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Apology Blackmail

 
Apology Blackmail

So a little while back I read this article by David Mitchell. For those of you with the misfortune to have never heard of him, he's an actor/writer/comedian/satirist so forgive the lighter tone of his writing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by From article
I'm sorry but this constant demand for public apologies really offends me. Newt Gingrich's faux outrage at a joke made by Robert De Niro is the latest evidence of a thriving apology extortion racket in public life
I've frequently found myself getting annoyed at such political tactics being used so this article really highlighted the issue for me. I'm primarily thinking about this from the point of view of British politics, which arent quite at the soap opera heights of American politics yet, but we're narrowing the gap!

So the basic premise is: You (Mr President/Mr Prime Minister) do
It doesn't really matter what as your opponent doesn't really give a rat's ass about it.
something and your opponent, on behalf of the poor downtrodden masses being so brutally oppressed, demand you immediately apologise. You don't have many options from here, you can issue a fake apology, which noone particularly cares about as the issue never mattered it was just about scoring points. You can refuse to apologise and call your opponent a fool. Sensible people will probably agree with you but the idiots will probably think you're in the wrong and ignoring the plight of the masses. You can try ignoring them and moving on, but they can keep raising the point by continually demanding the apology. After all, intelligent people can largely make up their own minds about things, it's the uninformed and ignorant that are being swayed by petty sniping.

An example: In the UK there have been threats of a strike by fuel drivers, so the government tells people to be sensible and make sure they fill up their tanks when they're at the pumps and maybe store fuel in a jerry can.

The response from the opposition: 1. A jerry can is apparently the name of a specific sized container which is larger than the amount of fuel we can legally store at home (without whatever license). So the government are being irresponsible fools who are encouraging people to break the law and kill themselves,

2. Some idiot tries decanting fuel from one container to another in their kitchen while the gas hob is on cooking dinner. The fumes ignite and she suffers 40% burns. I'd say this is natural selection in action, but to the opposition this was clearly because of the government policy and the minister who issued the guidance should immediately resign.

TL/DR Are constant calls for apologies over trivial issues undermining important political discourse? Can/should anything be done to stop it? Is it contributing to voter apathy by reducing politics to a farce?

Well, all I can really think about is the most recent Rush Limbaugh bru-ha-ha, where the man should have apologized, and been forced to resign.

Instead he gave several half-apologies and I guess hasn't really been affected by it.

Which is shocking and sad and disgusting. So I don't know. The demand for resignations and apologies has place in the world, I think.

The aboriginals in Australia.

Not a trivial issue by any means. But when do we stop apologizing for what our ancestors did?

The opposition to Rudd (who said he wouldn't apologize) guilt tripped him into it.

Curious what other Aussies think of this.

I think a lot of the caving to the demand for apologies has to do with obeying the classic PR strategies.

According to the literature, you're supposed to avoid any and all negative associations. At any juncture where you can choose to take the 'high road', you're obliged to do so. Anything else provides your political opponents with fodder for attack ads (which work, btw).

As much as we lament the many wretched consequences of double-talk, it exists for a reason. Advertising strategies do work, and they work because we've turned manipulating the masses into a science.

Now, in some far-flung future where the average human is more than a little bit smarter than the average collie, these advertising and PR shenanigans might not work so well. Until then, we're up a creek.

You know... some things work because people become to smart...

PR Scandals don't work on ants. "Your father, was your brother and cusin. Obviously we need to do something about the queen!" - "What was that? You insulted the queen? I'm taking your leg!"

On second thought... no you're right. People have the intelligence of ants. I wish we had the intelligence of a collie.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoogie View Post
TL/DR Are constant calls for apologies over trivial issues undermining important political discourse? Can/should anything be done to stop it? Is it contributing to voter apathy by reducing politics to a farce?
1) Yes, they do.

2) I'd say nothing, but the good thing is that this tactics like every other would in long run become too boring for media to transmit.

3) Yes, but its merely one of plenty of factors. I can see more serious like attempts of media to turn complicated matters requiring tedious analysis of data in to exciting, simple fierce debate devoid of any facts.

People used to accuse their opponents of having Syphilis and that was just how it used to be and nobody demanded apologies for it. As mud slinging becomes less effective and voters are turned off by it the tactic becomes to tar your opponent with mud slinging. The best way to do this without making accusations is to ask him to apologize for something. It gives the impression of attempting to hold a high standard of politeness while actually trying to trash them.

Rush Limbaugh is the perfect example of the tactic. People try to pretend they're demanding politeness and decency but really they're only offended because he votes the wrong way. If they cared so much about it they'd go after the people on their own side for saying much the same things only more often and usually worse. It's a completely political complaint and full of hypocrisy.

Honestly though I'd rather have people with fake outrage and demands of apologies than mudslinging.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Ben View Post
People try to pretend they're demanding politeness and decency but really they're only offended because he votes the wrong way. If they cared so much about it they'd go after the people on their own side for saying much the same things only more often and usually worse. It's a completely political complaint and full of hypocrisy.
Proof.

Firstly, I wont try and pretend I'm unbiased as I'm certainly left-leaning, but I get most of my information from the interwebs rather than news channels/political commentators and I'm not in the US.

I've spent some time googling and trying to find information on Limbaugh versus similar left leaning hate spewers. The first problem is that there doesnt seem to be anyone especially comparable. I smiled when I saw an article titled "Why Are People Mad At Rush Limbaugh When Liberals You’ve Never Heard of Are Jerks, Too?". The names and examples that did seem to be cropping up repeatedly seem like they have all apologised for various offensive things they've said. The notable exception being Bill Maher. This seems a pretty
Seeing the url made me cringe at this choice of words, but I'm sticking with it!
fair comparison of the two.

It's probably also worth pointing out that the examples of offensive and misogynistic things I saw from the left were aimed at political figures who are well setup to cope with such comments. That's not to excuse the comments, which I'm sure the majority of the left would disagree with, but I don't think they're even in the same league as Limbaugh's comments about Sandra Fluke, a law student he knows nothing about. Another very relevant thing to mention is that the same leftist commentators making the offensive remarks are themselves likely to be supporters of policies positive for women, which is something I think we'd struggle to attribute to Rush.

For me, as a man who appreciates offensive humour, I don't have a problem with Rush or anyone else saying offensive things humorously while making their point. It's the message behind the offence that I will get angry at. So while I agree with Lord Ben that it's primarily the right's stance that I'm disagreeing at, I think it's pretty disingenuous to say there are comparably offensive commentators on the left.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Ben View Post
Rush Limbaugh is the perfect example of the tactic. People try to pretend they're demanding politeness and decency but really they're only offended because he votes the wrong way. If they cared so much about it they'd go after the people on their own side for saying much the same things only more often and usually worse. It's a completely political complaint and full of hypocrisy.
This is an incredibly simplistic reduction of the Limbaugh problem. Any left-wing commentator that you would care to name (Bill Maher, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Matt Taibbi, Ed Schultz -- to name the ones listed in the article Hoogie just cited) are listened to by a miniscule fraction of the people who listen to Rush Limbaugh daily. (If they're even listened to, and not read or watched for an hour -- Limbaugh's on the air for 3 hours every day!)

Rush Limbaugh has been a national presence for 23 years, his material is almost exclusively partisan politics, and he wields immense influence within the Republican party. There is no parallel on the left.

According to this wikipedia article, "Rush Limbaugh's show has been the number one commercial talk show since at least 1991 when record keeping began". He's listed as having 15+ million listeners per day. Aside from the NPR programs on the list of popular radio shows in the US (in that same article), there isn't one liberal program, and there isn't any program on that list that could be considered to be run by a singular liberal host. Conversely, eight of the sixteen shows listed are singular conservative hosts.

There's simply no comparison. There's nothing remotely like conservative talk radio on the left, and Rush Limbaugh is the king of all of it and has been for over twenty years.

Even my Howard Stern comparison, in terms of listeners, can't hold water (eh... I deleted it, it was a weak comparison). According to that article, Stern has less than 2 million listeners. Laura Ingraham has three times that many, and Neal Boortz, Dave Ramsey, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity and Rush all have more listeners than Dr. Laura. If you put all eight of them together, you have around 75 million listeners per day listening to conservative radio, much of which is political in nature (and incendiary).

This whole "liberals should police their own backyard" is one massive red herring. It's like comparing the scope of destruction of a horny rottweiler loose in a backyard with Godzilla running amok in Tokyo.

Here's another metric -- Bill Maher's Real Time on HBO (a paid cable channel) has aired a total of 223 hours over nine years. Rush Limbaugh's radio program will cover 223 hours in just 75 days, or a little less than 4 months (he broadcasts 5 days/week). So whatever idiocy Maher can spew out over the course of nine years, it's at most the equivalent of only 4 months of Limbaugh's idiocy.

If we measured it in terms of people-hours, we're back to Epic Godzilla, because it's a certain guarantee that 15 million people aren't tuning in to Real Time on HBO. One day of Limbaugh is 45 million people-hours. According to this website, Maher has around 1.1 million viewers. If I take Maher's 223 hours of programming in nine years and multiply it by a generous 2 million viewers, it's the equivalent of 10 days of Rush Limbaugh.

So yeah, that leftist threat gets stomped under the heel of Limbzilla.




 

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