A Breed Apart
This week, actor Kevin Sorbo had what most people would consider a wee bit of a meltdown, though among conservatives it's probably just considered expressing his personal opinion. He began --
Ferguson riots have very little to do with the shooting of the young man. It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are. It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when you give up. Hopefully this is a reminder to the African Americans ( I always thought we just Americans. Oh, well.) that their President the [sic] voted in has only made things worse for them, not better.
No, no, really it gets worse. After he had slammed these "animals" for "blaming everyone else," he...well, he blamed the media, insisting they are "nothing more than agitators,” and the city should "ban" them.
(Because, yes, banning the media is exactly the very thing you do when you "always thought we just Americans." That's America, right?! That's the American thing to do. Mom, hot dogs, apple pie,and ban the media. Throw in the repeal of women's suffrage, and you can almost declare it the Fourth of July!.)
So, at least we know that while the "animals" and "losers" have no right blaming everyone else -- or at least no right blaming the people who continually shoot them dead in the street -- and it's always someone else's fault when you give up, the one thing in this life it is okay to blame is the media.
“The media promotes chaos to boost their pathetic ratings," Mr. Sorbo writes. "We should shut them all off and watch clips on the internet only when republished under fair use by a conservative media watchdog group.”
Wait, I thought we all just Americans?? But now the only media we should be allowed to watch is that which conservatives approve? I'm oh-so confused.... Well, I'm sure that he will clear it all up when he gets around to his obligatory "what I meant was" apology to explain himself.
Later, Kevin Sorbo spoke with TMZ to explain himself -- apparently, I guess, TMZ is on the Approved List for media, thank goodness! -- saying that he has friends of "all races, and all religions, all colors, all breeds." And that he really just...er, wait -- breeds? Well, never mind, to continue -- he said he was just frustrated by all the things happening in this country and "I apologize, not just to African-Americans, but I apologize to anybody that's offended by it.” And added, "It was stupid of me to post it. And I apologize."
That's sure a bad apology.
Along with my friend, the eminent Nell Minow, I like to think we are among the two top experts in the field when it comes to analyzing apologies. It's an area of communication I take much pride in. And one of the hallmarks of a bad apology is to merely apologize without explaining why you're apologizing. Without clarifying why what you said was actually wrong and hurtful. Without reinforcing what you're going to do to make sure you don't ever repeat the mistake. He does get points for apologizing to people he offended, rather than using the old chestnut, "If I offended anybody." But leaving it at "I apologize" gives no sense what on earth he is apologizing for. The result is that he's not saying he was wrong at all, just sorry that he offended people by saying it out loud.
That's the problem with the "apology." Saying it was stupid to have posted something publicly is totally different from saying it was stupid to have the believed it in the first place. This is just saying that what he was thinking was actually okay, but next time he'll keep it at the clubhouse, out of earshot of the animals.
And mind you, there was nothing in his apology about blaming the media, or suggesting they should be banned, or that only conservatives should approve what media we see, or whether Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans are just as un-American for how they refer to themselves as are African-Americans, or acknowledging that "their president" is also his president, and all of ours. Because, after all, we just Americans.
And I'm still trying to wrap my head around what "breeds" he's referring to. And wondering if it includes "half-breeds."
In fairness to Mr. Sorbo, he did post a much better "apology" on Facebook after having time to think about it, gauge the reaction, talk with a lawyer and confer with a PR representative. And it still came up short, but was at least better.
Okay…. I stand humiliated and humbled. My most sincere apologies for my post on the events in Ferguson. I posted out of frustration and anger over the violence and looting. My words were never meant to hurt the African-American community. My use of the word “losers’ was directed at those doing the looting and vandalising and violence toward others. Anyone who does that is a loser in my book. So I will not apologise to those who are looting stores and vandalising there own community. I am very sorry for the police shooting. To answer violence with violence is not the answer here. Real leaders need to emerge out of that community to deal with the problems with the excessive use of police force. I agree with you that the police action has only added to the reaction of the residents of Ferguson. Yes. I am an idiot and do hold myself accountable for the way my post came off.
As I said, that's better. A C+ this time.
It's a shame, though, for instance, that his frustration and anger were limited to the violence and looting in Ferguson, and didn't include the shooting death of an unarmed man who had his arms up in the air. And while he clarifies that he was, apparently, only referring to the looters when talking about "animals" and "losers," the problem is that in his first apology he didn't reference that at all. He merely said he was apologizing to "African-Americans," which suggests quite clearly that he believed his words were directed at them. Because, after all, since we pretty much have the ability to read English, his own words of his original rant did send a very specific slamming "reminder to African Americans" -- very thoughtful, decent and paternalistic of him -- "that their President the [sic] voted in has only made things worse for them, not better."
And again, even with having time to reflect, there was no apology about blaming the media for the problems, nor about banning the media, nor wanting a conservative watchdog to determine what news we see. Nor still any outrage or frustration at unarmed black men continually being shot in the streets -- oddly placing blame on "that community" (which he proclaims has no "real leaders") for them not yet dealing with excessive police force. One would think that putting the responsibility on...for instance, oh, the police might be a better place to start. Or on the entire community. Since we are all just Americans. He does acknowledge that police actions added to the reaction of the residents -- such a nice term, "actions," which terrifyingly included bringing in military tanks and pointing loaded weapons at the crowds -- while blithely ignoring that such "actions" guarantee that people will understandably and reasonably fight back to defend themselves.
In the end, the important thing to recognize is that the story of Ferguson, contrary to Mr. Sorbo's frustration and explanation, is not about looting and violence. That's a minor side note. The Attorney General of the United States is not in Ferguson -- something which didn't even occur after the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles -- because there was looting and violence. The problem that is occurring in Ferguson, Missouri, is something far bigger, far deeper, far more critical to the justice system in America, and to lash out in faux-frustration at "looting" is disingenuous at best. And racial obfuscation at worst.
And here's the the thing that trumps even that: I don't think this story is particularly just about Kevin Sorbo. It's one actor going on a midnight rant. But I would bet a lot of cash money that there is a massive segment on the far right side of the nation, many of them sipping tea at this very moment, who agreed with every single word Kevin Sorbo wrote. Well, all the words except for "I apologize."
For what it's worth, I thought we're just Americans, too. All of us. Even the blacks, the Hispanics, the gays, the citizens who choose to follow the Islamic faith, liberal media watchdogs, non-partisans, atheists, socialists, French-Americans, and the defenseless people being shot in the streets. And even the animals, too. Whatever their breed.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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