Thursday, September 10, 2009

"I may not agree with what you say..."

If you know who said that - without Googling it - you win a prize.

Interesting happening last night during the President' speech. He was heckled. No one can seem to recall the last time a President was yelled at during an address to a joint session of Congress.

A couple of questions, though. (1) Was this a planned move by Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, or spur-of-the-moment? (2) Should we care about the outburst?

First, I don't think this was a planned event. The New York Times reports that Wilson immediately bolted from the room when the President finished. Further, such outbursts, in such high-profile events, are always seen as, well, loopy. By all estimates, Wilson did nothing to advance the Republican Party cause.

Second, yes, we should care about such a breach of protocol, but perhaps not for the reason you think. Protocol exists to maintain order, to ensure no one offends anyone else, and so on. (Is anyone else thinking of Goldie Hawn right now?) But, times are changing. The rules of communication are changing. Conversations don't take place any more; shouting matches do. If you don't believe me, take a look at what passes for "news" these days: two talking heads talking over each other with a smirking host who adds nothing.

So, yes, we should care about the outburst, in my opinion, because I think it's a harbinger of more change coming to Washington, the country and the world, in the way we communicate with one another.

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