Apologize My Ass
Food Network superstar Paula Deen is the latest celebrity to embark on an “apology tour,” spending the past ten days releasing apology videos and making weepy teary appearances on TV shows begging for mercy for having used racial epithets in the presence of her employees, one of whom is currently suing her. I don’t know the details of the case, and I don’t want to know. The lawsuit will be decided by a court, not by me (and not by you). But I do want to say that I‘m sick to death of people being forced to publicly apologize.
Perhaps it’s because I was one of those people.
Two months ago, I was “outed” as having spent five years, from 1990 through 1995, making various claims, on shows like 60 Minutes, The Phil Donahue Show, 48 Hours, and Montel Williams, regarding the Auschwitz camp and its role and function during the Holocaust. What I said was controversial, but my views were based on what I perceived to be the facts. I never uttered a single word that was in any way hateful or pro-Nazi, because I am the exact opposite of those things.
After a large monetary bounty was put on my head by a violent extremist group, I changed my name, and spent the last eighteen years as David Stein. I built a very successful GOP event-organizing operation, and my political writing was carried by every major conservative site on the ‘net, from FrontPageMag to Commentary and The Weekly Standard, from the Breitbart sites to The Daily Caller and HotAir, from The Blaze to The Washington Times and OReilly.com, and on shows including Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and the Larry Elder Show (where I had become an occasional guest…he and I were even working on a documentary film together).
All of that came crashing down two months ago when a vindictive young woman who I had been financially supporting for five years objected to being cut off from the Dave gravy train. She knew of my past (I never kept it a secret from my close friends and loved ones), and she “outed” me.
I was now “David Cole, the Jewish ‘Holocaust revisionist’ who’d been ‘hiding’ as David Stein.” The story of my “outing” was carried by The Huffington Post, Yahoo News, AOL News, The Guardian, Gawker, MSN, The Washington Times, American Spectator, and PJ Media.
Half of my sizeable network of (now former) friends disowned me, sent me angry emails, called me “racist,” “anti-Semitic,” and “pro-Nazi,” and even pressured other GOPs to stay away from me.
But the other half just wanted to hear me apologize for the work I did 20 years ago. “Just apologize for the stuff you said when you were 22 years old, and all will be well! Just apologize!” Several of these former friends went a good distance to try to strong-arm an apology out of me. There were even a few threats made.
Well, apologize my ass. I refused. I would not become a monkey dancing for the “apology police” organ grinders.
To begin with, what I said 20 years ago is either right or wrong. If I erred, I’ll cop to it. But admitting an error and apologizing for it are two completely different things. If a mathematician gets an equation wrong, he’s not expected to fall all over himself apologizing. He’s only expected to recognize the error and learn from it. You don’t write history books by yelling names at people. Trying to convince a historian he’s erred by yelling “racist” is like trying to bake a cake by screaming “YOU STUPID CAKE.” It’s just not how these things work.
The problem with the “apology police” is that once you give in to them, they never leave you alone. You see that every time a comedian apologizes for making a “racist” or “homophobic” joke. Conan O’Brien is the king of apologies. He loves giving them. And the more of them he gives, the more he’s asked to give. He apologized for Sarah Silverman when she made a “racist” joke on his show, and soon enough he was apologizing again to the entire population of Quebec for the fact that Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog (you know, the puppet that insults people…it’s right there in his name) dared to make jokes about Montreal.
When comedian Tracy Morgan apologized for making a “homophobic” joke in 2011, at his next show (and there’s video of this) audience members began demanding apologies right then and there for every slightly off-color or edgy joke he did.
He brought it on himself. The apology police only go after those who they know will buckle. I call it the “Shalit Syndrome.”
In January 2006, Today Show film critic Gene Shalit gave a negative review to Brokeback Mountain. That same week, In These Times published an exposé of Iranian madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-gay “pogrom,” in which gay men were being tortured and killed. Who did GLAAD go after? Shalit, of course. Why? Because GLAAD knew that Shalit, the proud father of an openly gay son who had written time and again about his dad’s unfailing support, would cave. Shalit, as far from a “homophobe” as is humanly possible, would be so emotionally devastated by being called one, of course he’d apologize for any offense his review might have given the gay community. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, would have told GLAAD to shove it.
As expected, Shalit apologized, and GLAAD proudly trumpeted how it made a decent man cower before its might. Meanwhile, the Iranian government continued to murder gays. But so what, right? GLAAD got its apology. And isn’t that all that matters?
The apology police are cowards. They go after people who are easily bullied. That’s why I love South Park. Parker and Stone never apologize. I recall reading a blog from a “handicapped rights” advocate after the South Park episode “Crippled Summer” aired in 2010. The author was lamenting how Parker and Stone chose to portray the handicapped children in the episode as grotesque incarnations of Looney Tunes cartoon characters. But at the end of the post, the author admitted, “there’s no sense in protesting, since those guys never apologize.”
Exactly. If you don’t apologize, you eventually get left alone.
Now, I’m not saying that celebrity apologies are always unwarranted. When actor Isaiah Washington used an anti-gay slur during a heated, off-camera argument with a Grey’s Anatomy castmate, he absolutely owed that castmate, and the entire cast and crew of the show, an apology for his behavior. He did not owe a public apology to every LGBT person on earth. If Paula Deen did everything her former employee alleges, she certainly owes an apology to that person, and to the other employees. And she should rightfully pay compensation for having created a hostile work environment.
But she doesn’t owe me an apology, or you, for things she said privately behind the closed doors of her restaurant’s kitchen.
When senate candidate Todd Akin made his unbelievably stupid comments about rape last year, he responded with an apology video. And my point of view, which I made quite clear to my GOP allies at the time, was that I didn’t give a crap about his apology. He needed to drop out of the race, period. To hell with the apology; he needed to do the right thing.
But far too many of my former colleagues thought the public prostration was good enough. Yet another reason I despise these public apologies. They’ve become an easy out. If Paula Deen is sincere about her apology, she ought to settle up with the former employee and spare her the cost of a trial. Don’t apologize to me, Paula; I barely know who you are. Settle with the person to whom you directed the comments you supposedly regret.
Do the right thing. The apologies are nonsense. But they serve a dual purpose – they allow people like Akin and Deen to appear to be doing the right thing without actually doing anything but swallowing a bit of pride, and they allow “advocacy groups” to feel like big shots for forcing famous people to bow down to them.
It’s a circus sideshow, and one that’s gaining more and more freaks and ticket-buyers every year. I refuse to be a part of it.
My situation involves matters that I believed to be historically factual. If people think I erred, they can show me my mistakes, and I will admit any error. But apologize? Cave in because someone calls me “racist,” or because my conservative friends apparently believe that recantation at the point of a sword is how historical debates are settled? Hell no. Never.
Until April 19, 2013, David Stein ran the Republican Party Animals organization. These days, he runs SteinCo Recyclable Bottle Reclamation Service, and he can often be found in Beverly Hills on the eve of trash pick-up day, combing recycle bins for redeemable bottles and cans, and leftover drops of liquor.