A bit of creative web-foolery? We report, you decide. Sarah Jean Seman picked up the story for Townhall on Thursday: a petition has been posted at the WhiteHouse.gov site, proposing that Alaska secede from the United States and join Russia.
The petition has garnered nearly 34,000 “signatures” since its creation on 21 March 2014. Signatories have to create an account on WhiteHouse.gov to add their names, but they don’t have to be residents of Alaska. Many of them aren’t. (Scroll down to see the initials of the signatories.) Incidentally, the total population of Alaska is about 732,000. It’s a certainty that the petition will not reach the 100,000 signatures it needs to prompt White House action through the exertions of Alaskans alone.
The biggest clue to the origin of the petition is its ridiculously mangled wording:
Alaska back to Russia.
Groups Siberian russians crossed the Isthmus (now the Bering Strait) 16-10 thousand years ago.
Russian began to settle on the Arctic coast, Aleuts inhabited the Aleutian Archipelago.
First visited Alaska August 21, 1732, members of the team boat “St. Gabriel »under the surveyor Gvozdev and assistant navigator I. Fedorov during the expedition Shestakov and DI Pavlutski 1729-1735 years
Vote for secession of Alaska from the United States and joining Russia
I am quite sure no human being wrote this petition in English. It was clearly written in a foreign language – undoubtedly Russian – and fed through an online translator to produce the hilarious gibberish.
Inspecting the petition with just this little bit of analytical rigor puts the whole thing in a different light. I very much doubt that the originator is an American. The petition was probably posted from outside the United States.
I do have to think it’s just some giggling Russian sophomore having a bit of fun. Surely a Russian state agency would have posted the petition in sensible English.
We may expect this theme to recur in the coming days, however. In early March, M. Catharine Evans made a good catch for American Thinker, citing – in light of the takeover of Crimea – a 2012 piece on the “take back Alaska” theme at Voice of Russia, an ultra-nationalist state-media outlet:
…the purchase of Alaska has been surrounded by numerous rumors and myths. Some say that the US did not pay Russia in full; others insist that Alaska was not sold but was leased for 99 years. There is also a belief that the purchase treaty had been repeatedly violated, so it can be contested these days. The purchase of Alaska once inspired a popular Russian pop-rock band Lyube to compose a humorous song called ‘Don`t be a fool, America, give us Alaska back’. The song reflects Russia`s worries about Alaska, although the text has some historical inaccuracies.
…It must be mentioned, however, that at the time when the deal was signed, many Russians regretted that Alaska was no longer theirs.
…In the 20th century large oil and gas fields worth hundreds of millions of dollars were discovered in Alaska. Since then the region has turned into an actively developing US state with the highest per-capita GDP in the nation.
…Probably, this is why Alaska remains a thorny issue for many Russians, with some people even suggesting taking the territory back. But one can hardly imagine Russia launching a war against the US over Alaska.
There’s a little drumbeat going in the Russian media today on the “U.S. territory back to Russia” theme as well (see here, here, and here for more). Well, the drumbeat looks little from here, anyway. But the Russian media are playing it up pretty big. I’m not sure what it looks like from, say, Yekaterinburg or Nizhny Novgorod.
In the meantime, this episode is a reminder of the Internet freedom we enjoy with the U.S. in charge of domain-name registration. The sense of web safety that makes it possible for governments and other web users to allow such activity is based on the network of civil and international premises on which the United States has operated for the last 70 years. That network will not survive our withdrawal as the unique and supreme patron of a latitudinarian Internet. Once our steady hand is withdrawn, the dark weight of feral suspicion will descend on all exercises of spontaneous freedom online, both the silly and the noble.