Wendy Davis and The People’s Filibuster

  Earlier this summer, Wendy Davis was in the news for participating in an eleven-hour long filibuster to block Senate Bill 5, a measure which included more restrictive abortion regulations for Texas. The Texas anti-abortion bill threatened to close nearly all of the abortion clinics in the state. Lawmakers had to vote on Senate Bill 5 before the special session’s end at 12 a.m. local time. However, more than 400 protesters halted the proceedings 15 minutes before the roll call could be completed with what they called “a people’s filibuster”. The crowd of demonstrators in the capitol cried “Shame! Shame!” when Davis’ filibuster was halted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, then the protesters roared after state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” Their cries continued to echo inside the chamber — and over a livestream watched by thousands around the world — until after the midnight deadline passed. When Senator John Whitmire told Davis “This will not become a law”, the crowd of protesters gathered in the capitol cheered and began singing “The Eyes of Texas”, which is the alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin. After the filibuster, Davis was quoted saying, “Today was democracy in action. You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.”

This filibuster received a ton of press through average citizens; they were tweeting, posting on Facebook, sending videos and making this event viral and newsworthy. This is a direct example of gatekeeping. This was known as “A People’s Filibuster”, because the people were responsible for gaining support and spreading the news about the Bill and Wendy Davis’ commitment.  Gatewatching was involved with shares of pictures and statuses on Facebook, as well as through retweets on Twitter. The constant presence made this event a national story, and that was all possible because of individuals. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, tweeted about Wendy Davis’ win, and her tweet received over 1,000 retweets. This is just one example of how people are gatekeeping and gatewatching. President Barack Obama also shared a video via twitter about Wendy Davis, and his tweet received over 17,000 retweets. According to Kate Sommers-Dawes of mashable.com, “As the tweets, Facebook posts, and Vine videos rolled in, Tuesday became a huge day for new media and, on a larger scale, democracy itself. People were engaged. In that moment, they didn’t have Rachel Maddow or Bill O’Reilly on 24-hour cable news to tell them what they should be up in arms about or how they should think about it. They took to the Internet, watching, commenting, and getting their hands dirty in the political discourse as history was made, in what otherwise would have been a largely ignored issue germane only to one state of many.”

I would say this article included gatekeeping and gatewatching practices, and not so much of gatecrashing. Gatecrashing doesn’t go through the typical channels of mainstream media gatekeeping, and I know this event was very mainstream and in the public eye. The forces of gatekeeping and gatewatching were mutually reinforcing. The people decided this event was important, and once enough people took to social media to share their thoughts and updates on the event, more people had access to it. Everyone started posting and sharing about Wendy Davis, making the people the journalists. Gatewatching occurred through the countless retweets and shares. What does this say about the people? It says that people are engaged and use social media to decide what they think about current events. It shows the world that social media has the power to unite people and ultimately create change.






One thought on “Wendy Davis and The People’s Filibuster”

  1. I am familiar with Wendy Davis’ filibuster and think it was really interesting that you included this because the fact that it was called “A People’s Filibuster” shows how much impact the “people” and general citizens had on the outcome of this. I definitely agree that this example is one of both gatekeeping and gate watching and proves that people can work together to filter information.

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