The political debate on gun control wages on, and social media proves to be a dominant force of communication.
On Wednesday, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia called on his fellow Democrats to stage a ’60-style sit-in on the House floor demanding that a gun control measure be passed—or at least given a vote by the 435-member legislative body.
Lewis, an icon in the battle for civil rights a half-century ago, said:
We’ve lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence. We must remove the blinders. The time for silence and patience is long gone. We’re calling on the leadership of the House to bring common sense gun control legislation to the House floor. Give us a vote. Let us vote.
After the call to action Republicans called a recess, which shut off many of the cameras in the room—expect for one. Later, many more switched on.
The grassroots broadcast continued on social media:
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) June 23, 2016
The New York Times reported that C-Span picked up the video feed and continued its televised broadcast—a first on Capitol Hill.
House Democrats (and some Senate colleagues) were continually active on social media—most notably on Twitter—throughout the day and into the night. Using the hashtags #holdthefloor and #NoBillNoBreak, many lawmakers tweeted in response to critics as well to encourage support from outside voices.
An initial critical statement came from House Speaker Paul Ryan, who called the sit-in a “publicity stunt.”
Rep. John Larson of Connecticut responded right away:
— Rep. John Larson (@RepJohnLarson) June 23, 2016
Social media and the megaphone effect
From Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Lewis’s lead, the notion of “a refusal to be silenced” became the sit-in’s theme. Many in Congress referred to harnessing and amplifying the power of one voice, which became a thread in social media posts—on and off the House floor:
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) June 23, 2016
We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up. #NoBillNoBreak
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 23, 2016
Power to the retweet
With traditional media outlets primarily out of the room, the Twitter account @HouseDemocrats became a go-to resource for social media users seeking to stay involved with any House floor action. Serving as a window into the sit-in’s events, the account retweeted politicians’ speeches, photos and other content and saw a great deal of “likes” and retweets.
Here’s a sampling of its activity:
— Rep. Roybal-Allard (@RepRoybalAllard) June 23, 2016
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) June 23, 2016
— Elizabeth Esty (@RepEsty) June 23, 2016
— Rep. Bobby Scott (@repbobbyscott) June 23, 2016
— Elizabeth Esty (@RepEsty) June 23, 2016
Media coverage runneth over
Throughout the day Thursday, radio and television show producers, newspaper and magazine reporters, and activist groups and celebrities flocked to social media with their thoughts and coverage of the previous day’s events.
Whether it was Rep. Nancy Pelosi chatting with Chelsea Handler or Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois talking with Chicago’s NPR affiliate WBEZ, many members of Congress gave interviews to promote the sit-in and the larger objective of commonsense gun reform.
Producers of the WYNC radio program “The Brian Lehrer Show” crowdsourced a list of all New York, New Jersey and Connecticut House Democrats participating in the sit-in.
Re/Code reports that although the sit-in ended after a 26-hour stretch, for Facebook executives, the live-streaming aspect is the start of something significant.
Facebook wants you to know that its Live Video service played a part in the sit-in, which ended today. Three-million streams of the sit-ins have been watched three million times. Yesterday, Twitter said Periscope generated one million streams of the sit-in . Facebook is very, very interested in pushing live video — so much that it’s paying both celebrities and web publishers to produce content for the new service.
Ragan readers, how do you see social media’s role continuing, perhaps even escalating, in Democrats’ efforts to bring about gun reform and the future of partisan politics?