m. note: I wrote this when it was relevant to the news, but never published it.
Bill Maher wrote a NYT article on The Opinion Pages chastising our culture of apologizing. This was published March 21, 2012. This was after he made questionable comments about Tim Tebow, defended Rush Limbaugh’s first amendment rights, and called Sarah Palin a cunt. Maher, famous for being opinionated and using less than polite language, is somewhat right. Not about Sarah Palin, but about our culture.
We love apologies. Basically, whenever there is a scandal, controversy, or someone just says something someone else doesn’t like, there are public apologies.
Juliette Lewis said she didn’t like the performance of Saturday Night Live musical guest Lana Del Rey. Later she retracted the comment. People are allowed to have opinions.
Like many people on the internet, I listened to “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory,” a gripping and, ultimately painful, account of conditions in the Foxconn factory that makes Apple products. His story, it later came out, contained many little lies, and some big lies. This American Life, which posted the original story, posted a followup where they retract the story. In the retraction, Daisey informs us that he “[doesn’t] live in a subjective universe” and that “stories should be subordinate to the truth.” When asked why he didn’t tell the truth, he responds by saying that “everything in this story is built our of the trip and the time I spent on the ground, so I don’t know if I would accept that interpretation.”
Ethan Zuckerman wrote about the nature of truth, narrative, and advocacy in a manner much more in-depth, educated, and thoughtful than I am capable of. He is an expert. I am an opinionated twenty-something from the internet. I live in a world that is highly personal and perhaps even agoraphobic. The vast majority of my time is spent inside my head. Most of my experiences of the physical world around me break down to a series of facts. The temperature is 10 degrees C. The sun is bright and the clouds are white and grey. The florescent lights above my desk are white like clouds, without the warmth of bulbs or the milk green tint of the compact florescent in my room. When I open my eyes, the colors I see are dull compared to the bright ones in my mind.
My experience is entirely subjective.
During Retraction, Daisey doesn’t apologize or even admit the extent to which his facts are fabricated. Instead, he gives a poor apology and justifies himself, changing his tone throughout his story. I think it was an awful apology, but I also think it’s honest. Is there really value in a meaningless apology?