Feminism / Health / Internet / News / Politics / TV

How Mainstream News Failed Wendy Davis

Thousands of people in orage in the senate hall to support Wendy

My middle school teachers used to tell students not to trust the Internet because anyone can write anything on there. I think this sentiment is still popular with the over-50 crowd, but if a savvy user can parse the story from live tweeting and multiple sources, then yesterday ought to be known as the day that TV news media was recognized as obsolete and shitty. My middle school teachers spoke from a time where stories broke on television, so that was where you were glued to. The Internet, on the other hand, was sort of the Wild West where anything goes. And they were right, even when I was eleven and watching plumes of smoke drifting from the World Trade Center in 2001.

If you’re wondering what happened yesterday, here is information I gathered almost entirely from Twitter, the feed on the senate floor, and live-updated articles. Here it is, entirely from my phone, in an apartment with no wifi:

Last night, Senator Wendy Davis was all types of badass. Viewers of the livestream saw her take a final gulp of water and slip into some comfortable sneakers before filibustering her ass off for thirteen hours straight. The passing of Senate Bill 5 would have resulted in a dramatic reduction of clinics throughout the state of Texas—from 42 to only 5. Meaning that a woman who lives near the border who requires an abortion would have to drive hundreds of miles just to obtain one. This would also put tremendous strain on the clinics in only four cities: San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and Houston.

[Wendy Davis' filibuster tweet] @WendyDavisTexas: The leadership may not want to listen to TX women, but they will have to listen to me. I intend to filibuster this bill. #SB5 #txlege

Senator Davis spent hours on her feet, speaking nonstop: no bathroom breaks, no sitting down or even leaning on the desk for support, and watching a sea of people in blue and orange (those wearing orange were against the bill passing, and those wearing blue were supporters of the bill).

Close to midnight, a crowd of orange-clad onlookers erupted in cheers and applause. She had made it. The bill had expired. The vote was off. Or so they thought. GOP senators cited her in violation of the rules when she spoke briefly about a sonogram bill passed in 2011. Apparently the subject of sonograms wasn’t pertinent to the topic at hand (bullshit it isn’t—ultrasounds and sonograms are major requirement for getting an abortion in the state of Texas). The other time she was accused of breaking the rules was when she got assistance from a colleague who helped adjust her back brace. And while pro-choice women were losing their shit everywhere, the senate went ahead and held a vote anyway.

Tumblr: "reminder that men have filibustered in senate by reading out the fucking phone book and weren't called out for being 'off topic' but the minuate a woman tries to defend reproductive rights and (apparently) deviates from the subject matter, she is silenced"

On the Internet there was a flurry of tweets, pictures, Vine clips, and the livestream was still going and going. The Huffington Post updated its front page to read “SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.” But CNN, Fox, and MSNBC all failed to report on the filibuster, whose close was nearing midnight, Central Time. History was being made in Texas, but CNN was doing a story on how many calories were in a blueberry muffin.

CNN reporting on blueberry muffins

This is embarrassing.

When it became  apparent the senate was going to vote on the bill, thousands of people on the floor began chanting “Hell no, we won’t go,” which I suppose was so threatening that police had to pull out the handcuffs. Here you can see a cop arresting an elderly woman.

cop escorting an elderly woman in handcuffs

The interruption halted the Senate for several minutes and it wasn’t clear whether the vote was taken before or after midnight. But several people held their phones up to show the time stamp had reached midnight before the end of the vote.

Just before 2:30 a.m. Central Time, it was announced that Senate Bill 5 was effectively dead on the grounds of the vote being passed at 12:03 a.m., three minutes after the deadline. The talk is that Texas Governor Rick Perry will breathe new life into the bill, and it will be reintroduced in a special session.

Why, in this case, did the Internet break the majority of this news? Depending on your stance, Senator Davis is either a hero or a menace to society, but regardless of how you feel, her enduring 13 hours of filibustering to stop this bill is important. The bill affects millions of women in Texas, and in other states that may even follow suit, just as Prop 8 affected the people in states that followed suit, and the overturning of DOMA and dismissal of Prop 8 surely will.  (But muffin intake affects, like, all of us equally, am I right guys?) Yesterday was a glimpse of what has already been happening in Turkey, where TV was co-opted by the government, and instead of reporting on the mass protests and police brutality, they showed footage of penguins. But our news networks aren’t threatened by legal recourse for reporting something as dry as a state senate bill. So what’s our excuse?

Wendy Davis took a stand, obviously at the expense of her health and well being, to participate in an old-fashioned, bullshit political tradition because she wanted to play by the rules. It is one thing that the senate went over her head and took a vote, but it is disrespectful, and fucking infuriating that the major networks did not find yesterday’s events worthy enough to report. Failing to report on Wendy Davis is failing her. By extension, it fails any of the women she represents, and anyone who was vying for or against Senate Bill 5. It keeps viewers directly out of politics, and out of participating in decisions regarding their own livelihoods.

text message screenshot from Wendy Davis: "Is it dead?!??!" "Yes! Vote didn't occur until 12:03. It's dead!! :-)" "OMG!!!! YOU ARE MY HERO!!!!! OMG!!!!! CONGRATS!!!!!! CRYING!!!"

The images in this post are entirely from social media, taken and uploaded the very moment the events happened. A great number of people present were students from the University of Texas at Austin, a demographic well versed in social media, and probably more Internet literate than anyone there. Davis, herself, leveraged social media to get the news out as soon as the death of the bill was announced. 90% of the time, social media is wrought with narcissistic updates and pictures of food. But the other 10% is what matters. The Internet is up-to-date, self-correcting, and the information goes on for fucking ever. It is news, it is punditry, it is photojournalism, straight from the source. I exhausted myself reading multiple articles and accounts of yesterday’s events. So it’s incredible to think about how little of it could be found on television. TV news ought to take a close look at itself and examine just who they are representing, because it’s not us.

Protip: Find your news. Make it multiple sources, and follow it live if you can. Find it in any angle or perspective that pleases you, and turn off the goddamn television.

9 thoughts on “How Mainstream News Failed Wendy Davis

    • Hahaha, but don’t you know? Blueberry muffins are a national interest. It’s like a breakfast cake, and I need the news to inform me how many calories I’m getting when I’m eating it.

      Whats that you say? The internet has that information too? Then I’m out.

  1. Well, as of 10am on Wednesday, June 26th, Governor Perry announced a new session of the Texas legislature to open in four days, on Monday.

    His proxies will reintroduce the abortion legislation again, and with a full 30 days to pass it, there’s no doubt it will pass, most likely on Monday itself.

    I have the greatest respect for what Senator Davis did last night. But all of it seems to be for utterly nothing. Absolutely and utterly no purpose whatsoever.

    • Yes this doesn’t surprise me. Rick Perry is scum. I obviously made my own stance transparent in this post (because BYSU isn’t a news source) but Davis is a hero for doing what she did in the face of this bill. I don’t think it’s for nothing. In terms of legislation, it sucks, but we got to see a majority of younger people supporting her within and outside of Austin. California’s actions against DOMA and Prop 8 have me feeling a little more hopeful as well. As long as the US doesn’t go completely backwards, this feels like a two-steps-forward-one-step-back sort of deal. And if the bill passes, that bill will be the step back.

  2. It’s like the assholes in NY who kept rescheduling our county school budget votes every few weeks ALL SUMMER LONG, until it finally passed because enough of us were on vacation. NY STOPPED that shit by declaring, “one and done”. A budget either passes or it doesn’t.

  3. Great information! Thanks for piecing the story together from the outlets available. Shame on the mainstream media for not reporting anything news worthy. Wendy Davis is my spirit animal!

  4. Little to do with one’s age or internet versus t.v./newspaper etc. In the documentary Manufacturing Consent Noam Chomsky said that the media puts its attention on the unimportant (muffins) while taking the spotlight off of the real issues (Wendy Davis’s heroic fillibuster). It’s a slick move by the powerful to erode our democracy. It’s been going on for years. My parents taught me to never trust what you read in the newspaper. Print media, t.v., internet – it’s all the same. Any discriminating reader has to check multiple (non-mainstream) sources to find something close to the truth. Let’s not denigrate people due to their age. It’s misspent energy. We need all the unity we can muster to combat this obfuscation of the truth.

    • I’m not denigrating anybody because of their age. I’m saying “breaking news” broke differently before the age of social media. The thing about the Internet is that everyone is on it and governments still don’t know how to regulate it. Police brutality is far more easily recorded nowadays because 100 people have their phones out to record it happening, so even when the police lie and say they had no other choice but to use excessive force, there are already dozens of videos on YouTube proving that this is not the case. I am not optimistic about the Internet remaining a form of free media. We will have to continue to fight for it. But right now no government knows how to shut down the Internet as a medium without making bad press for themselves. This news from the bottom up (i.e., the non-hierarchal aspect of people breaking the news for the people as opposed to the news networks breaking the news for the people) is a tremendous advantage.

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