It’s never a handful of people who are offended but entire institutions and categories of people, evidently always rocked to their cores.
Donald McNeil, whose work on the coronavirus has gained renown during the pandemic, made it sound as though science coverage at the Times, and perhaps the paper itself, would be hard-pressed to recover from his innocent use of the n-word:
“My lapse of judgment has hurt my colleagues in Science, the hundreds of people who trusted me to work with them closely during this pandemic, the team at ‘The Daily’ that turned to me during this frightening year, and the whole institution, which put its confidence in me and expected better.
“So for offending my colleagues — and for anything I’ve done to hurt The Times, which is an institution I love and whose mission I believe in and try to serve — I am sorry. I let you all down.”
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees criticized kneeling last year, then quickly buckled under the resulting criticism. “I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday,” he said, leaving no one out. “In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.”
The Poetry Foundation made a fairly typical statement of support for racial justice after the killing of George Floyd and then, when critics wrote a letter of condemnation for the supposed offenses embedded in the statement, the Foundation apologized — to pretty much everyone imaginable.
The show trial-like tone of the “woke apology” stands in sharp contrast to the Trump-era style of never apologizing for anything, in order to “own the cons/libs.” A CNN article from 2018 is headlined, “Donald Trump is not sorry. Ever.” For better or worse, for politicians, it’s a style that spreading:
We’re at quite an inflection point in our culture when those who have been cancelled grovel, while politicians and celebrities who have erred refuse to. Of course, the speed of today’s media plays a part. Why apologize for a scandal that the media will likely forget about 15 minutes later?