Wendy Davis Filibuster: Don't Mess With Texas, Or the Internet — But CNN Is Fair Game


Nearly 5,000 tweets a minute. Over 190,000 livestreamers on YouTube and UStream. Vines of rallying crowds from the Texas Capitol. Memes with quotes Aaron Sorkin wishes he wrote. Apart from women, science, and clocks, there is another thing the Texas GOP clearly did not understand: the internet is watching, even if the news isn't.

The saga of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis and the SB5 bill emphatically proves that new media won the night. Davis' filibuster, originally meant to be a call for support, ended up being an exhilarating day of solidarity on social media channels.

This is clear proof of the power of the internet as a catalyst for political transparency, and the failure of the existing political media machine to keep up. Journalists can pooh-pooh social media and specifically Twitter all they want, but they all need to be asking themselves where they were the night American news networks jumped the shark by not covering it.

Proving this point is the fact that none of the traditional news networks covered the proceedings of the heinous anti-women's-rights bill that would have effectively made abortion close to impossible in Texas. 

Instead CNN, as always the embodiment of all that is wrong with cable news reporting, was discussing the calorie count of muffins. No, not the metaphorical ones that Davis was standing up for on pink sneakers. Actual muffins.

(At least the Fonze had a shark to jump over. I don't see any muffins on that desk.)

A major political event supported by thousands of citizens rallying peacefully and energetically occurred, and traditional media was discussing the morning-talk-show-esque merits of food. Hmm, where have I heard this before? 

(The Fonz would not approve of the failure of news networks. Probably preceded by a "woaaahh.")

Twitter was crashing at 11:59 p.m. Central Time because of the #standwithwendy hashtag peaking for the night with over 4,900 tweets per minute. This was a minute before midnight when Davis' efforts should have culminated in the end of the bill. As the clock passed midnight the internet erupted in the justified celebration of Davis, when news networks finally caught on to the fact that something was happening.

Texas' senators, understandably exhausted from all the listening to science and feeling agitated by a woman and her sheer will, were not done yet. First they tried to use the Associated Press to leak that the bill had passed 

One small problem: Over 190,000 people were watching them live on the Texas Tribune's YouTube channel and via citizen streams on UStream and Vine. As of this writing the Texas Tribune's YouTube channel alone counts over 256,000 unique viewers of the livestream. Twitter turned into a rallying cry against the Texas senators trying to do something that could conceivably have been successful in a pre-Twitter era. 

No matter, thought the valiant Texas men trying to salvage humanity from a woman's right to choose. They tried to one-up Davis by calling for a vote on the bill and attempted to pass it by forging the time on the official documents. 

Really, Texas?

Again, the Internet railed. 

The Texas legislature could have accepted the fraudulent vote and blindly assumed no one was watching. The fact that the vote was acknowledged to have failed before the night was through can easily be chalked up to the intense pressure Texas legislature would have faced tomorrow from social media. And one suspects the old-guard news networks and websites would have caught up too. 

The Texas legislature would have risked an even bigger public perception nightmare than what had already created by the filibuster.The Texas senators mistakenly believed the debate for SB5 was going to be as riveting as C-SPAN on a good day, but they were proven wrong by the crowds that quickly assembled at the Capitol building to show Davis their support.

We are now living in a world where the old school ways of politicking are suffering under the constant scrutiny of new media. Instead of whining about it, journalists, politicians, and even citizens need to accept and adapt to the new paradigm of public policy in a social media world.