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I'm sorry but this constant demand for public apologies rea

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:30 am    Post subject: I'm sorry but this constant demand for public apologies rea Reply with quote

div class="track"img alt="" src="http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.22.4/99332?ns=guardianpageName=I%27m+sorry+but+this+constant+demand+for+public+apologies+really+offends+m%3AArticle%3A1721989ch=Comment+is+freec3=Obsc4=Michelle+Obama+%28News%29%2CRobert+De+Niro+%28Film%29%2CNewt+Gingrich%2CJeremy+Clarkson+%28Media%29%2CRace+issues+%28News%29%2CWorld+newsc5=Not+commercially+useful%2CUS+Elections%2CFilm+Reviews%2CTVc6=David+Mitchell+%28contributor%29c7=12-Mar-25c8=1721989c9=Articlec10=Feature%2CCommentc11=Comment+is+freec13=c25=Comment+is+freec30=contentc42=Comment+is+freeh2=GU%2FComment+is+free%2FComment+is+free%2Fblog%2FComment+is+free" width="1" height="1" //divp class="standfirst"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/ppRobert De Niro got into trouble last week for telling a joke. When introducing Michelle Obama at a Democratic fundraiser, he said: "Callista Gingrich, Karen Santorum, Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" It went down well at the time but the next day Newt Gingrich seemed unamused: "What De Niro said last night was inexcusable and the president should apologise for him. It was… beyond the pale and he should be ashamed of himself."/ppThat's a tough response. Gingrich reckons that De Niro's remark is so offensive that he can't even apologise for it himself. The apology has to come from the head of state. Not even Russell Brand ever went so far that Her Majesty was called upon publicly to atone. So I doubt that De Niro's half-hearted attempt to say sorry will have quite slaked Newt's thirst for contrition: "My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone – especially the first lady," the actornbsp;said./ppGingrich is attempting a particularly ambitious scam here, but it comes amid a thriving apology extortion racket in public life. Those who wish to silence others have noticed that expressions of offence and demands that people say sorry are the best way of doing it. Once you've demanded an apology, you can logically continue to demand it until you receive it. Often those called upon to apologise will do so just to silence the clamour – they can't match the complainants for bloody-mindedness./ppNot even Jeremy Clarkson can. He's a man accustomed to causing offence and yet last year even he said sorry for a remark he'd made on emThe One Show/em purely to silence apology-extortionists' demands. I say "purely" because, when seen in context – even a emtiny bit/em of context – there was nothing offensive about what he said. On the subject of public sector strikers, he spoke the words: "I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families", but he was clearly not advocating any such thing, or even using it as an off-colour superlative of disapproval. It was a comedic dig at the BBC's requirement to represent all opinions. I'd be surprised if I agreed with Jeremy Clarkson's views on the trade union movement, but not as surprised as if I discovered that they were that strikers should be shot. He's a Tory, not a Nazi./ppBut we live in such lamentably literal times that those who understood the joke were shouted down by an alliance of the stupid and the opportunistic – which meant the government called for an apology, and so did the opposition; the BBC gave way and then Clarkson also caved, saying: "If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I'm quite happy to apologise for it alongside them." Like De Niro, he's covered his pride by saying sorry for the offence caused rather than the remark itself – but you can feel the frustration, the shrug: "So we surrender to stupidity, do we?" Freedom of speech is sacrificed at the altar of manufactured rage./ppIt reminds me of being made to apologise as a child. I remember a specific occasion when my parents were furious with me for some reason. And I was furious with them. It was a standoff. They were demanding an apology or else, as I recall it, basically nothing was to be allowed in future: food, sleep, not eating all my food, not immediately going to sleep, going outside, being allowed inside, contact with the cat – all banned. It was a massive campaign of sanctions and I was livid. And so I apologised. And then my mother said: "Say it like you mean it."/pp"But I don't mean it!" I screamed, trying to reason with her./pp"Well it doesn't count if you don't mean it."/ppThis was evil, I immediately felt. They might be able to force me to apologise but surely it was inhuman for them to attempt to make me mean it. It was none of their business what I meant. Was I to be punished for a thought crime? My insincere apology was the best they were going to get./ppWhat they tried to explain was that such an apology was worthless to them. They wanted me actually to be sorry, not just to say it – to understand that I'd done something wrong. Only that sort of apology meant anything. They didn't want to humiliate me – they wanted me to learn something./ppThe same cannot be said for Newt Gingrich. If he were acting honourably in this case then an extorted apology, one that he'd demanded, whether it came from De Niro or Obama, would have no value for him. If he or his wife were really hurt, or if he felt genuine concern that the joke, as he complained, "divides the country", then he should say only that. And if, in consequence, Robert De Niro felt sorry and said so, then it would mean something. Or if, bizarre though it would be, Barack Obama felt guilty that this epoch-endangering quip had been made at an event in aid of his cause and was moved to express contrition at having been so thoughtless as to allow an Oscar-winning actor to make an unvetted remark at a dinner, then that would have some power to soothe poor Newt's bruised soul./ppBut that's not the situation. Clearly Gingrich isn't hurt. Neither is he worried that a gag at a fundraiser will have any negative impact on American racial harmony. It would take a bigger fool than him to think any such thing. He merely sees this as an opportunity to humiliate an opponent and boost his fading chances of the Republican nomination in the process. That's how politics is played these days, both in Britain and America./ppSuch vindictiveness offends me and I demand an apology. Also, as a pale person, I consider Gingrich's phrase "beyond the pale" to be deeply racist. It's inexcusable, in fact. The least Newt could do is get down on his knees and pray for forgiveness – preferably to Allah. And I want Robert De Niro to say sorry too, just for being in the same sentence. And I want an autograph. Anything less would be disgraceful. I mean it. I'm as genuinely upset as Newt./pdiv class="related" style="float: left; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px;"ullia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/michelleobama"Michelle Obama/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/robertdeniro"Robert De Niro/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/newt-gingrich"Newt Gingrich/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/jeremyclarkson"Jeremy Clarkson/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/race"Race issues/a/li/ul/divdiv class="author"a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/davidmitchell"David Mitchell/a/divbr/div class="terms"a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk"guardian.co.uk/a copy; 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our a href="http://users.guardian.co.uk/help/article/0,,933909,00.html"Terms Conditions/a | a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/help/feeds"More Feeds/a/divp style="clear:both" /

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