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Morris W. O'Kelly Headshot

Do Not Reward Michelle Obama's Heckler

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I'm not going to mention the heckler by name or specifically address her grievances. I have no desire to interview her or provide a platform or forum to further make her case. She deserves none of the aforementioned.

I choose not to reward belligerent behavior and neither should you.

For her momentary disrespectful and indefensible outburst, the media in general has rewarded her with invaluable news coverage; coverage she was unable to generate on her own. That is "falling for the okie doke." She was both a plant and admitted "activist," interested not in actual dialogue with the first lady but instead disrespect and self-aggrandizement. Recognize it for what it is.

I surely do and am not going to reward the belligerent behavior. You shouldn't either.

If you came to this page expecting some long and drawn out analysis of the heckler's issues, assigning some level of merit to them or blame to the president; extreme disappointment is in your immediate future. I don't care what she had to say or care how outraged she happens to be. Parents should never bow to the petulant grocery-store-tantrums of children and we should not entertain the complaints of those who engage in such blatant disrespect.

Yell, (out of turn no less) at anyone and see how far that gets you in having your grievances acknowledged and addressed. Try it on your boss, demanding a raise in front of everyone at the office; then come back and tell me how it turned out. Be sure to also let me know how good that scratchy pink slip feels against your soft skin. Try it on your spouse in front of all of his/her peers or family and see where you end up sleeping later that night.

I get it, I do. In the moment it probably feels empowering, if not liberating; shouting down those you have deemed in opposition to your cause. After the momentary euphoria wears off, you should also realize you've made your fight more difficult, not easier.

Stop rewarding hecklers. Doing so, opens the door further and further for more of the same if not increasingly disrespectful behavior. Head it off at the pass now.

I will not allow this to be about an "activist" heckler or her complaints. This is about the first lady... of these United States.

Note, I said first lady... not "Michelle Obama." The moment you rationalize disrespect relative to the person and not the position you've lost your way. You, the lay person are not ever of equal standing or on equal footing with the first lady, irrespective of who it is or to whom she's married.

Would we make allowances for such disrespect directed at Laura Bush because of our "outrage" at the Iraq war or the Great Recession? Or maybe if someone had shouted down Barbara Bush because George H.W. Bush reneged on "no new taxes," you'd see my point.

The first lady doesn't pass bills or sign them into law. We all know this and so did the heckler. It is about grandstanding, in the way that Perez Hilton did during the Miss USA pageant in 2009. Hilton did the cause no favors then and this heckler did none now.

If you think that disrespecting the wife somehow inclines the husband to acquiesce, let me disabuse you of that notion. If the USA doesn't negotiate with terrorists, then you can best believe a second-term president is neither unnerved nor inspired to action by the random heckler disrespecting the mother of his children. This behavior did not curry favor with any members of Congress or positively impact public opinion. Mission not accomplished as to winning over the hearts and minds of those Americans on the fence as to the issue of gay rights.

This is not a "free speech" issue. Nobody is arguing whether one has the "right" to heckle. You are free to heckle and the rest of us are free to subsequently ignore you and your grievances in response. But if the goal is actually connected to progress... pay close attention.

Once again, therein lies one of the essential differences between the gay rights movement and the 20th century civil rights movement. Dr. King was clear that there could never be any daylight in between the moral authority of the issue and the method of activism.

It is not enough to be "right," one also has to be righteous in the approach. You can't claim moral authority by way of unrighteous behavior.


Even the heckling of Lady Bird Johnson in response to the signing of the Civil Rights Act didn't help "the (dissenting) cause" either.

Hecklers lose.

We live in a country whose populace unfortunately prides itself on outrage. We love being mad and feeling mistreated by the government, federal or otherwise. The vitriol and general incivility in the way we engage one another can't be denied. Far too often in our discourse, we seem to think that when outraged, any and all behavior is then somehow validated and excused.  If you support gay marriage, be absolutely clear that such behavior hurts the cause, not helps it. Not only do the ends not justify these means, the means must always be consistent with the ends.

No person has any responsibility to respond or acknowledge a heckler on any level... ever. But we in the media have a responsibility to not reward the behavior.

I won't do it.

Hecklers burn building bridges, not help build them. They are arrested, "escorted out" and do nothing to push the cause forward. Hecklers don't impact legislation or inspire positive public opinion and history is clear on these truths. It didn't even help Congressman "you lie" Joe Wilson vis-à-vis the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  In truth, the whole OWS movement was one long, uncoordinated and disjointed heckle.  That didn't turn out well either, now did it?

Be they congressman or comedian concert-goer. Hecklers always lose and there's good reason as to why.

Hecklers don't advance the conversation or stop the show. The comedian finishes his/her set, the public figure finishes the speech and the heckle has helped change nothing along the way. They rightly are ignored, ridiculed, removed and ultimately relegated to footnote status. Heckling only manages to bring attention to the heckler, not what the heckler has to say... that is if you can even understand the person with no microphone shouting across the room.

Public dissent will always have a place in America, but that place will always require decency and decorum too.

Do not reward belligerent behavior... ever. If you do, you've then not only opened Pandora's Box, you've turned it upside down and dumped its contents all over the floor.

Ultimately, we will all be much worse off because of it.

Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is host of "The Mo'Kelly Show" on KFI AM640/XM Satellite and "Mo'Kelly in the Morning" on KTLK AM1150. The Mo'Kelly Report is a syndicated politics and entertainment journal. Contact him at and all commentary is welcome.