Melissa Clouthier, better known as @MelissaTweets on Twitter, is responsible for getting me onto Twitter. Now I love it. Indeed, Twitter has become my primary way to track news and opinions. Here Melissa explains how and why she became one of the most important right-leaners on the social media site.
First, though, I must offer my apologies to Melissa; I’ve been sitting on this interview for months. Originally, I had the idea of including it in a short book on activism, but my schedule got quite out of hand, so now I’ll publish this interview (and others ) on my web page as part of a series on activism.
Disclaimer: Those I interview do not necessarily endorse any of my views or writings.
Ari: What do you see as the basic value of Twitter and other social media, in terms of political activism?
Melissa: Social media is made up of people who create the stories. People are now the content creators and through group involvement, help create the narrative. Stories that used to be ignored and buried by the mainstream press . . . well, they can’t be anymore. I love fighting the narrative. Even better, I like shaping it and framing it. Common people, working together, have power. It’s wonderful.
Ari: How did you become such a force on Twitter?
Melissa: Hmmm… I don’t really view myself as a force on Twitter. I view myself as a news aggregator and information-sharer. I only have influence to the extent that what I share people find valuable. The people, they’re the force. I am just using the medium to share information that I hope informs, entertains, motivates, etc. If I cease to share valuable information, I’ll cease to be helpful and cease to be relevant.
Ari: What other sorts of activism do you pursue, and how does Twitter fit into that?
Melissa: Well, I have reported from all sorts of Tea Parties. I’ve wanted to understand the movement, observe it, and share it honestly with people. I also try to teach as many people as possible how to do this. We need more bloggers, more Twitterers, more citizen journalists to keep our local, state and federal government honest. So, equipping the workers is a big part of my activism too. I love to teach.
Ari: What tips do you have for the new Twitter activist?
Decide who you want to influence. Do you want to be a thorn in the flesh of your local city council or school board? Follow those people and anyone in your community (follow by location) and then expose.
Be loud, fearless, direct, kind (don’t ever say anything online you wouldn’t say in person), fair and truthful and most of all, relentless. Don’t give up. Public officials will change their behavior. They’ll challenge you (I’ve fought with elected officials). They’ll get frustrated. Oh well. They’re public servants.
Carve out a niche. Maybe you only want to share information. That’s wonderful. Maybe you want to create a parody account to torment the corrupt Mayor or something. There are really no right or wrongs. The key is to have a goal, pursue it and be truthful.
Ari: How do you blend activism with your professional and family life?
Melissa: I couldn’t do this without buy-in. I’ve taken my family to Tea Parties. I’ve taken my kids to political rallies. I’ve introduced them to politicians and activists. They know they can change the country with involvement. Because I travel a bit, they need to know that I go because it’s important. We talk through the issues and what’s at stake. Still, it’s a challenge. I’m a mom first, and so they’ll get irritated with me if I miss something. Still, I want them to be idealistic and involved and realize they can make a difference. Kids learn by example.
Thankfully, as a chiropractor, I can work when and how I want to. My patients have to be flexible too, but they’re loyal to me and I am to them. So, I go in a morning or two a week and see as many folks as possible. It’s a wonderful profession and it keeps me in touch with real life—real worries, real priorities. For a long time, I could separate my online life from my patients. Not now. Now, they know what I’m up to. Still, it’s okay. I love all people, even people who believe differently politically. Everyone has the same concerns, ultimately.
Ari: Why do you do it?
Melissa:I’ve blogged for over six years. It started out as something to do, something I was interested in that could keep my mind busy while I had a baby. And then there was the bank implosion and I researched it and discovered that horrendous public policy by Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank resulted in this horrible, horrible mess. And then the bailouts and the debacle of the McCain campaign. I was absolutely disgusted with the Republican party. I was horrified by what I saw was our first socialist President—Barack Obama. And then, against my hopes, Obama was far worse and more destructive than I could imagine. I’m still profoundly distressed about the effects of Obamacare. It’s going to be the long term destroyer of America if let go.
The leftists never stop. They are always pushing. They have made incrementalism a high art form. And now, nearly half of American households receive a check from the government every month. This is a disaster. I’m not sure if we’re past the point of no return, but if not we are very close. We’re already a debtor nation. It’s appalling.
So, we have to work to restore American greatness and that’s an individual proposition. People need to believe in themselves again. People need to know that there are consequences for behavior both personally and for big banks and for everyone. So, we have many fights—not just politically or policy-wise, but for the hearts and minds of Americans.
I’m just one small person, but I’m not going down without a fight. I’m a mother. My children deserve better and I’ll fight to the death for them. And that’s what I’m fighting for—for their survival. But more than that, I’m fighting for their future greatness. I know, sounds idealistic and maybe silly. But I’m not cynical about this political world. Together we can make a difference, we ARE making a difference. And that’s why I fight.
Ari: Thank you for being such an inspiring activist!