The momentum of the road pricing petition on the 10 Downing Street petition is interesting – it has grown from 50,000 at Christmas to almost 1.4 million today. In fact, it has increased by 2,000 since I started writing this post.
Today I received an email from a friend who thought I’d find the petition of interest – not realising I’d originally blogged on the topic a month ago. But what fascinated me most was that the petition was diffusing from online to offline to personal communications – and being transformed en route. Examining the email:
Subject: Road use taxing — NOT A JOKE If you drive a car, please read – Sarah Kennedy was talking about this proposed car tax scheme on Radio 2. Apparently there is only one month left to register your objection to the ‘Pay As You Go’ road tax. The petition is on the 10 Downing St website but they didn’t tell anybody about it. Therefore at the time of Sarah’s comments only 250,000 people had signed it and 750,000 signatures are required for the government to at least take any notice.
Government conspiracy appears – as the email doesn’t realise the site is designed to enable anyone to post a petition. The deadline is 20 February and there is no obligation on the government to respond to a specific number of signatures. It continues:
The government’s proposal to introduce road pricing will mean you having to purchase a tracking device for your car and paying a monthly bill to use it. The tracking device will cost about £200 and in a recent study by the BBC, the lowest monthly bill was £28 for a rural florist and £194 for a delivery driver. A non working mother who used the car to take the kids to school paid £86 in one month. On top of this massive increase in tax, you will be tracked. Somebody will know where you are at all times. They will also know how fast you have been going, so even if you accidentally creep over a speed limit in time you can probably expect a Notice of Intended Prosecution with your monthly bill. If you are concerned about this Orwellian plan and want to stop the constant bashing of the car driver, please sign the petition on No 10’s new website (link below) and pass this on to as many people as possible. Sign up if you value your freedom and democratic rights – http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/traveltax Also please pass on….
Here we have fear appeal, connection with a group, and a classic Bernays technique of association – if you are concerned as a motorist, you must sign this petition.
I found the copy of this email and/or the BBC study cited on 350 blogs and discussion sites – including many on the BBC website. The earliest appearance is 4 December. However, I have not been able to find the BBC undertaking such a study with no links to an original report.
Does this diffusion help a campaign or is the distortion potentially damaging? Will we see the government quietly drop its beta experiment with online petitions as a result of the momentum here? I’m eagerly watching how this one develops.