The New York Times looks at the ascendance of the heckler as self-appointed critic at large. Voicing one's displeasure in the here and now has apparently taken on enough significance that it is being called a societal trend. Hecklers who boo politicians at public addresses are crusaders for peace. The woman who Mel Gibson dismissed as a heckler at an event for his movie Apocalypto described herself as a dutiful academic. And some sports hecklers consider themselves part of their team's organization, providing a stream of distracting negativity from the stands directed at opponents. Heckler is a movie scheduled to open at the Tribeca Film Festival that looks at the phenomena.

“I would never go somewhere intentionally to be a jackass,” Mr. Patrick, 22, said. But Mr. Kennedy’s flatulence jokes were unworthy of what he considers “good” comedy, he said, and live settings are the perfect forum to censure unsatisfactory performers. “It’s kind of a cool opportunity to tell them how terrible they are,” Mr. Patrick said.

Looking for the roots of the blooming heckler culture, some people have found the Internet.

The psychological term, Dr. Forni said, is the “disinhibition effect,” where people express themselves more openly or bluntly online than they would in person. The old filters — namely, good manners — atrophy offline, and the result is a cultural narcissism: people think that only their feelings and opinions matter.

In the Seinfeld episode "The Fire", Jerry is furious at a woman Kramer brings to a performance, who heckles him incessantly during his act. Her words succinctly describe the ethos of the heckler: "Well, that's the way I express myself. How are you gonna make it in this business if you can't take it?"

(McCain does not speak for me, by dancinthesky at flickr)