Oh, Jermaine Jackson. I haven’t thought of you in years.
But memories of your heyday came back to me this week as I sat at home, listening to Texas legislators say the word “germane” 982 times during Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster over a Senate bill that called for strict regulations on abortions. I was not the only one who felt your siren’s song. As @FoxxiLiberal noted, “I was going to make a Jermaine Jackson joke but I see 2 million of you beat me to it.”
Such riffs were among many spawned on social media last Tuesday as countless people followed the Senate Gone Wild show on television, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. While hundreds of Texans flocked to the Capitol to weigh in on Senate Bill 5 in person, most of us stayed away.
But social media has given the once-isolated masses a virtual village where information, debates, jokes and jerks run amok. That night, there was a sense of unity among strangers, even foes, because we were all connected to the same thing at the same time.
The electric environment was also educational. It was a clear illustration of how social media can be used to quickly mobilize people into action, as pro-choicers did to recruit crowds to the Capitol, said Narissa Johnson, a communications strategy consultant. But it also gave people at home a more comprehensive picture of what was happening both inside the Senate chambers and out.
Shortly before midnight — after Sen. Leticia Van de Putte angrily suggested she was being ignored because she is a woman — hundreds of citizens in the gallery burst into explosive cheers that lasted past midnight and ultimately killed the bill. Some people outside the chamber had no idea what was going on until those on social media filled them in and started directing the action from afar.
“Those of us watching the feed knew that it had come in response to Sen. Van de Putte’s question,” said Stephen Pruitt, a lighting and set designer for theater and dance. “But several of my friends who were in the Rotunda were posting questions like ‘Things just got really loud, why?’ at which point those of us online told them, ‘Your noise is the only thing stopping them now ... be louder!’”
Other viewers watched the chaos with a growing sense of dread. “I kept thinking, surely these folks at the podium know they’re being watched by thousands of people, so why are they behaving like this and not maintaining order?” said Marjorie Gallece, who lives in Austin.
It was all fun and games as people mocked the never-ending procedural disputes, tossing out gems like “Point of parliamentary inquiry: When is midnight in Texas?”
But always, it came back to Jermaine. About 10 minutes after I made some silly joke about him on Facebook, public relations guru David Wyatt posted a meme featuring Jermaine’s face and these words: “Germaneness, #standwithwendy.”
And as @ampersteph noted: “Wow, the Texas senate really has a thing for Jermaine Jackson. I would’ve pegged them as Tito fans.”
Maybe the Senate can hire both Jacksons to perform at Senate Gone Wild Part II, starting Monday at a Texas Capitol near you. Check Twitter for details.