Apparently people are catching on to the fact that the Nick Kristof-approved Change.org may not be as do-goodery and progressive as its do-goodery name might suggest. As Ryan Grim reports, the for-profit petitions-and-political-consulting company recently took a lot of heat for taking cash from corporate education reform groups associated with Michelle Rhee, a contract it ultimately dumped for incoherent reasons.
Indeed, a public statement from the company only rationalizes the initial decision to take money from a corporate front group, saying it was made in keeping with the its “open, democratic philosophy.” The only explanation of the move to reject the cash is that users complained. Privately, “Change.org leaders” told Grim:
“the outrage resulted from a misunderstanding of the company’s goal, which is not to spread American-style progressive values around the globe, but rather to empower as many people as possible under the theory that the world will be better as a result. By not embracing American progressivism, the company said it hopes to make its platform more welcoming to people around the globe who might see such an association as imperialist or anti-Muslim.”
This is great, as in explaining a move designed to appease American progressives Change.org is suggesting that associating one’s self with “American progressivism” could plausibly be seen as “imperalist or anti-Muslim,” which — though they presumably didn’t meant it that way — has the stingingly unfortunate distinction of being true, as least as far is it concerns the dominant, Kill List-embracing variety. The problem with a company like Change.org implying this, however, is that even as it bizarrely suggests taking corporate cash is something of an anti-imperialist act, it’s taking money from the campaign to reelect the world’s leading imperialist: Barack Obama, a guy who has murdered innocent Muslims from Afghanistan to Yemen to Somalia.
So far Change.org has hosted more than 40 petitions from “Obama for America,” garnering support from more than 800,000 of its users, including founder and CEO Ben Rattray. Back in the fall of 2010, when I worked there, Rattray was even telling employees he thought his site could be instrumental in Obama’s reelection, maybe even garnering him an addition million votes (a bit of hubris that perhaps explains why I was told to quit writing so much about Bradley Manning and to tone down criticisms of the president).
Personally? I don’t think an online petition welcoming Joe Biden back to the campaign trail, because “[n]o one energizes a crowd quite like he does,” will have much of an impact on anything, which is a problem with a lot of the petitions the company chose to exclusively focus its resources on when it fired all of its writers. But if Change.org doesn’t want to be seen as either imperialistic or as an online home for corporate front groups, it should go ahead and kill two drones with one stone: drop the Obama contract.