Up Front by Emma Hart


Not Such a Hard Word After All

I love public apologies. They’re so deliciously awkward. Basically, you’re starting off already screwed, then seeing how much deeper you can make the hole before shutting your mouth.

The Veitch Apology has been well chewed-over, but I want to touch on it as an example of an obviously-flawed public apology. The person who wrote 'no excuses, except' should be dragged into a dark alley by the heavies from the Speech-Writers' Association and given a stern and grammatically-correct telling-off. Honestly, at least put some space between 'inexcusable' and your excuses. Rookie mistake.

At the other end of the scale, our own Prime Minister has become a doyenne of apologising for things she didn’t do or wasn’t around for. Agent Orange. Influenza in Samoa. The historic treatment of New Zealand Chinese. For a while it looked like she was jonesing for more stuff to apologise for.

My personal favourite was her apology to the White House for her statement that the U.S. would not have invaded Iraq if Al Gore was president. 'I’m sorry if you took offence' fills the role of an apology without actually being one. Its real job is to make the injured party look like a dick. Not that, in this case, they needed the help. (Briefly, if you believe that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, then Clark’s insinuation that Gore would be too big a pussy to do it is actually a compliment.)

The Pope's been riding the apology pony pretty hard since he took office, too. There was that 'offensive to Islam' thing pretty much right off the blocks. The official apology said he was:

very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers.

Sorry if you took offence. Cry-baby.

Since then he's been on his Apologising for Sexual Abuse World Tour. He warmed up in the U.S. in April, then moved on to the grand apology in Australia for World Youth Day.

We have to see what was insufficient in our behaviour and how we can prevent, and heal, reconcile. It must be clear, being a priest is incompatible with this behaviour because priests are in the service of Our Lord.

Because yes, previously we'd been a bit grey on the compatibility of molesting children and priesting. Glad we've cleared that up.

And while the apology made no mention of the systematic protection of priests by the Catholic Church and their concealment of abuse, at least the victims could be assured that the Pope "share(d) in their suffering". But just in case people got too carried away with understanding and contrition, Bishop Anthony Fisher got in before the Pope and laid some understanding ground-work:

Happily, I think most of Australia was enjoying delighting in the beauty and goodness of these young people… rather than, than dwelling crankily, as a few people are doing, on old wounds

Silly cranky rape victims.

My favourite apology of the year so far has been somewhat more obscure. This is the breath-taking apology of "Michelle", the dominatrix who filmed Max Mosley at a BDSM orgy. Briefly, she had gone to the News of the World, told them Mosley had commissioned a ‘scene’, and been given a small camera, US$24,000, and instructions to see if she could get him to give a Nazi salute.

You can watch Michelle's apology here, delivered on Sky News shortly after she was unable to appear to testify on the matter in court, due to emotional distress. She is obviously deeply contrite that her deliberate actions had logical consequences that were, to her, apparently completely unforeseeable.

It was absolutely terrible, it was really difficult to do. Mainly because you are feeling a nervous wreck, you are doing something you shouldn't be doing and obviously it wasn't very nice at all. It was a horrible situation.

Events obviously spiralled out of her control after she shopped one of her clients to a tabloid. For a start, it turned out his wife was quite distressed. "She didn't ask for this and I am very very sorry that it came out how it did." As opposed to coming out as a nature documentary?

Even worse, poor Michelle's poor husband had to resign his job with MI5. (Imagine the work parties. "Your wife looks vaguely familiar, have we met somewhere?") To be honest, in a profession that relies on discretion, I wouldn’t be rushing to use her services, either. (Dominatrices are in an odd position in Britain, where the law doesn’t recognise the possibility of consenting to assault.)

Mosley, meanwhile, sued the NOTW for invasion of privacy and won £60,000.

For those interested, PerfectApology.com has a list of criteria, by which you can assess public apologies for Epic Fail. Veitch, for instance, fails on #1, 3, 4 and 8. Perhaps Paul Holmes could give it a quick shuftie.

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