Terrible Apologies

A Tumblr of Poorly-Crafted Apologies

Cross-posted at my blog:

There was quite a to-do on Twitter yesterday and today, when Richard Dawkins seemed to suggest that women definitely ought to screen for and abort fetuses with Down Syndrone:

Many people thought Dawkins was telling this particular woman what to do and were outraged.

According to the Guardian, Dawkins took to his website to explain and apologize:

He added: “Those who thought I was bossily telling a woman what to do rather than let her choose, of course this was absolutely not my intention and I apologise if brevity made it look that way. My true intention was, as stated at length above, simply to say what I personally would do, based upon my own assessment of the pragmatics of the case, and my own moral philosophy which in turn is based on a desire to increase happiness and reduce suffering.”

Of course, Dawkins is very plainly arguing that “It would be immoral” to bring a Down Syndrome baby into the world “if you have the choice” not to do so. This is based, as he says, on “my own moral philosophy which in turn is based on a desire to increase happiness and reduce suffering.”

This is a fine moral philosophy, but it’s not clear what it has to do with Down Syndrome. Here’s some survey data that Dawkins apparently never heard about:

Among 2,044 parents or guardians surveyed, 79 percent reported their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome….

Skotko also found that among siblings ages 12 and older, 97 percent expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome and 88 percent were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome. A third study evaluating how adults with Down syndrome felt about themselves reports 99 percent responded they were happy with their lives, 97 percent liked who they are, and 96 percent liked how they looked.

So, it’s not clear who exactly Dawkins believes is suffering and why it’s so obviously immoral to bring a Down Syndrome baby into the world.

In addition to this issue, it seems other people were outraged because they believed Dawkins was saying that people with Down Syndrone ought to have been aborted or shouldn’t exist now. He apparently address this issue as well:

He also argued: “Those who took offence because they know and love a person with Down’s syndrome, and who thought I was saying that their loved one had no right to exist, I have sympathy for this emotional point, but it is an emotional one not a logical one. It is one of a common family of errors, one that frequently arises in the abortion debate.”

It’s not entirely clear what Dawkins is arguing here, but it sounds like he wants to discourage people from making the “emotional” point that a loved one with Down Syndrone does, in fact, have a right to exist. Instead they should be “logical” and not make what “is one of a common family of errors.” I’d go read his post to see if I could get some more information, but strangely that one page on his website is returning a “404 - Page Not Found” error and has been doing so for hours now.

So, perhaps I’m missing Dawkins’ point, but this seems like an unusual argument and one that doesn’t really fit in a post titled “Abortion & Down Syndrome: Apology for Letting Slip the Dogs of Twitterwar.”

Except, of course, that Dawkins wasn’t really apologizing in his post, as the cheeky title suggests and as his final paragraph makes very clear:

"To conclude, what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most of us, I presume, espouse. My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand."

You see that last sentence there? That makes it not an apology.

Which is pretty much what Dawkins was aiming for:

HT: David Watkins.

If you published a blog post calling for Israel to commit genocide, it’s probably a good idea to apologize in the most sincere and heartfelt manner possible. Yochanan Gordon did the former and then he tried, I guess, to do the latter:

I wish to express deep regret and beg forgiveness for an article I authored which was posted on 5TJT.com, Times of Israel and was tweeted and shared the world over.

I never intended to call to harm any people although my words may have conveyed that message.

With that said I pray and hope for a quick peaceful end to the hostilities and that all people learn to coexist with each other in creating a better world for us all.

That’s a terrible apology after a terrible, terrible blog post.

If you titled your blog post “When Genocide Is Permissible,” it’s pretty hard to claim that you “never intended to call to harm any people.” That’s basically exactly what you intended.

Today, the internet made much of Jonah Hill’s public apology on the Tonight Show last night. Mostly, the commentary on the apology has either wholeheartedly approved of it or else suggested that no one should ever need to apologize for saying hateful things.

While I obviously disagree with the latter sentiment, I also think the former isn’t quite right. Most of Hill’s apology seemed sincere and his conclusion — that people should think of his example when they feel hurt and seek to hurt someone in response — is truly excellent. It more than makes up for what I take to be the flaw in Hill’s apology, namely the way he begins by not simply explaining the context of his remarks (which is appropriate) but by suggesting that he said a hateful word in a context other than the one in which most people say it.

Obviously, I can’t put myself in Hill’s head at the moment that he said what he said to the guy who’d been following and harassing him. But, given what he actually said to the guy, it seems pretty clear that he meant the hateful word in precisely the context in which it’s most commonly used by most people who regularly use it.

Hill’s apology was very good, but would have been even better if he’d dispensed with the excuse about not actually meaning the word as it’s always used and just said everything else that he said.

[Cross-posted at my blog]

A Ukip candidate who sent a letter to his constituents calling for pro-Europe leaders to be hanged has apologised, saying he has not had media training.

Gordon Ferguson, who is standing in the Cambridge ward in Southport, said in an email to the Guardian: “In retrospect I can see the language I used and ideas I alluded to may be perceived as rather strong. However, it’s a reflection of how strongly I feel about the growing undemocratic power and influence of the EU over UK affairs. I am by no means media trained but an ordinary chap who wants the best for Britain.”

In a three sentence apology, Ferguson demonstrates a variety of ways to offer a terrible apology:

1. “I can see the language I used and ideas I alluded to may be perceived as rather strong”: You might have felt that calling for my political opponents to be executed was rather strong, but, you know, that’s your perception.

2. “[I]t’s a reflection of how strongly I feel about the growing undemocratic power and influence of the EU over UK affairs”: I called for the execution of my political opponents because I just feel so strongly about the fact that they’re traitors. In other words, I really meant what I said the first time around.

3. “I am by no means media trained”: If someone had just given me some media training, then I would have known ahead of time that calling for the execution of your political opponents is something one does privately rather than publicly. Clearly, the main thing preventing the routine call for hangings is appropriate media training.

HT: David Watkins.

[Follow us on Twitter]

Donald Sterling tells Anderson Cooper: ‘I’m asking for forgiveness’

I want to begin by asking whether anyone actually expected this apology to be an effective one. Given Donald Sterling’s history and the amount of time it took for him to speak publicly about this issue, I certainly did not.

In terms of making an effective public apology, it seems to me that someone apologizing must explain why he made the error he made; must not minimize or offer excuses in an attempt to mitigate the offense; must set out clear steps he will take to make amends for the harm that was done and ensure that a similar harm won’t happen again; and, importantly, he must not apologize for offending people but for actually doing something that was offensive.

Sterling offers an apology that isn’t likely to hit the mark for most people. When he apologizes, he does so in a way that will likely seem insincere and he seems most sincere when he isn’t apologizing but explaining his jealousy and his desire for this much younger woman.

He says he was set up, that he doesn’t really talk this way; he says “If I said anything wrong, I’m sorry;” he says that he doesn’t have any idea how to fix the problem; and he claims (contrary to a good deal of evidence) that this sort of thing simply isn’t in his character. What’s more, he takes this opportunity to amplify his comments about Magic Johnson; when Anderson Cooper asks if he has apologized to Johnson, Sterling instead says the following:

If I said anything wrong, I’m sorry …. He’s a good person. I mean, what am I going to say? Has he done everything he can do to help minorities? I don’t think so. But I’ll say it, he’s great. But I don’t think he’s a good example for the children of Los Angeles.

Sterling did what he was supposed to do: He went on television, he looked pathetic, and he said the words “sorry” and “apologize” a number of times. But he failed to actually apologize in a way that would be meaningful to all the people he offended because he offered excuses and because he continued to insult some of the particular people he insulted the first time around.

Was there a way for Sterling to help himself with this interview? Perhaps there was, but it would have required him to be someone entirely different. It would have required us to all believe him when he claimed that this sort of behavior is fundamentally at odds with who he is.

[Crossposted at my blog this afternoon.]

[Follow us on Twitter]

Cross-posted at my blog this morning:

Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has publicly apologized after ordering one of his aides to rape a pregnant journalist.

Zhirinovsky said he had “spoken out of turn” when addressing the female reporter at a press conference on Friday, and claimed he did not know that she was pregnant when he began his tirade.

"I apologize to her and to everyone in general that I may have offended," Zhirinovsky said on Vladimir Solovyov’s Sunday evening talk show on the Rossia-1 channel.

I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone that I think this is a particularly terrible apology.

"[E]veryone … that I may have offended" is always a bad way to go because it suggests the offender thinks a fair number of people weren’t or wouldn’t be offended; it’s an especially bad choice of words in this case because everyone who saw or heard about this man’s insane tirade was offended.

Worse, though, was his attempt to minimize his offense, saying only that he’d “spoken out of turn.” In fact, what he said was that one female reporter should be raped, that a second female reporter who refused to stand idly by during the tirade was a lesbian, and that pregnant women in general should remain home where they belong.

That he attempts to excuse himself by claiming “he did not know that she was pregnant when he began his tirade” compounds his repugnant behavior by implying that none of this would have been seen as a problem if he’d said these things to or about a woman who wasn’t pregnant. In other words, he seems to believe that telling his aides to rape a female reporter who asked a question he didn’t like is only offensive if that reporter turns out to be pregnant. “I’m so sorry; I didn’t realize she was pregnant” might be something to say if you fail to offer your seat to a woman on the subway. Given what Zhirinovsky said, whether or not the reporter was pregnant isn’t an issue.

It’s pretty stunning and horrible to have to write any of this, but certainly not more stunning or horrible than Zhirinovsky’s behavior.

[Follow us on Twitter]

Cross-posted with my blog this morning:

“I am sorry if I offended anyone with my use of the N-word on Instagram,” the singer said in a statement on Saturday, Jan. 18. “It was not meant as a racial slur…I am not a racist.”

She added: “There’s no way to defend the use of the word. It was all about intention…It was used as a term of endearment toward my son who is white. I appreciate that it’s a provocative word and I apologize if it gave people the wrong impression. Forgive me.”

Her conciliatory tone is a lot different from her initial reaction. Before she realized the error of her ways, the Material Girl reposted the picture with a new caption:

“Ok let me start this again. #getoff of my d–k haters!”

As I’ve said before, if you find yourself asserting that you’re not a racist, it’s almost certainly the case that you just did something incredibly racist.

Better than saying you’re not a racist, when you’ve just demonstrated extreme insensitivity with regard to race, would be a straightforward apology and a promise to learn from your mistake. Worse is claiming that you use the n-word as a “term of endearment” toward your son. Far, far worse, obviously, is saying “#getoff of my d-k hater!” when people call you out on said “term of endearment.”

HT: Naadir Jeewa.

[Follow us on Twitter]

Cross-posted at my blog:

Potentially the wost apology of all time:

As for likening illegal immigrants to Satan, Krieser reluctantly apologized, explaining that he had used “a poor choice of words.” He eventually said he was sorry for what he said.

"If I had it to do over, I would not have put it up," Krieser said. "I certainly didn’t mean any offense."

I love the idea that this guy “certainly didn’t mean any offense” by his comments. I mean, how could anyone find it offensive to say that illegal immigrants make him think of Satan?

Oh, but perhaps there were other comments too? Indeed:

In a stunning online rant, a top Gov. Scott Walker official likened illegal immigrants to Satan during a Facebook debate over a bumper sticker declaring open season on foreigners living in the United States without documentation.

"You may see Jesus when you look at them,” Steven Krieserassistant deputy secretary at the state Department of Transportation, wrote Tuesday regarding illegal immigrants. “I see Satan.”

Krieser wrote that a “stream of wretched criminals” is crossing the border without obstruction. These individuals, he said, “completely ruined” entire states and industries, breeding “the animus that many American citizens feel toward them.”

If these comments were “a poor choice of words,” I wonder what a good choice of words would have looked like?

Anyhow, I’m sure everyone is ready to accept his apology. I mean, it’s not like this guy has a history of questionable behavior. Oh, but of course he does:

This isn’t the first time that Krieser has found himself in hot water.

In 2011, he sent a memo to Division of Motor Vehicles employees saying they should not voluntarily tell state residents that they can obtain a voter identification card for free.

Krieser distributed the memo after lawmakers passed a law requiring state residents to present identification before they can vote.

Gosh, I wonder which potential voters might have had a more difficult time voting as a result of Krieser’s memo …

HT: Michael Tofias.

[Follow us on Twitter]

Chief Mark Kessler is an actual Gilberton, Pennsylvania police chief currently getting YouTube famous for dropping f-bombs and blasting gunfire all over the rural landscape. By the way, his colorful use of the language is most definitely Not Safe For Work, so be careful about where you watch these admittedly hilarious videos.

1.Leaving aside the fact that it’s a fake apology, this is almost certainly the worst apology ever.

2. These are your tax dollars at work, Gilberton, PA residents.

HT: D. Harland Harris.

[Follow us on Twitter]

I did not understand ‘Uncle Tom’ as a racist term, and there seems to be some debate about it. I do apologize for it, however.

That’s Minnesota State Representative Ryan Winkler, “apologizing” for referring to Justice Clarence Thomas as “Uncle Thomas” after yesterday’s Voting Rights Act ruling.

On his Twitter account Tuesday, state Rep. Ryan Winkler called the justices’ 5-4 ruling striking down a part of the law racist, and the work of “four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas” ….

That tweet was quickly deleted, and Mr. Winkler, who is white and represents some upper middle class suburbs west-southwest of Minneapolis, offered a conditional-tense quasi-apology in subsequent tweets.

He said he “didn’t think it was offensive to suggest that Justice Thomas should be even more concerned about racial discrimination than colleagues. But if such a suggestion is offensive, I apologize.”

So … if you’re playing along at home, that’s a politician who was outraged by a Supreme Court ruling on the topic of racism pouring some of his own special brand of racist gasoline onto yesterday’s raging bonfire of racism.

And then the terrible, terrible apology was:

  • A) I didn’t know that calling a black man an “Uncle Tom” was racist;
  • B) there’s some debate about whether it’s actually racist at all (presumably this debate mostly happens amongst racists);
  • C) black people should always think the way I think black people should think because I have a good sense of what’s in their interest; and
  • D) sorry if anyone was offended by this thing I wrote that, if you look at A) and B) above, you’ll see might not really be offensive unless you’re just overly sensitive.

With regard to A) above (and to the quote with which this blog post began),  Rep. Winkler’s Wikipedia page was recently updated to include this line: “Such a claim could raise questions about the veracity of his claim to have a BA in History from Harvard University.”

Seriously, though, will no one save these people from themselves and prohibit them from posting their thoughts on the internet?

HT: Ryan McIntosh.

(Cross-posted on my blog)

[Follow us on Twitter]

(via kohenari)