Even if we lived in an age where television was your only source for a live feed, compare your headline options.
If the Republicans had not cut off C-SPAN’s feed when the Democrats began a sit-in to bring about a vote on gun-control measures, the headlines would have been some combination of House Democrats/sit-in/gun control. And indeed, there are plenty of headlines that have taken this route.
It would probably have carried for a bit over the noise of the news cycle–the speeches, the images of civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis sitting on the floor among his fellow colleagues–before slowly petering out in favor of the latest noisemaker, probably about something Trump did or planned to do.
But then the Republicans cut off C-SPAN’S feed by calling a recess, which takes the cameras out of play. It’s all according to the rules, except you can’t get away from the optics.
And the optics aren’t just a black screen on cable television. It is now headlines that add phrases like cut feed/cameras go dark/can’t watch, making it exactly the thing you want to watch, making the whole enterprise a bigger deal that it would have been from the onset.
And the very generous dollop of whipped cream on that slice of irony is that you can watch. When we all have the ability to be broadcasters, you can be assured some legislators have gotten in on the action. In this case it’s Rep. Scott Peters, who began Periscoping the proceedings, encouraging his fellow protestors to follow suit. It’s Rep. Beto O’Rourke, whose Facebook livefeed was being shown by C-SPAN in lieu of its own darkened cameras. (There are those optics again.)
And the feeds might be grainy, small and/or vertical, but people are watching.