Riding and Racing Mean Nothing Without Rights
Even before the Big Ben Incident and the veto of Michigan’s helmet law repeal, the number of media-sponsored online polls regarding helmet laws and other motorcycle issues was steadily increasing. You can expect that trend to continue, but don’t think for a moment that the media’s motivation is to inspire democratic debate or express altruistic concern for the greater good. It’s not about the cause, my brothers and sisters, it’s about the cash.
Television producers give us free infotainment programming because advertisers pay them big bucks to run their ads during commercial breaks. How big those bucks are depends on how many viewers those shows get (which is what the Neilsen ratings are all about). A similar business model is maturing on the Web: Most TV, radio, newspaper, magazine and other media operations offer free access to some or all of their online content, and sell ad space on their web pages to generate revenues. How much they can charge for those ads is a function of how many visitors they can attract to their site.
When a talking head at KRAP TV invites you to log onto their website to participate in a motorcycle safety survey, or a DJ at KRUD FM tells you to surf on over to their opinion poll page and vote on a proposed helmet law, understand that what they are really doing is herding sheeple to their website to increase visitor counts and profit potential. YOU ARE BEING USED. But don’t let that bother you too much. After all, they are providing you with free information and entertainment, and everybody’s gotta make a living, right? Besides, it is important that our votes be counted and voices be heard in all motorcycle-related online polls and surveys. Why? Because if the vote goes against us, rest assured that the results will come back to bite us. If we flip the script, however, we turn that potential liability into a political asset.
So whenever you get the call to vote for our interests in some online poll or survey, please click through as soon as you can. BUT, don’t sit there and click away once you do. Every time I read some email or posting where someone boasts about clicking YES or NO hundreds or thousands of times in order to turn the tide of some poll, I cringe at the waste of effort. Why is that a waste? Because most–not all, but most–website survey and poll software can easily detect and block or delete duplicate votes. All they need to do is assign a cookie to your session, or monitor your IP address. It may appear that your repeated clicks are changing the numbers, but it is likely that any changes you see are coming from activity elsewhere, and that in the end your redundancies will be deleted from the tally.
FIGHT SMARTER … NOT HARDER. If you’re going to work up a good case of carpal tunnel syndrome anyway, why not make it count for something?!? Log onto the online survey or poll page, and place your vote. Once. Then email the survey link (web page address or URL) to every biker-friendly address in your Contacts list, asking them to not only go there and vote, but also to forward your call-to-action to every biker in their Contacts list. Next, email your call to every state, regional and local officer and director of your SMRO, asking them to do the same thing. Then, there are four very special people to whom you should email your call-to-action:
Dal Smilie (email@example.com)
Chairman of the Board, American Motorcyclist Association
Robert Rasor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
President, American Motorcyclist Association
Ed Moreland (email@example.com)
VP for Government Relations, American Motorcyclist Association
Terry Lee Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Grassroots Manager, American Motorcyclist Association
RIGHTS. RIDING. RACING. The American Motorcyclist Association (“AMA”) is certainly the largest and potentially the most influential motorcyclists’ rights organization in the country. Here is a quote from page 59 of the July 2006 issue of AMA’s American Motorcyclist magazine:
“When our government relations staff members sit down to talk to the sponsor of some anti-motorcycling bill, they can casually point out that they’re speaking for 273,000 enthusiasts who care very much about this issue. And that makes a big difference.”
Perhaps that last sentence should read “And that could make a big difference.” Why do I say that? Because the AMA didn’t do much to check the flood of misdirected media spin from the Big Ben Incident … and if they’re doing anything at all to counter the American Automobile Association’s aggressive helmet law lobby–that recently won in Michigan and is threatening to reinstate lid laws in Pennsylvania and elsewhere–I haven’t seen much evidence of it.
The AMA says they are in favor of voluntary helmet usage and consequently oppose mandatory helmet laws. The fact that the statistics in their official helmet usage position statement have not been updated since 2001, however, suggests that this issue may not be the ball that Dal Smilie and company are keeping their eyes on:
It might be that the AMA is merely giving lip service to the helmet law issue in order to keep membership dues rolling in from those of you who are concerned about bikers’ rights. If that is the case, then YOU ARE BEING USED. But note that I say “might,” so let’s find out the truth before we let it bother us too much. Here is one way to do that:
When you email your online survey call-to-action to Dal, Robert, Ed and Terry, explain to them why it is important that we prevail on the issue, and ask them to leverage their formidable political resources to assure that we do. Specifically, ask them to forward your call-to-action to all of their 273,000+ members. Granted, many of them won’t respond, but a small percentage of a large number is still a large number. And sure, they may not all live in the state where the issue is being raised … but AAA is crossing state lines, and so must we … and most online survey and poll software is NOT capable of filtering out-of-state “voters.”
If the AMA responds to your request, then we are almost certain to prevail on the poll or survey. If they do not, then don’t bother sending them a nasty email expressing your disappointment. If you do, they’ll probably just filter you out. Instead, when you get your next AMA dues reminder, break out your notepad instead of your checkbook … and let them know that RIDING and RACING mean nothing without RIGHTS.
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!