All Non-Apologies

A while back, NPR had a piece on why people refuse to apologize:

In a recent paper, researchers Tyler G. Okimoto, Michael Wenzel and Kyli Hedrick reported on what they’ve found happens in people’s minds when they refuse to apologize. They find that parents who tell their kids that saying sorry will make them feel better have been telling kids the truth — but not the whole truth.

“We do find that apologies do make apologizers feel better, but the interesting thing is that refusals to apologize also make people feel better and, in fact, in some cases it makes them feel better than an apology would have,” Okimoto said in an interview. [...]

“When you refuse to apologize, it actually makes you feel more empowered,” he said. “That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth.”

Ironically, Okimoto said, people who refused to apologize ended up with boosted feelings of integrity.

I think about that when I read about Todd “legitimate rape” Aiken and his attempted political comeback.:

After 12 years representing Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, this infamous quote, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” derailed his campaign and his reputation.

Would he take those six seconds back?

Akin said, “Oh, of course I would! I’ve relived them too many times. But that is not reality.”

In the past, Akin said he regrets those remarks but does he believe they are true? Does he believe in his heart that the female body can stop a pregnancy in the case of a rape?

Akin said, “No, no and I apologized for that. All of us are fallible, we make mistakes, and we say things the wrong way. I really lived that moment many, many times.”

Aiken was fundamentally wrong about the basic biological facts. Most likely he believed, and perhaps still believes, a medical fallacy that should have died out in the medieval period. Yet, whenever I hear him talking about his flub he says that he “misspoke” and that things came out “the wrong way.”

I wonder if we’re not seeing someone who is walking right up the the edge of apologizing but finding himself unable to actually say, “I was wrong.” So much easier to say that if was a gaff and that he phrased thing inelegantly rather than admit he bought into a bit of medical hokum.

Of course, the other option is that he still believes that bit of nonsense. He might be parsing his apologies carefully because he does still believe he statement was correct. If that’s the case then I hope his political rehabilitation is as unreal as his apologies.

  • Nox

    In american politics being catastrophically wrong any number of times has no stigma. What is stigmatized is admitting any error.

  • PsiCop

    This whole discussion about Akin is predicated on the idea that he’s decided to apologize … or not, as seems to be the case … based on subjective considerations and his own personal psychology. Those certainly play a part in his decision, but probably aren’t the whole story. One must consider whether or not Akin is unwilling to frankly admit he was wrong, because if he did, his constituency would reject him.

    In other words, this is less about whether or not Akin thinks women’s bodies can halt pregnancies due to rape, than about whether or not the Religious Right in his state thinks so. When Akin first said this, I’d never heard of this notion before, and assumed he was delusional. After some investigation, though, I found out this kind of thinking is not unusual at all. The Washington Post did similar … and more exhaustive … research along these lines. I’ve spoken with a couple of die-hard Religious Rightists of my acquaintance, and it turns out, they’ve long been convinced this is the case (claiming, of course, that clinical studies that show it to be false, are “Leftist propaganda” and patently untrue).

    Then of course there’s the idea, held in particular by Rightists, that in the face of any media firestorm, to apologize means to “cave in” to the Leftist Media Elite (TM). The masses of the Right despise and fear the Leftist Media Elite (TM) so vehemently, that they’ve been known to turn on their own, if they’re viewed as having capitulated.

    Whenever a public figure (whether a politician, or some other kind of celebrity) refuses to apologize for something s/he did, one must always assume there’s some external triangulation going on. I can’t help but think that it’s common for them to fear alienating their fan-bases by apologizing for something they did … even if they very well know it was wrong and even if they might personally wish to apologize for it.