When you wish upon a Death Star

by Toby Manhire / 03 February, 2013
How the White House petition site became home to "epic quantities of taxpayer-funded trolling".
"The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon"


“The Administration does not support blowing up planets,” reads the official White House Statement. “Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?"

And they weren’t being frivolous – or not entirely, anyway. The petition at the US government’s “We the People” website calling for the construction of the DS-1 Orbital Battle Station from Star Wars had attracted more than 25,000 signatures, obliging the White House to issue a formal response, penned at some length by Paul Shawcross, whose business card reads “Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget”.

The threshold, reports Mother Jones, has now been lifted to 100,000. When first launched, it was 5,000 – but increased as the site received a range of impish petitions.

These include: a demand that Maryland’s state mascot be changed to character from Pokémon; that Vice-President Joe Biden star in a state-funded reality TV show; and that Beyoncé be barred from singing at the Obama inauguration – which looks strangely prophetic following the lip-synch kerfuffle.

There are numerous petitions calling for states to secede from the union, and another seeking to “Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America”.

Writes Mother Jones' Asawin Suebsaeng:

The White House saw the project as yet another avenue for digital civic engagement and as well-meaning outreach—a nice gesture, at the very least. What they did not foresee at the time of the launch was the extent to which the site would be co-opted for epic quantities of taxpayer-funded trolling.

While the officials tasked with overseeing the site confess some exasperation, it’s not all bad. It gains the project attention, and, one staffer tells Mother Jones, “For the most part, it's a good public service, and, hey—isn't it nice to show people once in a while that you don't lose all sense of humour just because you start working for The Man.”

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