Poorly Informed Petitions: How Change.org can be a Breeding Ground for Idiocy

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Written by Jaimee-Lisa Cotter

Don’t get me wrong: Change.org is an awesome resource that provides a platform to push reform on a lot of important issues, but recently I was disturbed to find that an alarming number of petitions are targeted at musicians or members of the music industry, often by people who had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.


As someone who works in said industry, there’s a fine line between which petitions are hilarious and exasperating. I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous stuff on the website, and I try to take it all with a grain of salt. Who am I to invalidate a cause that’s near and dear to someone? But the line must be drawn somewhere, and depending on what side of that line you’re on, I may or may not roll my eyes and crack a few jokes at your expense.


Just last week, AC/DC’s cancellation of a slew of tour dates were cited to be a direct order from Brian Johnson’s doctor, who claims he should stop touring immediately or risk total hearing loss. So legions of hardcore AC/DC fans took it upon themselves to request via Change.org that the rest of the boys hang up the act, since they feared that without Brian it would all just be one big tribute/cover band.


Very few people seemed to feel the same way about (or even be aware of) the fact that Johnson isn’t the original vocalist of the Australian rock outfit, or that founding member Malcolm Young and long-time on-again-off-again drummer Phil Rudd have both had to step away in the last two years. Only the most hard-core fans have this kind of uninterrupted loyalty.


Maybe it’s an old guy thing, because despite the fact that he’s a Canadian national treasure, there’s currently a petition circulating which demands Neil Young change his legal surname to “Old”. Since he is now officially a senior citizen, people seem to find the name on his birth certificate a “misnomer”. (Neil turned 65 in 2011, so naturally you can find him at Shopper’s Drug Mart on the last Thursday of every month, stocking up on Werther’s Originals candy).  


It’s not just apparent ageism in the music industry that stirs the online petition pot: countless petitions targeted at well-loved performing artists of this generation have been cropping up too.


Look, I tolerated Fireflies as much as the next thirteen-year-old pseudo-indie pop fan, but the petition to ask Owl City’s Adam Young to “post more selfies” is where I draw the line. Even in the year 2014, when the petition was started, that would have been a cry for help.


Last year, a number of Canadian-based petitions saw an impressive level of support. The removal of Action Bronson from the 2015 NXNE lineup was met with mixed reactions, but why any logistics team would put such a “controversial” artist as a main stage performer in the middle of Yonge-Dundas square as a free, family-friendly show for the public obviously didn’t think that one through.


As an indication that they still didn’t understand how organizing a show works, the internet also petitioned to have Kanye West removed as the headlining act for the Pan-Am games closing ceremony. Here we are, struggling to prove Toronto is a world-class city, spending undoubtedly millions of dollars having Kanye grace our stage, and people were angry that a Canadian artist wasn’t closing the games. It’s Pan-American folks. Last time I checked, Chicago was definitely an Pan-American city.


So it makes sense to just scrap it all and waste a ton of money from the entertainment budget, right? It’s a lot of time, effort and financing to bring in a performing artist that everyone knows and can sing along too. It’s also a lot of time and effort to deal with the fallout from never being able to please everyone when running concerts or music festivals… speaking from experience.


Almost every single day that the games were on PANAMANIA, the CBC and several other organizations hosted free showcases featuring tons of awesome Canadian artists, and guess what? Barely anyone came. I know this because I was there. The handful of dedicated fans and small crowds of casual community concert goers who stumbled onto the festivities definitely appreciated it and seemed to enjoy it, but the legions of people decrying Kanye in the name of “supporting Canadian artists” were nowhere to be found.


But as a glimmer of hope, there are occasions where the online community can pluck up some courage and back an actual cause that’s music-industry-related. Following the #IStandWithKesha debacle between recording artist Kesha, Sony Music and producer Doctor Luke, numerous petitions to boycott Sony Music and Products following their decision to back Doctor Luke, and begging Sony to release the artist from her previous agreement. Sony has since terminated the producer, but claimed it was not for reasons surrounding the allegation.


Other heartwarming initiatives include civilians in a number of countries asking their governments to provide funding for musical education in schools, requesting music festivals have protocols and educational policies in place to deal with substance abuse, etc. It’s in these moments I’m reminded the internet isn’t completely full of people who have no idea what they’re talking about.








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