Apologies are like diamonds: When they’re authentic, their value is incalculable.
Lately, though, society has gotten used to the reflexive mea culpa, the one triggered not by a real sense of remorse but rather by the fear of being ostracized. It’s the idea that unless we do that politically correct course correction, we will be persona non grata among the people with the power.
We’ve seen those examples of forced apology over and over again, even when the initial offense was completely innocent and unintended.
Take, for example, Terry Crews. The actor and former athlete had made an astute observation about the importance of black fathers in the lives of their sons. Somehow, his comments were seen as offensive to LGBTQ followers, who didn’t like the fact that Crews was “othering” people who came from nontraditional families (translation: families with two mommies, two daddies, or variations thereof). When I saw his initial tweet and then the fact that he was getting grief over it, I started counting down in my head the hours it would take for him to apologize. And of course, he did:
“Had a great talk with @iamstephbeatz this morning on set that shed a lot of light on why the LBGTQ community were hurt by my comments. I want to apologize for anyone who was triggered or felt targeted. I was speaking out of my very personal experiences as a Black Father.”
I believe Crews’ apology was sincere. He seemed to be genuinely upset that he might have inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings.
The problem is not the authenticity of the apology. It’s the fact that Crews felt it necessary to apologize in the first place. The social pressure that allows one group of people to coerce another group of people into making amends for upsetting them has been building to dangerous levels with the advent of identity politics. You said something that offended me? You better apologize, or else!
That’s toxic. An article in Psychology Today put it this way: “Don’t say you’re sorry if you don’t think you have anything to apologize for. That doesn’t mean you don’t have something to apologize for; it just means that a real apology is sincere.”
Sadly, it’s rare when people are able to withstand that social coercion these days, because too many of us care about being liked more than we care about being honest. This brings me to Tucker Carlson.
I haven’t watched the Fox host regularly since he was still wearing those preppy bow ties and annoying the liberals on MSNBC. But he floated back into my consciousness when Media Matters, a left-wing media outlet, published some years-old comments Carlson made about women, underage sex, Martha Stewart’s daughter, and a whole host of other disgusting things. They were no worse than Jimmy Kimmel inviting women to guess what was in his pants, Whoopi Goldberg saying that Roman Polanski wasn’t guilty of “rape rape,” or the sleazy things said by David Letterman about Sarah Palin’s daughters.
Letterman apologized. Kimmel and Goldberg didn’t, at least not as far as Google is concerned. And guess what? I’m fine with the fact that Jimmy and Whoopi haven’t said “I’m sorry,” because I wouldn’t have believed them. Frankly, I didn’t believe Letterman. And I’m glad that Carlson is standing his ground.
I find the things he said pretty disgusting, especially the part where he suggested that female teachers having sex with underage boys is a rite of passage. No, idiot, it’s rape.
But if Carlson came out and asked for forgiveness, it would be farcical, because he probably has few, if any, regrets about acting like a slimeball on a shock-jock radio show called “Bubba the Love Sponge” in the pre-Twitter age.
I’d rather an honest, unrepentant jerk than one who is forced into fake, insincere submission.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.