David, Michelle and Rock asked for data pertaining to the effect of this website and Free Talk Live pertaining to halting the recent neoprohibition attempt by the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission, and I’ll try to provide what I can. David asked:
How is it that this blog and FTL made the difference?
To begin, it was a libertarian who first according to Technorati records. Then everything was quiet until Michelle Shinghal posted this story at Hammer of Truth on March 17th. Shortly thereafter, the feces really starting hitting the fan on this issue. After five months of blogosphere silence on the issue, all of a sudden there were over a thousand blog entries on the topic, virtually all of which were critical (some extremely so) of the TABC. One week after Michelle posted her story, a news report covered the sudden national attention:to the Internet community last October,
A TABC program that’s been around since 2001 is now gaining national attention. It’s called “Stop Sales to Intoxicated Persons” or “SIPS.” NewsChannel 11 brought you an investigative story in November detailing how local undercover TABC officers go into bars and arrest you if you’re legally intoxicated and posing as a danger to yourself or others. NewsChannel 11’s Kealey McIntire asked local agents what they think about the sudden national attention.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is performing the biggest DWI crackdown Lubbock has ever seen. NewsChannel 11 first told you about the plan in July. TABC identified the problem areas where the most DWI citations occur. Now they are targeting bars in those areas, making public intoxication arrests before they turn into DWI’s. NewsChannel 11’s Kealey McIntire rode along with TABC for a sting operation.
You could use the term “pleasantly surprised,” that’s because the SIPS program is nothing new. In September local TABC officers really started focusing on public intoxication arrests in Lubbock bars. Local agents don’t know what sparked the sudden nationwide interest in the program, but they say the attention is positive.
A story that aired on the Today Show Friday morning, highlights how TABC agents go into bars and arrest intoxicated persons. Dallas TABC Agent Sgt. Chris Hamilton said, “We want everyone to be responsible, we want the people going out having a few drinks to be responsible drinkers.”
The program is also making MSNBC’s internet headlines. Local TABC agent Lt. Gene Anderson saw a discussion on the program on another national TV network. “From the program I watched this morning some people are against it and some people are for that,” says Anderson.
We kept the issue going, too. We (most of the writers on this site — and others contributed) posted 16 entries mentioning the TABC issue. 13 of these 16 stories exclusively attacked the TABC, and the other three had some minor reference to them.
To the best of my knowledge (I’m not checking each and every blog entry and newspaper article out there), we were the first to provide contact information for people to complain to the TABC. Likewise, we suggested then called for attacking the issue as one which affects tourism dollars. We also broke the news that the TABC .
I’m not going to “arbitron” Free Talk Live. They podcast and I don’t have access to their web stats, so any objective data I could find would be meaningless. However, I can tell you that anecdotally, they did have an effect. I was sitting in a bar in north Alabama, where FTL airs on the AM band. Everyone sitting at the bar was bitching about the 2200 arrests in Texas. As we were sort of leading this story to national audiences, I asked where they obtained their information. At least one random person sitting in a bar in Alabama first heard the TABC story on FTL — and he had hit HoT to confirm that Ian was going to interview the TABC spokesperson.
“I’m getting all those same e-mails, the Nazi, Taliban, Gestapo e-mails,” said commission spokeswoman Carolyn Beck. “I don’t really understand the hateful outrage. I don’t understand, “Die in a fire.”
As we initiated the use of words like Nazi, Taliban and Gestapo. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to connect the dots. Additionally, one e-mailer mentioning saying “Die in a fire, bitch.” I’m not sure if this is the precise message to which Beck referred, but it may well be.
Because of the amount of stories we wrote and the way WordPress provides unique URLs mixed with complete page views and categories, it’s impossible to accurately state how much traffic we received on the issue. However, we can provide a reasonable estimate of TABC-related traffic by looking at our normal comment-to-page view ratio and and then extrapolate based on the amount of TABC related comments. Using AWStats for the traffic data and WordPress for comment counts, it was easy to determine that our ratio is roughly one comment for every one hundred (1.282%) page views. This means we’ve had about 30,000 page views on this particular topic, so far. Some other sites (Technorati ranked by authority and Google News serve as examples) have probably had considerably more.
We have no way of permanently tracking out clicks, but after I posted e-mail addresses of TABC people, I recall seeing quite e-mail clicks from my entries. Obviously, there is no way to track the phone calls made. But to answer David’s question, it’s quite clear that we precipitated a lot of those calls and e-mails. Further more, we pushed the story so other media outlets would find out about the issue, continue to cover it, or be made aware of new issues in the campaign to shut down the abusive TABC tactics. This was a classic example of a blogswarm — led by libertarians.
Obviously, we can’t take full credit for winning. It was thousands and thousands of people blogging, e-mailing, calling and reporting from around the country that made the difference. Additionally, at least one bar owner hasagainst the TABC.
A lot of the people contacting TABC were from the HoT community — thanks! We should certainly take credit for our piece of it. This said, we can’t sit on our laurels quite yet. Despite the temporary suspension of the program, there will be a hearing on Monday to determine if this program should be permanently laid to rest. While most of us would say to stick it with a fork in it, the state (TABC) and volunteer (MADD) neoprohibitionists will likely be there in full force, spouting the same nanny state drivel. Fortunately, Rock will be testifying, too.