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Globe Editorial

Manners: Shouting is the new opining

September 15, 2009

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No one expects Emily Post-style propriety at the MTV Video Music Awards, but even that event has its rules of etiquette. Or at least it did, before rapper Kanye West cut off country singer Taylor Swift as she accepted her award for Best Female Video. Nobody asked him, but West insisted loudly that his friend Beyonce had the better video.

Suddenly, the right to one’s opinion also includes the right to blurt it out wherever - and however pungently. As a poster child for poor sportsmanship, West joins tennis star Serena Williams, who cursed the line judge who called a foot fault on her at the US Open. John McEnroe pioneered such tantrums years ago. But threatening, as Williams reportedly did, to shove a tennis ball down the judge’s throat was a new low.

Over the summer, angry protesters, unhappy about health reform, shouted down their elected representatives at meetings across the nation. Last week, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson took the town hall mentality to a joint session of Congress when he bellowed “You lie!’’ at President Obama.

Some Americans understand that bad manners beget more bad manners: A video mashing up Wilson’s outburst with West’s began ricocheting around the Internet almost immediately. The rep and the rapper will hate being likened to each other, but both let their inner boorishness hang out for the world to see. Is it really cool to be coarse? Times change, but good manners never go out of style.

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