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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.