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Smith: Outrageous behavior!

10/15/09 5:55PM By Mike Smith
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(HOST) Outrageous behavior has been much in the headlines this fall, and commentator Mike Smith thinks that's precisely the point.

(SMITH) First it was Kanye West, a hip-hop artist, who got up from his seat and grabbed a microphone from Taylor Swift, a country and western star, as she accepted an MTV video award.  After West had the microphone and the attention of the audience he then made his pronouncement that implied fellow music artist Beyonce deserved the award more than Swift.  

Pundits have been busy pointing out that West's antics combined with the foul mouth tirade of Serena Williams over a judge's call during the U.S. Open and Representative Joe Wilson shouting at the President during his address to the joint session of Congress shows a sudden lack of respect and civility sweeping the country.

Come on! This type of behavior is routinely encouraged and applauded. It was just a matter of time before this outrageous conduct migrated to the more talented and successful, especially in sports, entertainment, and politics.

Whether it's Paris or Perez Hilton, Dennis Rodman, or PETA the name of the game nowadays is to be outrageous.  It's how you get the attention.  The more outrageous you are; the more attention you get; the more of a celebrity you become.  TV and radio shows, magazines, popular sections of newspapers, and more recently web sites and blogs are dedicated to covering and emphasizing the outrageous.  If you rant, cry, are rude, sometimes even crude, or truly bizarre you are destined to be a celebrity, even if you have little talent.   It's who can shout the loudest and be the most obnoxious that grabs the spotlight rather than those with the once admired qualities of thoughtfulness, modesty, and reserve.

There's always been bad-boy behavior.  Frank Sinatra got himself into bar fights from time to time. Ann-Margaret bedded her share of men.  Mickey Mantle often drank himself into a stupor after baseball games.  And there's a long history of male politicians getting into trouble as a result of booze, money, and women.

We're less likely to forgive politicians because of the frequent hypocrisy between what they say and their actions; however, we excused the antics of Sinatra, Mantle, and Ann-Margaret because they already had our attention and they didn't need to seek it through their behavior.  We even celebrated Liberace's flamboyance because it was in addition to his enormous talent - and not a replacement for it.
Nowadays, we seem to be on a trajectory where the outrageous quickly fades to become the acceptable and mundane.  And then the goal of some is to become even more outrageous so that they can remain relevant.  The behavior of West, Williams, and Wilson pales in comparison to some of the behavior that we have already condoned.

We could stop the continued evolution of this behavior if we turned away from those outlets that desensitize us to the outrageous.  Sorry Jon and Kate, Jerry Springer, Paris and Perez Hilton, and too many others - you'd become history!
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