Serious Studies

The Case Against Apology

Weiner Tears

We're into an orgy of sin and confession right now that brings to mind the old Stalinist show trials of the 1930s and the culture of confession practiced by the Chinese government since the days of Mao Tse-tung.  

The dance is formal and almost totally devoid of its purported purpose and meaning.  In private life, an apology is offered, in the words of dictionary.com, as "a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another." The apology is then accepted in most cases. Only in the most diseased of relationships, or in certain well-established religions, is there a repetitive ceremony of sin, apology and retribution. But even God accepts those forms of apology.

We don't. In virtually every case, the form of apology required of errant public figures is not accepted, is, in fact, punished, much in the same way that Uncle Joe Stalin or Chairman Mao -- or that other Joe, McCarthy -- dealt with those who were hauled up before the bench and brought to their knees.  Your apology is noted. You are not forgiven. Your admission is the first step, but certainly not the last, of your punishment.

Yesterday's news brought us two highly public apologies. The first, of course, was from Anthony Weiner, who is front page news on all three major New York dailies this morning and the Wall Street Journal as well.  The Times has him above the fold, taking up about 25% of that space. Naturally, he is weeping. The Post has another funny-punny headline. The Daily News calls him a "schmuck." The WSJ has a series of crying Weiner pics. USA Today has him front and center as well. Do you know why he is on all these papers? Why they have the grist to feed their mill?

Because he publicly apologized, and did so at a stupid press conference. Who is this guy listening to? He not only gave the machine what it needed to write about -- he gave it visuals as well! Tasty, emotional pictures, with tears yet. In short, he provided the centerpiece for the ongoing ritual. Now there will be an investigation. He will be found guilty of something. And he will be executed, just the way that miscreants were disposed of in Stalinist Russia, Communist China or paranoid 1950s America.

At the same time, a lesser apology plus a clarification emitted from Sarah Palin's busy rectification machine. Ms. Palin 1) apologized for hogging the limelight that was due to Mitt Romney when he announced his candidacy and 2) clarified her weird interpretation of Paul Revere's ride, which seemed to imply that our greatest patriot was sort of a spy for the British, informing them that the colonists knew of their activities. I know one thing. Nobody who has formed a definitive perception of Ms. Palin -- positive or negative -- cares about her apology or her clarification. Her supporters are already trying to hijack Wikipedia to change the entry on Mr. Revere. And her detractors? They don't need any more information. But Palin, like Weiner, went on the air, apologized, clarified, abased themselves, did the dance around the tribal fire. And now if you Google either, all the top hits you get, and will get for years to come, focus on that.

If either or both had, contrariwise, refused to take part? Issued a simple statement? Appeared calmly in public afterwards with a quiet, "asked and answered, ladies and gentlemen, let's move on"? There would be no dramatic pictures. The parade would be moving on to the next gaffe, the next cultural criminal, the next horny dude with a rocket in his pocket, the next poor drunken famous slob pulled over by the California Highway Patrol.

So hey. I'm talking to you. You famous person now going about your business being stupid or venal or immoral or injudicious or criminal, even. When you get caught and the big, voracious media death star starts howling for your apology... stop. Think. Consider the alternatives, ones that might just throw a wrench into the workings of the machine. Because no matter how sincere, how dramatic, or how small or personal your slight -- your apology will not be accepted, and will only provide the preamble to your ongoing destruction.

That's the way it is, I'm afraid. I wish I could say I was sorry.

11 Comments Add Comment

Awkward. The only fellow politician that can truly understand what this man has gone through in his life is Boehner, and he's sitting on the other side of the aisle.

Now Matt Dillon, he knew how to apologize. He would shoot the bad guy and then tip his hat, "I'm sorry M'am," to the wife of the criminal, for causing her some incovenience while doing away with a crook. How small Weiner seems compared to Matt Dillon/James Arness. Best,

Wrong. Palin did NOT apologize!

I just don't get it Bing. Why don't these public figures just say "Mind your own damn business!" What possible strategic / PR logic could there be to justify any other sort of response? And wouldn't the American public support a man who acted like a man and not some kow-towing toady to the press circus? "You want public flagellation?? I'll give you some flagellation!!" Where's the press outcry against the despicable tactics used by the New York Post reporter, a far more consequential, professional relevant, and serious ethical breach than any consenting adult cybering three-way!?!

Does stonewalling really work, or does it just get the machine pissed off to the point where their incessant questioning (you know they won't give up, no matter how long you tell them to move on) renders you infertile? Would stonewalling just encourage Breitbart to release that X-rated version he says he has? Maybe if we could establish that Breitbart keeps a stock of such photos around for his own amusement. The "big, voracious media death star" is an interesting way to put it. Maybe we need to use the force and blow it up.

What we're lacking today is Boot Camp. I had the greatest first sergeant and platoon sergeant when in Boot Camp. They had a way to exorcise the "Devil Made Me Do It" out of the cruit.

Sergeant Gomes and Sergeant Takeguchi had a way to admonish wayward cruits. My good fortune came to me in a strange way; Sgt. Gomes, shouting at the top of his lungs at me, said: "if I have to tie you in bed and beat you with a leather strap, I'm going to break you!"

Later, we gathered around Sgt. Takeguchi and started questioning the tactics of Sgt. Gomes. Sgt Takeguchi told us that Sgt Gomes is like "God" to us and we just gotta live with it. End of story.

The news media is here to stay, and we just gotta live with it! End of story!

Wait til you guys see what Representative Anus just texted.

Great to be here, Mr. Bing. Thanks for the invite.

Thanks, Jeff, for your customary tasteful and mature contribution.

The Congressman didn't invent the practice of distributing crotch shots, nor did he take the practice to any new level of depravity. He simply did what scores of hormone-addled teens, Smirnoff Iced frat boys, and other horndoggery-afflicted folks have done when the brain outsources the Good Judgment Department to the - er - subcontinental region of the human atlas.

In other words, the Congressman is living up the the "Representative" half of his name nearly as well as the "Weiner" (sic) half.

So, to whom, exactly, does he owe an apology?

Once again we are being distracted from real issues - like 2.5 wars we are involved in and the transformation of our currency into toilet tissue. I care neither for Weiner nor his wiener. Since when do we expect politicians to be honest ( even if to their spouses)? The definition of a politician is " a person who kisses children and steals their candy". Duh!

I would suggest one of the 20th century's great novels, Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.

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