When it comes to online petitions, you never know how far they'll go. Most of the time, your name is collected in a swath of hundreds to hundreds of thousands of people, but little — if anything — happens in the long-run. Your name was added to the masses, and there is strength in numbers. More often than not, though, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. But when a group of online-friendly people wanted to see the Death Star from Star Wars turn from science fantasy into reality, something happened. What started as a cheeky little idea grew into a massive online sensation. So much so that, as more names were added on, the White House soon needed to step in and address this bonkers story publicly. Believe it or not, this is a true story.
Let's break down how the hell this happened.
How A Petition To Build A Real-Life Death Star Even Happened
Like the Death Star itself, as well as a great many other things, this petition started out small and grew larger and more intimidating over time. On November 14th, 2012, a strange petition came up on We The People. An online public domain established in 2011 wherein people could petition the administration's policy experts on any number of topics, it was forum where people could make their voices be heard in true democratic fashion. Sure enough, though, nothing remains sacred on the Internet for long. It didn't take long before goofy petitions started floating up on the site, and for every serious attempt to establish civil action, there was some jokester trying to get a rise out of people. But while most of these joke petitions don't really get a lot of attention, there was one made in mid-November which caught the eye of several different curious people. Soon, it drew in a lot of interest.
Written by a man known only as John D. from Longmont, Colorado, the White House petition asked the U.S. government to "secure funding and resources" and later "begin construction" on the Death Star by 2016. As it was reported at the time, what started as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to have a bit of fun on an otherwise serious forum soon realized its intended effect. Several signatures were obtained, likely by fellow Star Wars fans hoping to see how the U.S. government would react to such a ridiculously goofy proposition. It should be noted that a petition needs to acquire 25,000 signatures in 30 days for the government to be required to issue a public response. Sure enough, it didn't take long before the Death Star petition cleared that benchmark.
With that, there were several internet savvy folks who were rubbing their hands, waiting to see what response the U.S. government would be forced to give them.
The White House’s Official Response
It should come as no surprise that The White House was equally tongue-in-cheek in their respective responses. It should be noted that, as the timeline suggested, this petition happened under the Obama administration, and they recognized the humor of the situation easily and responded in good fun. While it might've been even more entertaining if they responded with any actual seriousness to this proposition, the response given more than suffices.
In a response credited to Paul Shawcross, Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, it was quickly apparent that the response would be equally cheeky when it was titled, "This Is Not The Petition Response You're Looking For." Shawcross admitted upfront that the proposed Death Star "isn't on the horizon" for three specific reasons. The reasons were issued in the following bullet points:
Admittedly, these are pretty delightful reasons for why the hypothetical Death Star wouldn't be made. The White House response went on to champion the current Space Station located above our orbit, as well as the "floating robot assistants" located therein and the President who "knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon," not to mention the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is "supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers." It also made note that the power of a Death Star, real or otherwise, is nothing compared to the power of the Force. Indeed, the White House made it clear that, while plans to build a Death Star are far from any sort of actuality, they were making strides to advance the field of space travel and technology in a galaxy that's not far, far away.
So, there you have it. While the White House isn't planning to make any Death Stars in the near future, they will respond to any sort of silly response to such a suggestion if enough goofy people get together and sign an online petition. It took a lot of people to build the Death Star, and it'll take more than a few to bring one into actuality. Nevertheless, that day hasn't arrived just yet, but it might someday. In the meantime, you can look forward to seeing the Death Star once more with the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which is set to storm into cinemas on December 20th, 2019.
And as always, may the force be with you.
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.