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Canceling our subscription to sleaze | Chuck's World


November 7, 2019

I run a small business, and I need widgets. You’re the owner of a widget factory. I’m me. You’re Bob.

Hi Bob!

My customers have become accustomed to quality service and products. They expect good widgets from me. That’s why you’re my number one guy, Bob!

I heard some disturbing news, Bob. Someone said you’ve been making widgets with swastikas on them.

Let me explain, you say. I’m listening. Swastikas are bad, Bob.

You say you were trying to be edgy. You say this was a limited edition. You say you also make some with that little fish thing with legs that says “Darwin.” You say this pokes fun at Christian people with their fish symbol.

I don’t really buy this equal opportunity-bashing argument. First, bashing is bashing. Second, lots of Christians are just fine with Darwin.

I don’t know anyone who’s fine with swastikas except, you know.

Still waiting, Bob.

There are plenty of widget makers in this world, but I like the quality of your widgets, Bob. Give me something to work with here.

Bob does one of two things in this scenario.

He tells me, look, I messed up. I was trying to be funny and get some attention, and I made an awful, appalling mistake. I didn’t realize how many people would be upset and offended, because I didn’t think about their feelings. I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m putting a big sign on my factory that apologizes to everyone for my error in judgment.

I’ve known Bob a long time. He seems like a decent guy, and sincere. I’m leaning toward giving him the benefit of the doubt, as well as my business.

Second option. Bob shrugs his shoulders. I make widgets, he says. I put designs on them. That’s my thing, my stock in trade. Hey, I’m sorry if anyone got offended. It wasn’t my intention.

Oh, Bob.

Bob is fiction, although his apology is very real. If not real, you understand.

The “non-apology apology” has been around as long as people have been making mistakes, I’m sure, although it’s only in the past 25 years or so that we’ve been talking more about the phenomenon.

It began to show up in the bad behavior of politicians, many of whom are experts at saying nothing and making it sound reasonable.

Other famous people have learned quickly. Even people who just want to be famous have mastered the technique – Shane Gillis, an obscure young comic who was briefly hired by “Saturday Night Live” before some old routines started popping up, tried his hand at this sorry/not sorry approach a few months ago.

I suspect Gillis was obscure for a reason, and that reason remains in effect.

The producers must have seen something in him, though, so they hired him for a minor spot in the roster until some tweets and comments with offensive racial stereotypes crawled out from the archive.

A lot of it just sounded immature to me, but it was ugly and certainly not funny.

Shane took door #2 above. What he apparently tried to pass off as an apology came across the way it would if I said I’m sorry those people lost their homes in that hurricane. I had nothing to do with it, but sure. I’m sorry about it.

This Shane guy caused the hurricane, if you follow.

This barely interests me. I don’t pay attention to “Saturday Night Live” anymore.

But there are other people I do pay attention to. These would be other celebrities, ones I admire and appreciate, and some of them have been talking about the #CancelCulture.

You know. Kevin Spacey is accused of groping people – in fairness, a lot of people – and he’s kicked off his Netflix series and literally replaced in a movie he’d already filmed. He was canceled.

Bill Cosby is in prison. Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose have become wraiths, haunting the edges of our collective vision but disappearing quickly.

Louis CK seems to be trying to resurrect his career by portraying himself as a victim of our times, although I wouldn’t be optimistic.

All of these men took the second option, along with a lot of comments about overly sensitive people and the horrors of political correctness. They didn’t seem to help themselves with that approach.

Apologies don’t fix everything. There are plenty of apologies in courtrooms during sentencing. Nobody gets to go home on the basis of saying they’re sorry.

But it seems like a reasonable first step, particularly in the entertainment business. We like the people who give us pleasure, and we’re forgiving of their sins if given half a chance. Give us something that sounds sincere, and we’ll stick with you.

Yes, our culture has changed. We’re less tolerant of behavior that targets the marginal among us. It’s a broad brush, sometimes, and sometimes it over-corrects.

But I suspect what we’re seeing is mostly the effect of many choices for our personal entertainment, and the feeling among many of us that fame and fortune aren’t automatically deserved, no questions asked.

It’s not about being politically correct, whatever you think that is.

It’s about the inability of some famous people, caught with their hands in the cookie jar, to say they’re sorry. Instead we get hey, stealing cookies is part of my thing, but sorry about the hurricane.

Is that your hand in the jar? Is that a cookie?



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