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The Lie Heard ‘Round the World

September 12th, 2009 by Jessika

We live in an age where Twitter can tell us more about an event or topic than many of us thought possible.The

Over three days after President Obama delivered his speech in defense of his plan for healthcare reform, the Twitterverse is still abuzz about that evening’s events. Most of the tweets, however, are not about the speech itself.

Joe Wilson, a Republican congressman from South Carolina, shouted “you lie” at the President when the President explained that his proposed healthcare plan would not insure illegal immigrants.

Wilson’s outburst not only incited boos from other members of Congress, but it got Wilson in hot water for breaking congressional protocol as well. Hours after the President’s speech, Wilson issued an apology.

The apology, however, did not satisfy many members of Congress, and some continue to pressure Wilson to give a formal apology on the House floor.

Twitterers reacted to what Wilson said with great vigor, shooting Wilson’s name to the top of Twitter’s trending topics. On Friday, Wilson’s name still remained at the top of the day’s trending list.

Reactions on Twitter varied. Tweets talked about everything from Wilson having tourettes syndrome to electing Wilson for president to Wilson’s assertion being correct, which FactCheck.org points out is not the case.

The strong reactions from the Twitterverse and those in attendance at the joint session of Congress provide a stark contrast to the reactions of the audience where I watched the speech.

By 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Annenberg’s west lobby had amassed a large audience. An energetic chatter filled the air until about 10 minutes after 5. The President had begun his speech.

As the speech went on, the lobby remained relatively quiet save the sound of the President’s voice, the scribbling of pen to paper, and the occasional whisper.

Hardly anyone seemed to react to what the President had to say. Even after Wilson’s heckling, I found myself to be one of the few people who seemed outwardly shocked.

So, what made the audience’s reaction in the west lobby so different from that of Congress and the Twitterverse?

Perhaps, the Annenberg audience internalized their responses as opposed to externalizing them. Or, possibly, they did not really have a response. I could have also just chose the wrong side of the room to sit on.

Without going back and talking to everyone in the room, there really is no definiteve answer, though.

But, I would like to think that they were just saving their reactions for Twitter.

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