When I attended my first social media conference in August 2009 (Right Online in Pittsburgh), I had no way of knowing just how significantly it would impact my future. I had been interested in politics from the time I was a teenager, but the progression of learning how to channel that passion had, for a variety of reasons, been painstakingly slow. Right Online changed all of that for me and Melissa Clouthier has been a key player in that process.
I first heard Melissa Clouthier’s name when she was introduced as the 2009 Right Online Activist of the Year. Little did I suspect at that time that rare would be the day that would pass from that point forward that I would not encounter Melissa’s name on a regular basis! In fact, Melissa’s Twitter presence is so pleasantly ubiquitous that I struggle with a small quandary every time Melissa tweets something I find worth passing along to my followers. My subconscious immediately poses this question: “Doesn’t everyone who follows me already follow Melissa? Ergo, they’ve already viewed said tweet, link, article, etc.” Notwithstanding, I usually end up retweeting in spite of the existential nature of it all!
Over the last few years, Melissa Clouthier’s contributions to the social media wing of the conservative movement have been manifold. She blogs regularly, podcasts prolifically both in her own right and with Andrew Malcolm and tweets incessantly. Her op-eds also appear regularly in other periodicals of note.
I am often approached by people who want to become more involved in advocacy of the conservative cause, but who lack the requisite know-how. Melissa’s story is one that I point to, in response. The single biggest reason I admire Melissa is because of the example she sets as an activist with many irons in the fire (wife, mother, hometown involvement, etc.) who has, nonetheless, become an influential voice in the conservative movement. And I know she would view imitation, across the board, as the highest form of flattery.
I am proud to call Melissa my friend and ally in the cause of advancing the conservative message. This feature is a prime showcase of why I do this column every week: the truth that the person behind the public name and face has many interesting stories to share that have, thus far, not merited a hearing.
10 Questions for Melissa Clouthier
1. I have heard you tell the story about how Twitter really began to work for you, but I’m sure many others have not. Could you recount that here?
In the summer of 2008, I went to an Americans for Prosperity Blog Online conference in Austin, Texas. There, David Almacy, then the head of technology for President Bush’s White House, taught about this new thing called Twitter. I didn’t get it. It seemed stupid. So, I signed up but didn’t do anything with it. I’d look at what people were saying and just shrug my shoulders. Then, over Thanksgiving, I thought to myself, “If this is the ‘next big thing’, I should learn it.” So, I spent Thanksgiving weekend following interesting people (mostly technology folks) and started engaging. This was back when it was just me and the tech folks. And then, I fell in love. I realized that this was the future–that it was a way to exchange information efficiently, meet interesting people and learn. It was like a monster Think Tank and the thinkers were as interesting as you chose them to be. I still love it.
2. Were you active in the Republican Party before joining Twitter and did this contribute to your eventual interest in social media?
No. I was busy with my kids and my work. I was involved in politics in high school. I come from a family of screen-yellers; that is, they watch the news and yell. But no, it wasn’t until I started blogging for business that it morphed into politics and I ended back at my first love. I still am not involved in Republican politics locally. Our state and national reps are pretty good. I have covered the local Tea Parties pretty extensively and was around for the beginning planning meetings. That’s the extent of my local political involvement. I vote in primaries, as well as general elections!
3. Tell us about your family.
I’ve been married for nearly 20 years. I have three kids–my Little Toot, a tweener and a teenager. One of my sons has Autism. The other son is at least hyper. (That’s what they used to call it.)My son with autism was born severely premature…at 24 weeks’ gestation. He spent four months in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It’s been a history of surgeries and interventions. He is a miracle. We also have a dog–a Bichon–who is a complete spazz.
4. We know you’re a chiropractor by trade; how long have you practiced?
I had a chiropractic mentor who told me that there need to be more women doctors. I resisted, but ended up going back to school for a Chiropractic degree. I graduated in 1997 and have been practicing on and off for 13 years between kids and life. I love my profession. There is nothing more wonderful than helping someone change his or her health life. Between kids and politics, I’m pretty busy and practice a couple mornings a week.
5. If I remember correctly, I’m thinking you live in Texas now, but are actually a fellow Midwesterner by birth? Tell us about the formative experiences that made you who you are today.
I was born and bred in Michigan. I lived all over the state. Michigan and Texas folks are really not all that different temperamentally. They’re independent. They’re used to weathering hardship. They’re big thinkers. They value guns and freedom. Midwesterners, especially those from Michigan, are a special breed of direct thinkers.
Women are less vain and more practical. And while I love Texas, I find that I relate much more to Michigan women. Having wanted to get away from the snowy, slate grey skies and general winter misery for so long, I didn’t consider how much the place formed me and how much it feels like home. I love Michigan. I love Texas. They are two wonderful states with wonderful people.
6. What tends to intrigue you on Twitter? I’ve noticed that you Retweet a broad variety of data, news and humor-related items.
Everything interests me. Except volleyball. I get bored easily and figure people who read my Twitter feed have a lot of calls on their attention, too. So I try to tweet things that will appeal to people. Politics all the time is soul-suckingly miserable. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable and so my tweet stream is live-tweeting some event or discussing the current crap sandwich Congress is debating, but if I can, I throw in some fun.
I love Apple products and new technology and scientific advances and new medicine. I love the study of human nature. I find most celebrities boring and so don’t follow/tweet them much, but some are very decent people and it’s nice getting to know the person rather than the persona. And, as people know who follow me, I am a Sci-Fi/Fantasy (mostly high fantasy) book reading geek. I really do like these things, as some shocked online friends have found out when I come to my house. One friend gasped, “You really are that big of a nerd!” Yes. Yes I am.
7. What has your most energizing moment been since you became involved as a conservative activist?
Answer: I’m always excited when Twitter beats the regular news, more specifically, when I beat a news service. Rarely do I come up with the news myself. Often, it begins with a person from around the world on-site tweeting something. There are a couple incidents that were particularly awesome. Covering the Times Square Bombing, the Terrorist Flotilla and the Iran protests (where Neda was shot) were particularly winning times on Twitter. They occurred during the holidays or the weekends and the Mainstream Media just ignored it or was too lazy to cover the stories adequately. In all cases, I was Tweeting and live blogging the events. And as I watched the major news media miss the stories, I was simultaneously appalled and heartened. If a person followed my feed on Twitter, he was informed. That’s really cool.
8. What are 3 life goals that still lie ahead for you, not yet completed?
Write a non-fiction politics book. Write a fiction fantasy book. Wear the same size as I did in college.
9. AND the favorites question: What are your favorite books, movies, musicians, TV shows, foods…and a couple of miscellaneous items?
Favorite books: Anything by Tolkien. I also love the EarthSea series by Ursulla LeGuin. The Bible, of course. Anything by C.S. Lewis. Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton. I’m reading Stephenson right now–Snow Crash, Diamond Age, etc. I wish the man knew how to conclude a story, but the stories are great. Oh, I also love the book Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Neil Gaiman’s writing is sublime and painful. Love it.
Favorite movies: Shawshank Redemption, Wall-E, Hoosiers, LOTR, Chariots of Fire, Black Beauty, anything by Pixar.
Favorite TV shows: Meh. I’m not attached to TV anymore. I don’t have the time to get into a series. But when I do watch, I like Castle, Bones and House. I think I would have liked Fringe if I’d ever have the time to watch it. That Firefly didn’t make it is still a tragedy of epic proportions.
Favorite musicians: I’m a junkfood music lover. That is, I love what most people consider to be pop crap. I’m enjoying anything by One Republic right now. I love Eminem. I like Pink. I still love to listen to Prince and Queen (ha!). I’m going through a Metallica phase (never did as a kid). I just generally love music. I have nearly every kind of music on my iPod–everything from opera to cello solos (I love Rostrapovich and the cello generally) to even a very few country songs (country musak gets on my nerves).
Favorite foods: New York pizza with garlic. Chick-Fil-A breakfast chicken biscuit. Fraggles (deep fried bagels smothered in cinnamon sugar from this bagel shop near Birmingham, Michigan). Taquitos from Chuey’s, a Tex-Mex place in Texas. A well-crafted cannoli. Shortbread raspberry cookies. Any pie I make. (I’m good at pie making.) Anything made at Mark’s in Houston. A Mojito on a hot day. A good beer on any day. There’s this new black cherry Rum by Cruzan, that is so good it makes me cry. Booze, generally. Wait, those aren’t foods. Well, they should be.
10. What have 3 influences been on your life that have brought you to the path you walk today?
Without question, the Bible and various interpretations of it shaped my worldview. I continue to be amazed at the wisdom therein. Every serious philosopher cannot help but write in answer to the words in that book; such are the force of its ideas and arguments. I love the beauty of the King James Version–the words, themselves, are poetry. It’s just a wonderful book, in addition to being the written Word of God.
My life changed when my son died. He only lived for two weeks. I learned that your heart can break and never heal. I learned that you can live anyway. I learned to find joy again. I learned that every life, no matter how short, can change the world. It has been thirteen and a half years since we lost Andrew. It feels like yesterday. I don’t talk about this much–in this era of over-sharing, it seems like people can be self-indulgent. It would be disrespecting Andrew’s memory, though, to not mention how his short life changed mine. His birth and death changed my view of God, of love, and what really matters. I’m grieved that my son had to die for me to get this perspective, but I’m grateful for this perspective. I’m grateful for him.
Technology. I am extraordinarily grateful for the freedom of the internet. Our lives are completely emboldened and enriched because of the technology we enjoy. The power really has been placed in the individual. I’m thankful for it (almost) every day.