Doug Robinson: We are in the midst of an era of 'I'm sorry'

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10 2013 9:07 a.m. MST

Have you noticed the outbreak of apologies coming from actors, politicians, athletes and media trying to take back rash words? Tweeting and IM-ing every thought that pops into our heads is causing problems in this prickly, hyper-sensitive era

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"Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding." – Proverbs 17:28

In other words:

"It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt." — Mark Twain

We are in the midst of a sorry era. Have you noticed? Everybody — athletes, actors, politicians, media — is apologizing for something he or she said or wrote, something that was “insensitive” (“Insensitive,” by the way, is our Word of the Year.) Or at least it is perceived as insensitive because of these prickly, hyper-sensitive times.

We are silly for sorry. There’s an epidemic of apologies, the product of political correctness and this strange urge we have to communicate every thought that pops into our heads on Facebook and Twitter (Sorry, if that’s insensitive to Facebook/Twitter users. It was not my intention to offend anyone and if I did I am truly sorry).

Inevitably, the apoplectic leads to the apologetic. To wit:

ESPN’s Jorge Andres apologized for saying that Chinese-American basketball player Jeremy Lin was “cooking with some hot peanut oil.” The apology: “I made a comment about a Jeremy Lin basket that I should not have made. This was clearly a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize. I am very, very sorry for offending anyone.”

Miss South Carolina apologized for introducing herself and her state at the Miss America pageant this way: “I’m from the state where 20 percent of our homes are mobile because that’s how we roll," she said. Close enough — 17.9 percent of South Carolina’s residents live in mobile homes — but apparently even the truth can be “insensitive” in this humorless new world. Two days later Brooke Mosteller and the Miss South Carolina organization issued an apology: ”We regret this was perceived as insensitive and we apologize to our fellow South Carolinians who may have been offended."

Paula Deen, Riley Cooper, Chevy Chase, Laura Schlesinger, John Mayer and Matt Barnes apologized for saying the touchiest word of them all, starting with an N. Jesse Jackson said it, too — in a put-down of President Barack Obama — but he never apologized, even while investigating Deen for saying it. CNN apologized for airing segments that contained the same word. Can we all agree: Never, never, never, never say this word, even if you are alone in a small closet in a remote village in Mongolia.

MSNBC host Martin Bashir apologized and resigned for remarks he made about Sarah Palin that are so foul they can’t even be described or hinted here. In his apology, he said he “brought shame upon my friends and colleagues at this network," and that his remarks were "wholly unacceptable … neither accurate, nor fair." That was actually an understatement.

Actor Alec Baldwin apologized for a gay slur he directed at a photographer. He was suspended from his job as a commentator at MSNBC, which is not having a good year.

"I did not intend to hurt or offend anyone with my choice of words, but clearly I have – and for that I am deeply sorry," said Baldwin, who originally denied saying it, explaining instead that he had shouted other even more despicable words. Baldwin should never leave the script.

FreddieFalcon, the mascot for the Atlanta Falcons, apologized for a tweet he sent from an event sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: “Had a good time at the suicide prevention walk today. I may need to go back if our season continues the way it is.” Later, he tweeted an apology: “I am truly sorry for my inappropriate and insensitive tweet. It was in poor taste.”

Alaska Congressman Don Young apologized for using an ethnic slur in a radio interview. "I apologize for the insensitive term I used ... it was a poor choice of words," he said. Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley and Arizona state representative Bob Thorpe were among the many politicians who had to apologize for "insensitive" tweets and communiques.

Tennis player Serena Williams apologized for making what she termed “insensitive and misinformed comments” after saying a certain rape victim “shouldn’t have put herself in that position.” Actually, she apologized twice — the first one was considered inadequate.

After George Zimmerman was exonerated in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, Spike Lee tweeted that someone should kill Zimmerman. Then he retweeted: “HERE GO HIS ADDRESS, LET THE HUNGER GAMES BEGIN.” With that, he tweeted what he thought was Zimmerman's address, but it was the address of a couple who had nothing to do with any of this, and they received so many death threats they had to flee their home. Lee settled their lawsuit out of court.

"There’s nothing I can say that can defend that,” Lee said in his apology. “It was stupid.”

NFL players also had to eat rash tweets about Zimmerman's exoneration. Roddy White tweeted that the jurors should kill themselves. His apology: “I understand my tweet last nite (sic) was extreme. I never meant for the people to do that.”

Victor Cruz tweeted: "Zimmerman doesn't last a year before the hood catches up with him." Later he tweeted, “My Tweet last night was my initial interpretation of the reaction I was reading on twitter. I immediately realized my tweet was a mistake ….”

That's the problem. People tweet before they think instead of vice versa. There was a time you couldn’t instantly broadcast your feelings to the world, which allowed time for calmer heads to prevail. But we are caught in the perfect storm of events — the confluence of tweeting/YouTube/Facebook/IM and political correctness. That’s a bad combination. Warning: Think twice, send once, or, better yet, give it a few hours.

Today’s theme seems to be, if you don’t have anything nice to say, tweet it to me. Even for non-Mormons, the advice once offered by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the LDS Church’s First Presidency are words to remember: “When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!”

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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