I’ve Made Up My Mind About Apologies
And what I’ve decided is, I don’t like ’em. I’ll go further: I can’t stand them. I f*cking hate ’em.
Okay I’ll make one single exception to that: If it’s like when James Caan snapped at Robert Duvall in The Godfather, and then immediately said, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that — if it’s a case of, the grown-up side of the brain hasn’t been in charge, and it just took control again and is in a process of making things right — then, and only then, I like apologies. Then, and only then, apologies are okay. When there’s some definable difference between what just took place, and the way people really are, when the person apologizing is admitting to something like “Ah, there’s a steering wheel in my head and I let go of it just now, I’m not gonna do that again, and what I just said is not real.”
But we don’t get to see that now too much, do we?
I’ve heard repeatedly from the left that Rush Limbaugh’s apology was insincere, and he should have taken an example from Ed Schultz’ apology to Laura Ingraham:
It rubs me the wrong way, frankly, that the left seems to think this is the model to which all other apologies must aspire. It isn’t that I think it’s inadequate; I don’t. It’s from the heart, and it leaves nothing undone. But I don’t like to see a grown man grovel. And, let’s face it, they like that. Can’t get enough of it.
Shortly after his apology, Ed Schultz saw a snake slithering by, and decided to rub its belly. He reached waaaaaaaay up from where he was, on tippy toes…couldn’t quite get there…gave up, slouched over, continued shuffling along, saw a hole in the ground, jumped into it, then grabbed the hole and pulled it in after him. Total humility in the wake of total humiliation. Every leftist watching is positively giddy with excitement over the way his shoulders sloop. This is why they hate westerns with the hero in the big hat walking tall after saving the town. This is the polar opposite: The obliteration of the individual. If only the same thing happened to Rush Limbaugh! And Karl Rove and Ollie North, while you’re at it.
The leftists who say, Schultz did it right and Limbaugh should learn something, are guilty of having lost track of their own argument. Their protest against Limbaugh, and this is not conjecture on my part because they’re stating it word by word themselves, is: He’s sorry for having been caught. He’s apologizing because he’s losing advertisers and trying to stop the revenue hemorrhage. Okay, that’s a fair point because, truth be told, that’s exactly why I’ve come to loathe apologies; more on that below. But — did Ed Schultz do such a great job in the clip above, that he’s immune from the same criticism? Go back and watch it again. Yes, he’s contrite, and reading from a script that could only have been written by someone who truly empathizes with the offense. But it could also be fairly characterized as an apology given only because a revenue stream is showing signs of drying up. You could see the whole ritual being skipped, if the advertisers weren’t getting ready to bail. Maybe they’ll admit it and maybe it won’t. It doesn’t matter, because it’s true. It’s just another apology for having been caught.
The contrite Ed “setting an example for my grandchildren” Schultz doesn’t really have a moral objection to calling women sluts if they disagree with him politically. Because if he did, he wouldn’t have said this:
And with that, I don’t wanna talk about Schultz anymore because this isn’t about him.
What this is really about, is: I am hearing, in the past few years, at what appears to be a continually accelerating pace, a crescendoing drumbeat of people expressing these “sincere” apologies for behavior they fully intend to do again. Or at least, with the same situation presented to them, would do again. Yes, I believe this is true of Limbaugh; I have listened to him way too long to believe otherwise. He has had a name for it going all the way back to the beginning: Illustrating absurdity by being absurd.
Here’s how it works. When someone presents an argument that is so ludicrous, that it falls apart simply by being taken seriously by somebody, Rush — takes it seriously. It is as effective as it is logical. Yes, I’m going on the record: He had nothing for which to apologize here. I don’t care if he says otherwise and I don’t care that he did apologize. This is the real reason why the apology was ineffective. There was no call for it in the first place.
Therefore, show me a thousand people who feel he needed to make the apology, I’ll show you a thousand people dedicated to the idea that his sin was irredeemable, and any apology would be irrelevant. Have him go back and give a Schultz-apology, and it wouldn’t matter one bit. Not a single mind would have been changed. The apology was a mistake. Or at least…battle tactics aside…the apology was a mistake. Limbaugh made a mistake giving it. And I say “battle tactics aside” because it is becoming more and more clear to me that the liberals made a mistake demanding it.
We’re plunged into a thoughtful deliberation about the double standard established by, enjoyed by, and perpetuated by, liberals. The “mainstream” people who actually decide elections are becoming more aware of this double standard. That’s bad for liberals and good for everyone else. For every pound of a$s-flesh Rush Limbaugh loses to this, the situation now is that the Establishment Left loses two pounds, and I perceive that this point-of-diminishing-returns was crossed sometime between noon and eight o’clock Wednesday. That, too, is good.
But that doesn’t legitimize Rush’s decision. This situation would have occurred, along roughly the same timeframe, were the apology withheld.
The problem is this: The apology loses value when it is used as an instrument of deceit. And with the trajectory where the custom is headed, it is to be used as an instrument of deceit more and more frequently, and for other, more sincere, purposes more rarely. The left is finding Limbaugh’s apology wanting, and I think they should. Rush is offering them an empty packaging with nothing inside. The point they’re missing is that this empty packaging is more than what was owed.
I do think Bill Maher deserves some props for this tweet:
Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologized, liberals looking bad not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout
I’ve taught my son that an expression of gratitude is obligatory, if someone does something kind for you that they didn’t have to do. According to that litmus test, Maher gets a high-five. Perhaps a cynical cost-benefit calculation went into it. In fact, it’s likely. Maybe the as*hole gets out of bed every morning thinking “What can I do to make conservatives lose something and let liberals win something?” That’s likely too. Almost certain. But it doesn’t matter, because he didn’t have to do it.
I don’t like apologies anymore. They do not do much to improve situations. I will admit here that I am nursing a grudge against the implement when my quarrel is really against the implementation, much like a gun-hater might hate guns because of some disaster brought about by one carelessly wielded gun in the possession of someone who never should have been allowed to touch one. So with that in mind, I understand this is not a completely fair grudge. I don’t care. The gun analogy breaks down, because we spend, rightfully, a great abundance of effort and energy on making sure guns are used only by people who have some business with them, and understand the common-sense rules that apply to them.
We sure suck at doing the same thing with apologies. The apology has become the very emblem of inept government.
In fact, I dislike the whole model of government that supports, and is supported by, the image of the prominent and influential public “servant” issuing an apology. Seriously, what am I to learn from such a display? Let us start with the common theme that applies to all of them: Had a thought been germinating in my cranium that the wrong folks are in charge, the “press conference” is intended to dissuade me from that notion. But the apology is directed at multiple people, is it not, for I by myself am not sufficiently important to pry an apology out of people who have power over me. And the apology is issued at a specific time, in the wake of a specific event; what I’m getting at is, there must have been a prologue to the apology. There had to be a logical reason for people to think this person is unfit for the office he holds. The apology is intended for the powerful to get the last word in — against observed reality. In short: The apology is not about contrition, it is about power. Someone else, who has power the apology-issuer does not have, rightly or wrongly has stirred up a tempest in a teapot and done some thinking on behalf of someone else. The thinking says that the words or deeds of the person issuing the apology, once entered into the record, are terminal to that person’s fitness for the office he holds. Somehow, the act of issuing the apology is going to reverse course, it’s going to alter the outcome, which means a deal has been struck and now someone is going to do some more thinking on behalf of someone else. Unless the apology fails, that is. Then, too, it isn’t about contrition, it’s about power.
So can we stop with all the high-minded and supercilious nonsense about what a proper apology looks like?
The more I look at these apologies, the more I hate them. I only see the Limbaugh apologies, which make me think “Whose boneheaded idea was this,” and the Kennedy/Chappaquiddick ones that make me think “Why are you wasting my time, we know what you are now.” All I see anymore are two factions, each of which possesses some kind of power the other doesn’t have, one of which is corrupt, and in some cases both of them are — forming an agreement to partner up with each other when they don’t really want to. All I see is a reluctantly codified pact between two inimical forces. A corrupt pact. So-and-so is going to keep his job…Cui bono? Cui plagalis?
The peanut gallery is supposed to look on it and say “Oh, well that’s a relief. For the last day or two I’ve been troubled by a feeling that we didn’t have wonderful awesome people in charge of everything,” then go back to worrying about the important stuff. Something to do with someone on the idiot-box getting voted off or out of something.
Darn, it looks like I’ve once again taken a simple thought and exploded it into a dry, meandering epistle on my blog. I’m so, so very sorry about that. Think I’ll go cross-post it now.
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