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Fans of TV’s “Seinfeld” will recall an episode titled “The Apology,” in which George Costanza nearly loses his mind (OK, that happened in almost every episode) because he doesn’t receive an apology he thinks he rightfully deserves. During the course of the episode, George learns that a former childhood friend, Jason Hanky, is going through the AA’s 12-step program for recovering alcoholics. Hanky happens to be on step nine of the process, which requires making amends with the people that a recovering alcoholic has wronged.
George is absolutely certain that he will receive an apology because of the time Jason refused to lend his sweater to George. Jason turns out to be uninterested in apologizing because he doesn’t see anything wrong with his having refused George the sweater: “No way, you would’ve completely stretched it!”
George isn’t having any of it: “You’re an alcoholic! You have to apologize. Step nine! Step nine!” To this Jason finally responds: “Alright, George, alight. I’m sorry. I’m very, very sorry. I’m so sorry that I didn’t want your rather bulbous head struggling to find its way through the normal-size neck hole of my finely knit sweater.”
Leave aside the impossibility of producing a show like “Seinfeld” today, given the sheer numbers of the perpetually and petulantly offended. Nevertheless, this little hilarious vignette is a great example of what could happen if only people rejected the notion that they have to apologize for every little thing they said or did in the past.
Today, manufactured apologies like the one George coerced out of Jason, are a dime a dozen. For the most part, people who are coerced into making a public apology are conservatives, although that’s not always the case. They are “caught” by the “P.C. Woke Squad” for saying something supposedly offensive and hurtful.
Coercions of public apologies vary from case to case. Some are benign: for example, when Steve Martin was forced to apologize for calling Carrie Fisher attractive. Others are quite malignant, like the recent attack by Media Matters on Tucker Carlson. The intent of course, not only was to force Carlson to apologize for the comments he made on a radio show years ago, but more importantly, to start the process of silencing his voice.
Psychologically speaking, forcing someone to apologize is counterproductive, particularly absent change of heart. Imagine a mother making a 4-year-old child say sorry for pushing another child as, of course, she ought to do. It makes sense but the reason it makes sense is because the point of it is to show the child in the wrong that he is, in fact, in the wrong. If the pusher does not know why he is being forced to apologize, it won’t mean anything at all. In the end, the intent of a parent is to teach a child what’s right and what’s wrong and thus, create a situation where negative consequences follow negative behavior. Parents do this because they love their children and they want to see them grow up to be people other people can love. Their point is not coercion, but teaching. Like Willy Wonka in the Chocolate Factory, parents want their children to own up when they make mistakes and do things that can hurt people. They want future apologies to come from the wellsprings of the well-formed heart of their child.
There is no such love coming from the P.C. police, however.
They are not interested in forming the character of the apologizer, they are interested in extracting validation of their opinions and extracting vengeance from those who dare to question their authority. They are merely trying to weaken the person considered to be an ideological opponent. This is why forced public apologies are meaningless.
They don’t solve any real issues between us or present us with any resolutions because they are not meant to be used toward that end. The intent is to humiliate and swiftly remove the power from the person who is being attacked. They are simply power struggles. Today’s compulsory contrition is just a pose and enforcing it is no more than a tactical maneuver by the Left in order to push the ideology of leftism into the public square. Public shaming and compulsory contrition are Alinsky style tactics.
I would venture a guess that people at Media Matters haven’t even read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals (1971) but his strategies for taking down the order of things have seeped into the current culture. They may not be “community organizers” according to the original definition in the book, but they are certainly interested in causing distress and division among people.
In his book, Alinsky presents tactics or “rules” for how to succeed as a community organizer. Rule 13 is perhaps the best known: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” For Alinsky, it’s important to choose only one person to target in order to achieve the end result. Such a person can be powerful (as in the case of Tucker Carlson) but it’s not necessary that he is. The idea is that an instigator of disorder is supposed to get the ball rolling, uncover what he deems to be corruption, and hope that this will result in more powerful figures falling down with him.
Alinsky is clear about what needs to be done and why “freezing” the target is important: “The real action is in the enemy’s reaction. The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength. Tactics, like organization, like life, require that you move with the action.” A destroyer of order is not only supposed to reject any notion of dialogue but also take away the target’s power because the target represents a larger idea, community, or an institution, which may be intellectual or otherwise.
This ideological strategy that Media Matters chose has backfired in the case of Carlson because the Fox News host did not respond as they hoped he would. Carlson, quite rightly, refused to yield to their demands and has not issued an apology.
Even if Carlson should apologize for something he said, all intelligent people know that such an apology would be meaningless both because it was coerced and because the beast of leftism is never satisfied. The real action and intent is to remove Carlson from the public square. This orchestrated and tactical hit on Carlson was really an attack on a much larger idea, namely the idea of America. The intention and directive is simple: annihilate the voices of dissent who speak the truth and who are effective in getting that message out against the fake news media, which is the true enemy of the people.
The real bearers of guilt are the vile voices of Media Matters. They are the whiny urchins that scream demands just like Veruca Salt, and just like her, they are the bad eggs who should be sent down the chute. If anyone needs to issue an apology, it is them. If anyone has a right to demand one, it is Carlson. But that’s not how things work in the Apology Factory.
Does Carlson’s refusal to apologize represent a turning point in the war against the fake news and P.C. police? Has the American public had enough of this faux indignation? Can we finally consign Saul Alinsky’s putrid drivel to the dustbin of history where it belongs? We can only hope so.