The Power of Appropriate Apology
Original post made by Tom Cushing on Mar 6, 2012
Out of the mouths of babes! There IS power in apology; indeed, there is good evidence to the effect that an occasional mistake, promptly rectified and including an appropriate expression of regret, actually forges a stronger commercial relationship than one in which performance is perfect, though untested. There are, of course, limits in such situations, but something in human nature is quite willing to forgive -- perhaps in the hope of compiling positive karma points. Apology, sincerely rendered, can also clear away emotional rubble from the path to resolution of a dispute. I'm not certain its value can be quantified, or that it extends to every situation, but it Can be a critical-path item that sets contentious matters on a constructive course.
Which brings us to this week's Incident: in which the presumed sexual mores of another law student were called into basest ridicule by the unquestioned king of political talk radio. In case you've been out of the galaxy, one Mr. Limbaugh labeled a heretofore unknown thirty-year-old Georgetown law student a 'slut' and a 'prostitute,' and invited her to post her sexual exploits on the web for his entertainment. She earned those scarlet letters by testifying before Congress about her desire...that the health plan she, her university and the insurer pay-for include coverage for contraception.
The ensuing firestorm included predictable expressions of outrage, advertiser defections, and the wholly inadequate "you're one, too" defense -- to the effect that lefty Bill Maher had described public figure Sarah Palin in anatomical terms. That meager claim, if true, is thoroughly distinguishable -- to call someone a body part is to signal a disagreement, albeit disagreeably -- to call her a 'round-heel' is an attempt to fundamentally degrade her, conjuring the misogynism of the Salem colony. That it came from an oft-married man who famously flies solo with Viagra in his luggage adds a nicely hypocritical touch. In general, I grow weary of right-wing media's crying foul and claiming equivalency between their constant barrage of scornful invective and the occasional poor imitation from the left.
There may have been further method in Mr. Limbaugh's madness. Almost lost in the hubbub was his reinforcement of the false claim that the taxpayers are subsidizing the health plan in question, which they distinctly are not. It's part of the disinformation drumbeat to miss-characterize the Affordable Care Act as socialized/ist medicine. And in this case his sort-of apology was way too little, came way too late, sounded completely disingenuous, and omitted the taxpayers.
It was also interesting to note the muted reactions of the GOP presidential aspirants. Frontrunners Romney and Santorum limited their rebuke to "poor choice of words" and "entertainer's statements," respectively. It was clear that they wanted no part of crossing their kingmaker on the eve of Super Tuesday. A man's got to have his priorities, and these spoke volumes. Voters who happen to be women might take note.
Finally, I was impressed by the stance of (Jesuit) Georgetown University's President, John DeGioia. In an open letter to the school, he defended his student, as follows:
"She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression."
No apologies required.
on Mar 6, 2012 at 6:30 pm
Limbaugh's comments were completely out of line. I don't think a simple apology would have absolved him of responsibility, but his current line of defense, which is tantamount to "the librals are responsible for my disgusting comments" makes it even more reprehensible. I wonder if that man has damage to his frontal lobes that prevents him from engaging appropriate filters during conversation.
on Mar 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm
Dear Tom and Editor,
Revisit your position and consider the reality of this forum's need for an apology from EMCEB management, editors and political relationships. Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Maher have done little beyond the attack brutality of the town square forum.
Defamation sponsored is libel and not much different than Mr. Limbaugh's current dilemma.
on Mar 6, 2012 at 9:18 pm
There is difference between an insult or a slur and a verbal assault or attack. Neither is good, but there is a difference. Bill Maher's comment re: Sarah Palin was clearly the former, Rush Limbaugh's comments re: Sandra Fluke were both. Ms. Palin has assumed a political and public position and, unfortunately, like the President, members of Congress, politicians, other celebrities, insulting remarks come with the territory. Ms. Fluke's agenda was aimed not at acheiving a political career or celebrity status, merely a health issue for the public good. Disagreeing with the goal she pursued through legitimate discourse does not mean she is deserving of a personal denigration of her character. Rush Limbaugh's apology was not sincere. He did not simply use a "poor choice of words". That would imply that he should have said the same thing, conveyed the same idea with other words, when he should have refrained from this line of thought entirely. Everyone is aware that Rush is inflamatory and a master distortionist. The idea behind free speech is for the truth to be heard, not hate, not propaganda, not harmful opinion, libel or slander. Rush hides behind free speech right wing rhetoric to make his millions by tapping into misplaced anger, hate, and fear. Historically his propagandist techniques have often been employed by despotic regimes, but eventually they fail. His personal failures-in marriage, poor education, reliance on drugs, seem to suggest that even he can't live with his own demons. In this case, Rush has clearly exposed his hypocrisy and his true nature and his sponsors, women, voters, and good people around the country in both parties will use free speech and freedom to choose not to choose Rush. Free speech is alive and well, but those who abuse it must live with the consequences of their actions.