Joe Bob's America

I Apologize for This Column in Advance

May 29, 2017

Multiple Pages
I Apologize for This Column in Advance

WASHINGTON—I would like to apologize in advance for not apologizing when people demand an apology.

Of course, when I don’t apologize, many people believe that my refusal to apologize means that I haven’t properly realized the depths of my evil, because the refusal itself is prima facie evidence that I’m even more depraved and clueless than originally believed, because surely all these repeated demands for me to apologize, increasing in volume and intensity, should have made me understand that I am wrong. The world took a vote and I lost, don’t I get that?

Furthermore, since I have persisted in refusing to apologize even after a third and fourth demand for my repentance goes unheeded, I must be forced to resign, paraded through the public stocks of social media, forever branded an unfeeling infidel Neanderthal who Just Doesn’t Get It when it comes to the business of offending people, and wiped off the face of the earth for not being willing to assuage feelings in the court of public opinion.

But it’s even worse. I also hold the view that, if you haven’t done or said anything wrong, or if you have simply misspoken, or if you have followed a policy that is proper to follow and yet people don’t like it, then an apology is the absolute worst thing you can do, because it is a lie.

I could cite a thousand examples of people apologizing, turning themselves into rank liars because they fear this or that rabid mob seeking their humiliation, but I’m going to deal with the three most recent and celebrated cases.

Numero Uno: The Pepsi Commercial.

The official legend: An ad agency hired by Pepsi creates a shallow, offensive commercial in which the Black Lives Matter movement is trivialized by implying that a professional model can bring peace and harmony to the world by offering a soft drink to an otherwise hard-hearted police officer at a protest march. The ad is pulled and Pepsi is forced to admit that they are insensitive, clueless corporate racists.

The actual facts of the matter: The commercial is an elaborate variation on a specific type of feel-good multicultural “world peace” message pioneered in 1971 when Pepsi rival Coca-Cola released a 60-second ad featuring people of all the races in the world standing on a mountaintop in Italy and singing “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony),” with the opening line alternating with “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” The song was used periodically by Coke for the next four decades, was recorded by several singers (minus the Coke references), and was tolerated, if not admired, as a way for a soft-drink company to glamorize the idea that all the people of the world are united, if not by their politics, then at least by their taste buds.

“United owns the plane. If United says get off, you have to get off.”

The Pepsi commercial strives for the exact same message. What do the protesters, the man playing a cello, Kendall Jenner, the Muslim female photographer, the guitarist, the Jamaican singer Skip Marley (“We are the lions/We are the chosen/We gonna shine out the dark”), the dancers, the transsexuals, and the dancing models all have in common?

Pepsi, of course.

All Coke did was teach the world to sing. Pepsi teaches the world to sing, dance, play the cello, revolutionize high fashion, create cool photography, and basically turn the entire urban landscape into performance art while including otherwise ostracized law-enforcement personnel in the vast vital sea of humanity that wants…what? We know from the protester’s sign what they want. They want us to JOIN THE CONVERSATION.

It doesn’t say BLACK LIVES MATTER. It says JOIN THE CONVERSATION. It’s generic. It’s the equivalent of a League of Women Voters march.

You can say it’s silly. You can say it’s poorly executed. You can say it’s confusing because of the rapidly shifting images. But one thing you can’t say is that it’s either racist or a parody of Black Lives Matter. It’s actually so multiracial and even multisexual that it’s painful.

Yet Pepsi apologized. What they should have said is “Since it’s a commercial, and since it’s been needlessly attacked on specious grounds, we’re going to withdraw it in order to protect our shareholders.”

By apologizing they turned Kendall Jenner into a public moron delivering a racist message.

Numero Two-o: The United Airlines Fracas.

The official legend: United Airlines overbooks a flight from Chicago to Louisville, and when there are no volunteers willing to give up their seats, the airline orders four people to get off the plane—but one of them refuses to go, so the police drag him off the plane, in the process brutalizing him, causing serious injury. Fortunately his appalled fellow passengers capture the entire episode on their iPhones, and the viral video forces United to apologize due to fears of a national boycott, pay a huge settlement to the passenger and his family, and refund the fares of everyone who was on the flight (presumably because they are traumatized by the beating).

The actual facts of the matter: The flight was not overbooked. United lied about that in its first statement to the media. It was the last flight of the day, and the airline needed the four seats for a United crew that would be flying out of Louisville the next morning.

And let’s not let United off the hook. The plane was flying 269 miles, it wasn’t flying to fricking Venezuela. You could have put the four crew members in an Uber car for $714.02, airport to airport, and when I looked up that fare Uber was having a surge, so it might have been even cheaper. That’s actually a savings of $2,485.98 over what United said it was willing to pay out in vouchers. Given a choice between inconveniencing employees and inconveniencing passengers, why not just do that? It would actually be poetic justice—one of the four crew members would have to take the dreaded middle seat.

But listen to the cascading apologies of United CEO Oscar Munoz.

First day: “We apologize for the overbook situation.” “It was an upsetting event.” The passenger was “disruptive and belligerent.”

Two out of three of these statements are true. If there’s any doubt about Dr. David Dao being disruptive and belligerent, it should disappear with this single fact:

He ran back onto the plane after the police removed him the first time.

He dared the airline personnel to “drag me off and take me to jail,” threatened to sue if they did, and he escalated from there. That’s not a rational person.

But here’s Oscar Munoz, day two: “We take full responsibility.”

The process of throwing the airline employees under the bus has begun, even though they were strictly following procedure. They offered vouchers, they told the four passengers they had to leave. They talked to him when he refused. They called airport security as a last resort.

Third day: “We deeply apologize to the customer.” Dr. David Dao has now become the hero, fighting the United thugs.

Fourth day: Oscar announces a companywide review of all policies involving crew movement, incentives for volunteers, and the company’s partnership with law-enforcement agencies. He’s in full retreat.

Fifth day: He can’t stop apologizing. Now he “feels shame.”

Sixth day: Every passenger on the flight gets a full refund.

Seventh day: Another apology to Dr. Dao.

Eighth day: Going on about the “harsh learning experience” and how he needs to change “training programs.”

Ninth day: “Heartfelt and deepest apologies” to Dr. Dao.

Enough! United owns the plane. If United says get off, you have to get off. You can complain about it, you can threaten a lawsuit, you can curse them on the internet, you can point out some of the obvious injustices, like the fact that the system is not random selection, as United said at one point. First-class passengers don’t get asked to deplane. Frequent fliers don’t get booted. It’s only the economy-fare people who are targeted for the Removal Lottery. You can crow loud and long about all of this and seek whatever consumer remedies are available.

What you can’t do is physically resist. There are broken noses, broken teeth, or worse anytime the police have to physically move an uncooperative person from place to place—it’s messy and unpredictable.

United may have lousy policies, but no employee made a mistake and no police officer was out of line. A true statement from United would have been “We’re being crucified on social media because of videos that show a passenger being injured by police after an extensive prior altercation. Since we don’t want any more viral videos like this that might affect our stock price, we’re going to increase the payments we offer to volunteers so that we don’t have to ever use any kind of lottery system to decide who gets bumped.”

Instead they chose to lie, causing both the flight attendants and the O’Hare airport police to look like thugs. They then settled a lawsuit with Dr. Dao, thereby legitimizing his refusal to leave the plane. I would like to talk to the cops who removed him—how much do they get for doing their dangerous jobs?

Numero three-o: The Middlebury College Riot.

The official legend: A racist conservative scholar named Charles Murray, author of a notorious anti-minority book called The Bell Curve, is invited to speak on campus, but he’s shouted down by a student mob that literally chases him out of the building, in the process injuring the professor who sponsored him and sending her to the hospital with a back injury. The college apologizes to Murray and comes out strongly in favor of academic freedom on campus.

Not as widely reported: Bert Johnson, chairman of Middlebury College’s political-science department, then apologized to the student body for inviting Murray to campus in the first place! He said it was “a closed decision-making process” that “contributed to a feeling of voicelessness that many already experience on this campus, and it contributed to the very real pain that many people—particularly people of color—have felt as a result of this event.”

In other words, the rioters were justified.

Message to Professor Johnson:

“Very real pain” = a back injury requiring hospitalization.

“Not very real pain” = hurt feelings.

The actual facts of the matter: Murray wasn’t even planning to talk about The Bell Curve, the book he wrote 25 years ago that so annoyed the students of color. Fortunately he was able to deliver his prepared remarks online, and so we know what he would have said if he hadn’t been shouted down. It was a speech about the white working class. Two social scientists at Cornell University transcribed those remarks and sent them to seventy college professors, asking them to rate the speech on a 1 to 9 scale, from liberal to conservative, with 5 as moderate. The average score was 5.05. They then sent the same remarks to seventy other professors, who were told the remarks came from Murray—those academics gave the speech a 5.77, still not very far right. Some of those professors would have known that The Bell Curve was a book based on data showing that IQ is based on both genetic and environmental factors. Like, why are so many great fiddle players from Appalachia? Why do Russians never win sprint races but do okay in distance races? He just applied this commonsense notion to IQ, or, as my grandpa used to say, “book-learnin’.”

A true official statement from the Middlebury political-science department would have been something like this: “When we invited Charles Murray to campus, we knew he was likely to be controversial and thought that was healthy for our students, but when it turned violent we realized that what we’ve been teaching for the past 30 years—namely, that verbal and written aggression perceived to be insensitive toward minorities is the same as physical violence—had been actually accepted as truthful by our students. Combined with the fact that none of them had been born when The Bell Curve was published, and none of them had time to read it in advance of Murray’s appearance, their profound ignorance and bias exploded in a way that should probably make us change all of our teaching policies.”

But then again, it’s easier just to apologize. It’s easier just to lie.

Daily updates with TM’s latest