenue at all (for which the probability of success through that avenue is 0), and because the necessary effort/time is so little, it’s not like signing the WH petition necessitates ignoring other avenues of activism. I’ve never understood the impulse to guarantee failure when success is expected to be unlikely, especially when the attempt costs so little (this same impulse pops up all the time with respect to dating, and the illogic of assuring failure by not trying is brought up frequently on e.g. Savage Love).

  • eric

    Anecdotal story, but evidently TV stations used to count 1 postal complaint (or compliment) letter as representing 15,000 viewer opinions, because only about 1 out of every 15,000 people who claimed they had a strong opinion about a program would do even that minimal level of effort.

  • Paul

    PZ already explained this one. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we realize signing a white house petition will have zero effect. I gave up on signing white house petitions about a year ago. The only response you get is some canned shit and nothing ever changes.

    If you want to understand some of the disappointment from JT and others, you really should read Stephanie Zvan’s post that JT linked. It wasn’t just about getting the white house to respond to the petition, although they could have done a better job of publicizing that ahead of time.

    I saw this coming when PZ first posted about it. People misread the count and thought that three days in there were ~24k signatures. I pointed out that no, there were still ~24k signatures needed. I think on top of the institutional disappointment, people just assumed it was so much of a slam dunk that they didn’t need to sign.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

      Heh. Should have hit refresh before commenting. :)

      • Paul

        Heh. I really need to remember which blogs thread comments. I’m used to just scrolling to the bottom and replying.

  • CC

    Ok, I’m going to come out as one of those assholes who didn’t sign. I read the petition. I felt angry about Mr. Aan being jailed. I considered signing, but I decided not to. Not because I’m a sack of shit and I don’t care, but because I knew Obama wouldn’t do a damn thing. I didn’t think about it from Stephanie Zvan’s perspective. All I was thinking was, “will this petition do anything whatsoever to free Mr. Aan?” And the answer was, “no.” I have since learned that there are other reasons to sign such a petition and I realize I should have signed it.

    I thought about it differently and, now I know, probably wrongly, but it wasn’t because I didn’t give a shit or because Wheel of Fortune distracted me.

  • CC

    I am contributing to Mr. Aan’s defense fund.

  • shouldbeworking

    I didn’t sign because I’m a Canadian. Would Obama (or who ever reads the petition for him) care that a Canadian signed it along with thousands of Americans? I doubt it. I did write a letter to my Conservative Member of Parliament and to our Minister for Foreign Affairs (another Conservative). Signing the US petition would have been more effective now that I think about it.

  • Fred Salvador – The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope

    The sanctimony! It burns!

    I couldn’t sign the petition because I’m not American, yet I wouldn’t have signed it even if I were American because asking the White House to reprimand an Islamic nation for applying Sharia law to one of it’s citizens is an act of such supremely pointless masturbatory narcissism that it’s difficult to see anything but negative publicity being the result. The White Industrial Saviour Complex disappears another few inches up it’s own self-congratulatory arse; more at 11.

    Activism for the sake of activism is not something to be proud of. It is a waste of time and resources, things few people can spare and thus should not squander on hare-brained petitions that will produce no benefit whatsoever. Therefore, I’d posit that nobody should feel ashamed of themselves for refusing to waste their time on this piece of nonsense; instead, people using their internet platforms to try and make people who didn’t participate in this silliness feel ashamed of themselves for not doing so – people like our author here – should be the ones hanging their heads.

    I largely agree with Stephanie Zvan’s article on the “failure” of this shitty petition to garner support; building vocal, visible, cohesive voting blocs who can and will mobilise en masse is an important facet of influencing democracy. I personally would prefer to do it using public victories that actually provide benefit to the people or causes they purport to represent, rather than show-pony shit that does nothing.


    Ok, I’m going to come out as one of those assholes who didn’t sign.

    You’re not an arsehole for refusing to sign some pathetic little show-pony petition whose only effect would be to give American atheists a reason to circle-jerk themselves into a frenzy about how great they all are at rallying supporters for shitty non-events.

    You’re contributing material support to defending Alexander Aan from the ludicrous charges of a theocratic regime. That’s a practical step. You are helping. Continue to do so, and be proud that you are. Don’t abase yourself before the sanctimony of squeaky wheels.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

      That’s an awful lot of self-righteousness to prop up with the mere assumption that the petition wouldn’t have worked. Careful under there.

    • http://winlb.wordpress.com ToonForever

      If I’d known it would further piss of a knob like you, I would not have missed the chance to sign. What a horrid attitude.

      • Fred Salvador – The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope

        If I’d known it would further piss of a knob like you, I would not have missed the chance to sign. What a horrid attitude.

        I feel your refusal to participate in the easiest (albeit most pointless and wasteful) campaign on behalf of Alexander Aan vindicates my horrid attitude.

        If the aggravation of other people is all that gets your pecker up in the morning, you should know that people who go to this website or this website and donate money really grind my gears. If you want to get me absolutely fuming you could always be really avant garde and campaign on behalf of Hamza Kashgari as well.

        Although given you couldn’t be arsed to even sign a fucking petition I’ll not hold my breath.

  • B-Lar
  • James

    Signing a petition to obama being useless anyway, the petition itself is literally useless in any other sense.

    It’s like calling your local cops because in some middle eastern country a woman was stoned legally. What exactly do you expect Officer Joe in SmithBurg to do?

    • http://www.thecoloursociety.net Drewzilla

      Do you really think that’s an apt comparison? Small town cop against a seperate continent’s act of horrible violence versus the “leader of the free world” against a wrongful imprisonment?

  • http://chronosynclasticinfundibulum.wordpress.com/ salo

    I thought it would be a slam dunk too…color me disappointed. I signed as soon as I saw it on Pharyngula (I think). Took a whopping 30 seconds. Whether or not it had a high chance of succeeding shouldn’t have mattered. It took 30 freaking seconds! Even if the chance of success was only 1%, that’s still better than the 0% we ended up with, especially for 30 damn seconds! *sigh*