The Art of the Apology: Sorry… Not Sorry… I Don’t Know, Whatever

In recent times, the term “cowboys” in the lyrics, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” has been replaced with “public figures.” 

For who in their right mind wants to be a public figure in this current world? Go back to being a cowboy rodeo rider instead; it’s far safer and definitely more fun.

Boldness, opinions, honest debate, sense of humour… that’s all so 20th Century now, replaced with blandness, political correctness, rush to judgment, and smug know-it-all-ness.

Two recent Canadian examples.

Ron McLean of Hockey Night in Canada made this awkward comment during intermission banter, “you have a photo of a guy with his tarp off; you’re definitely positive for something.”I was watching live and thought it was a strange thing to say.

McLean explained that it related to the back story of the photo and was simply referring to guys drinking too much rum, i.e., you would test positive for too much alcohol.”  In the context of McLean’s explanation and his long track record, most people would accept that.

However, McLean’s comment could also be interpreted as homophobic, and a social media storm erupted, leading to this apology the next day from McLean, who, after denying any homophobic intent (“I meant the rum”), wrote:

“I am deeply sorry. The idea of language of intention, of personal responsibility, I have seen those concepts used as broad exoneration.  It’s not enough… I’ve reached out to several guiding lights in the equity-seeking arena, my allies in the LGBTQ2S+ Community, and my co-workers to receive their wisdom and continue our joint effort to tend to the hearts of us all.  I appreciate the power of the voices who spoke to me last night and this morning.  It provides a sense of possibility.  It’s how change works.”

WTF? In the words of David Rose from our great Canadian comedy series, Schitt’s Creek, “what does this even mean?”.

If you meant the rum, why are you apologizing?  Apparently, the honest explanation, “I’m sorry if it offended, but I didn’t mean it that way,” is now unacceptable and viewed as an arrogant non-apology. So, McLean accepted the PR advice and offered a PC apology, believing it would blow over and we’d all move on to the Next Big Offence.

Which leads to the Carolyn Bennett / Jody Wilson-Raybould affair.  Independent MP Wilson-Raybould called out Justin Trudeau for his “selfish jockeying for a fall election.”Good political comment.

Liberal MP Bennett replied with a “Pension?” tweet, implying that Wilson-Raybould may not want a fall election as she is not eligible for her full MP pension until 2022.  Most likely not Wilson-Raybould’s motivation, but in the not-so-distant past this would have been taken as a clever jab in the spirit of rough and tumble politics.

However, Wilson-Raybould quickly called it “racist and misogynist” and that it reflected the “notion that Indigenous peoples are lazy” and that “a strong Indigenous woman is a bad Indigenous woman.”

This seems a stretch, but regardless, game over. Bennett quickly succumbed, offering a full apology, “I let interpersonal dynamics get the better of me and sent an insensitive and inappropriate comment, which I deeply regret and shouldn’t have done.”

None of us are in the hearts or minds of McLean or Bennett. If their words were intentionally offensive, shame on them. But if not, why is their best recourse to essentially lie and offer insincere and packaged apologies?  We are not serving any of our communities well with this kind of forced and false remorse.

I’m looking forward to the bull’s press conference at the Calgary Stampede this month when he says, “I totally meant to throw that cowboy. He was on my back and ticking me off.  I ain’t apologizing!”

Submitted by: Ted C. Yoannou, B.A., LL.B.
T
he Law Firm of Ted Yoannou, Professional Corporation 16 Huron Street, Unit 2, Collingwood
705-888-6230 x 243  |  Ted@TorontoCriminalLawyers.com  |  www.TorontoCriminalLawyers.com