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Outbursts by Kanye West, Rep. Joe Wilson, Serena Williams Leave Decorum Behind

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"These meetings turned into public derision," says Toby Miller, chairman of the Media and Cultural Studies Department at the University of California at Riverside. "They were powerfully organized. I think it represents an extraordinary shift in the terrain. And don't forget that behaving badly is an important part of publicity these days. There are promoters who are seasoned to highlight this conduct. And of course then you have the chance for public redemption. That narrative -- of redemption -- has become a part of the narrative of American life."

Both Wilson and West have issued apologies. West apologized on his blog immediately after his tantrum on MTV, and issued another quirky mea culpa Monday afternoon.

"I feel like Ben Stiller in 'Meet the Parents' when he messed up everything and Robert De Niro asked him to leave . . . That was Taylor's moment and I had no right in any way to take it from her. I am truly sorry," West wrote.

Williams, too, offered a full apology Monday for her U.S. Open outburst, saying in part, "I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act."

But apologies never receive the same degree of attention as the actions that made them necessary. And the sincerity of an apology can be questioned. There are those who feel that while the curve of public behavior has taken sharp and bewildering turns, there are measures in place to address those turns.

"We have much more elaborate sanctions -- fines and discipline -- in place for this type of behavior," Miller says.

The case of Wilson, however, perplexes Miller. "The office of the president is very different from anything else. He is head of state. So I think what Wilson did is extremely unusual."


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