Thursday, October 30, 2014

Don Young And The Non-Apology Apology

When I blogged the Alaska legislature in 2010, a staffer was treated very rudely by a committee chair.  Later, the staffer's boss told the chair to apologize.  What the staffer got was:  "I'm sorry you were offended."  The staffer was irate.  That wasn't an apology he told me, essentially that means, "I did nothing wrong, but if you were offended, I'm sorry."

I realized that he was right.  I hadn't really paid close attention to that phrase before.  But now I do. 

From today's Alaska Dispatch News:
A week ago, in a speech to the Alaska Federation of Natives, [Don Young] was “profoundly sorry for those that took offense at what I tried to say because they did not and will not take time to understand we have to stop” suicides.
Not only does he not own up to doing anything wrong, but he blames the people who were offended for not taking the time to understand.

He's got this routine down pat. 

From his press release on October 24, 2014:

“Because of my comments, I am profoundly and genuinely sorry for the pain it has caused the Alaskan people. I am genuinely sorry for the pain I have caused the individual, as I have experienced it, and hope that you won’t have to experience that.
Here again, he did nothing wrong, but he's sorry "my comments" caused pain.  The hidden message, "Get over it, you're overly sensitive."  He doesn't even apologize for the bad grammar which is excusable when talking, but not in press release.

I realize that Young is running for reelection next week and most people in such a situation would attempt to phrase the apology in the best light.  But sometimes the best light is to actually apologize.  People are starting to see through the fake apology.

In a Washington Post article in August 2014 titled GOP Rep. Don Young apologizes for strong-arming staffer we get another non-apology apology.
“While returning to the GOP conference meeting to discuss the ongoing situation on our southern border, I was caught off guard by an unidentified individual who was physically blocking me from re-entering the room,” Mr. Young, 81, said in a statement, Politico reported. “Regardless, my reaction was wrong, and I should have never placed my hands on the young man.”
 I was caught off guard - unidentified individual - physically blocking me.  Even though the Post calls it an apology, I don't see an apology.  I do see an acknowledgement that he did something wrong, but only after being severely provoked.  And no apology.  Maybe there was more that was edited out. 

Washington Post  March 29, 2013
“During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” he said, as reported by the Alaska Dispatch. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays, and I meant no disrespect.”

This sort of non-apology apology actually has an entry in Wikipedia
A non-apology apology is a statement that has the form of an apology but does not express the expected contrition. It is common in both politics and public relations. It most commonly entails the speaker saying that he or she is sorry not for a behavior, statement or misdeed, but rather is sorry only because a person who has been aggrieved is requesting the apology, expressing a grievance, or is threatening some form of retribution or retaliation.

Contrition.  A good word. 

1 comment:

  1. I remember my folks teaching me that saying one's 'sorry' has meaning only if one understands the harm and further abjures the offence (so as to be contrite).

    Given this, it was often hard for me to say 'sorry'. I had to struggle with reconciling notions of my integrity and a bit of good, old-fashioned pride. Besides, if I wasn't ready to promise I would never do it again, why should I apologise?

    Of course, there is a more common practice -- "Say it like you mean it" -- akin to what Mr Young offered, the fingers-crossed apology. We know that kind of apology – it evaporates the moment it is uttered. Mr Young ducked a promise to examine his conviction and transform it when it was needed – as have we all.

    Let’s give Don a chance here: let's give him time to reflect on his ways away from public life.


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