In September, ’09 Republican Congressman Joe Wilson from South Carolina received widespread media criticism for outbursting, “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech to Congress. The speech was in defense of the controversial health care plan, and the outburst came about when Obama denied “he had… proposed providing coverage to illegal immigrants” (Newsweek). Shortly thereafter, Wilson submitted a formal and public apology to the Obama administration per request of the Republican Party. News sources from around the world accused Wilson of acting “in a manner unbecoming of a member of Congress”. But is this really unbecoming for a US congressman? Well, probably so, but only because of the social norms set in the US Congressional system of etiquette. This blog post is not intended to denounce nor defend Wilson. But when I heard the news I couldn’t help laugh when I compared the US Congressional system of etiquette to that of the UK House of Commons. In the House of Commons, outbursts like these are expected and even encouraged. See the video below for a humorous example:
In 2002, Robin Williams compared the UK House of Commons to “Congress with a two drink minimum” in his Live on Broadway act.