I follow Formula 1 racing, mostly because the high technology fascinates me -- these things are basically upside down aeroplanes -- which has nothing to do with either history or writing, but I mention it today for an interesting reason.
F1 has a set of standard races they do throughout the year, each held in various exotic locales. And that's where the fun begins, because one of those locales is Bahrain. Bahrain is ruled by a monarchy that's been somewhat prominent in the news recently for slaughtering its citizens who are demanding a democracy. As crackdowns go, the rulers have been remarkably efficient. In fact just today the BBC reports that the hospital staff who treated the injured have been charged with taking part in illegal protests for criminal ends; also for, hard as this may be to believe, inciting hatred against the ruling system.
The Bahrain F1 race was officially postponed when the violence began. Everyone assumed this was a polite way of saying "cancelled". But no! A few days ago the officials in charge of the racing decided it was all right to go ahead now, because everything's calmer. (It is indeed calmer, because anyone who raises his head gets it beaten.)
Needless to say, every human rights group and pro-democracy movement on the planet has come out snarling about the F1 decision. Even the UK government got itself interested. A number of petitions instantly sprang up. The one that got a lot of traction was by an organization called avaaz.org. (Traction for an anti-race petition...yes, that was a deliberate pun...by Gad I'm witty.)
This petition targets the Red Bull team, which is the most vulnerable to bad publicity because they're leading the competition and they're only in the game to sell their drink products. Those are the red bull drinks which, if this race goes ahead, are about to become as popular as cucumbers.
So far avaaz has just short of 440,000 signatures. Wow, that's an awful lot of people. Since this decision was taken only 3 days ago, I estimate the petition must have gained on average about one signature every 2 seconds, non-stop, for 3 days. And all because some guys thought it was okay to hold a race to collect the management fees.
The Bahraini government is treating it as a propaganda victory, but with almost half a million people annoyed enough to sign a petition, you'd have to assume the team sponsors are seriously displeased. They pay enormous sums to the race teams out of their marketing budgets, for the brand name exposure. So if this race goes ahead, then some of the world's biggest brands are going to have their names pasted all over cars that are racing around inside one of the world's most repressive regimes. The marketing directors must be overjoyed.