Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Incivility in the News: Serena Williams, Joe Wilson, and Kanye West

The media has focused this week on the decline in politeness in America, as most recently demonstrated by:
  1. After being called (wrongly) for a foot fault, Serena Williams screamed at the US Open line judge and told her that she would like to "shove this [expletive] ball down your [expletive] throat."
  2. Joe Wilson yelled "You lie" at President Obama during the health care address.
  3. Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards to complain that Beyonce should have won.
During a discussion about the Joe Wilson incident on This Week, one of the guests cited to Ryne Sandberg's Hall of Fame acceptance-speech-statement that a respect for the rules of the game is all-important (more important, even, than individual feelings).

Stephanopolous, George Will and Cokie Roberts love the Sandberg quote, and it is a great reference point for framing the issue of civility. It is tragic that basic rules of politeness seem to no longer hold in our society.

The follow-up this morning is that President Obama -- believing he was off-the-record -- told John Harwood that he thinks Kanye West is a jackass. Terry Moran then reported the comment on Twitter, which has triggered a debate about journalistic ethics as regards "off-the-record" comments.

In terms of the actual tennis, the stars of the US Open were Kim Clijsters (she was coming back after taking a couple of years off to have her baby and defeated Dane Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3 in the finals) and Juan Martin del Potro. Of del Potro, Rachid's written me this morning "Del Potro is one tough customer who'll give Nadal and Federer a run for their money."

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