Friday, June 8, 2018

Samantha Bee Apologizes Unapologetically

It’s hard to imagine that anyone was suckered by Samantha Bee’s insincere apology the other night, but, alas, someone was. Young Leah Fessler, a fine writer, decided that Bee had gotten her new apology just right. This leads us to believe that Fessler should avoid writing about topics she knows nothing about. And yet, she is young, so we will not expound any further on her limitations.

In a previous post I remarked that Bee’s first apology for calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” was insincere. I called it an unapologetic apology. People who do not know how to apologize sincerely are morally degenerate. They pretend to take responsibility for their dereliction while continuing to maintain that they did nothing wrong. 

The key to understanding Bee’s behavior was the fact that she suffered no penalty for her behavior. The principle of apology says that the apologizer withdraws from society, the better to spare others the indignity of punishing him or her. Since Bee did not step down and was not suspended, we are within our rights to conclude that she felt no shame for her own disgraceful behavior. By my moral calculus this makes her a “feckless cunt.”

When Bee returned to her show the other night, she took the occasion to prove me right. She doubled down on stupid and offered yet another insincere apology. Smug, conceited, obnoxious and amoral… such are the terms that best described Bee’s harangue:

You know, a lot of people were offended and angry I used an epithet to describe the president’s daughter and adviser last week. It is a word I have used on the show many times, hoping to reclaim it. This time I used it as an insult. I crossed the line, I regret it and I do apologize for that.

The problem is, that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of thelr lives. A lot of them don’t want that word reclaimed. They want it gone. And, I don’t blame them.

I hate that this distracted from more important issues. I hate that I did something to contribute to the nightmare of 24-hour news cycles that we’re all white-knuckling through. I should have known that a potty-mouthed insult would be inherently more interesting to them than juvenile immigration policy.

I would do anything to help those kids. I hate that this distracted from them. So, to them I am also sorry.

And look, if you are worried about the death of civility. Don’t sweat it. I’m a comedian. People who hone their voices in basement bars while yelling back at drunk hecklers are definitely not paragons of civility.

I’m really sorry that I said that word. But, you know what? Civility is just nice words, maybe we should all worry little bit more about the niceness of our actions.

When you open an apology by remarking that a lot of people were offended, you are saying that you, for your part, were not behaving offensively. It signals an unapologetic apology.

And when you state that you were trying to make a serious political point about immigration, we are within our rights to dismiss you as a clown. If the country is anxiously awaiting the word of unfunny stand-up comedians before making immigration policy it is in very serious trouble.

Besides, Bee suggests, following the lead of one Erin Gloria Ryan-- who counts the word “cunt” among her personal favorites-- she was trying to reclaim the word. One assumes that she was trying to reclaim it from the patriarchy that uses it as an insult. This would require us to ignore the fact that women are far more likely to use the word— see Ryan and Bee—than men.

Something strange is going on when feminists seem to think that they should own the language, that they should dictate which pronouns we all use and that they can reclaim words like “cunt” and “slut” by happily declaring themselves to be cunts and sluts.

It is beyond stupid to think so, but it does expose them as petty tyrants raging against reality. If you find those words offensive, don’t use them. If you find the behavior they describe to be morally unimpeachable, take it up with the women—and it is mostly women—who condemn the behavior of other women. After all, women have a right to their opinions, also. Don’t they? If you were to ask why so many women disparage certain behaviors by certain women— women of ill repute— the reason is that they do not want to be classed in the same category.

Finally, Bee launches the nonsensical idea that civility is “just nice words.” This is obviously idiotic. She should explain it to Roseanne Barr or to anyone who has recently been called out and tarred for using the wrong words, words that connote racist or sexist attitudes. The night riders of the thought police are out in force, in the media and on college campuses, to destroy anyone who would dare use a politically incorrect term.

And, of course, civility is not just nice words. Where did Bee ever get such a ridiculous idea? She should read Miss Manners. If she did she would discover that civility lies in actions as well as in words. Good table manners are civil behavior. They are not just nice words.

As though to disabuse us of any inkling of sympathy for someone who has gotten together with her writers and her producers and come up with a piece of consummate ignorance, she closes by saying that we need kind actions.

She might not have known it but speech is action. Name calling is action. That’s why philosophers and linguists refer to the speech act. It's why the world is up in arms about hate speech. 

When you are dealing with performative utterances, as they are called, the speech act itself does something… as happens when someone christens a ship or pronounces a couple man and wife. In normal circumstances that problem with a vile epithet like “cunt” is that it disparages a woman by reducing her to a specific part of her anatomy. It strips away her achievements and accomplishments, to say nothing of her character, to reduce her to a “cunt.” Thus, it attempts to deprive her of social standing, dignity and respect. 

Such insulting words are an action, indeed, and they are decidedly unkind, even obnoxious. If Bee, as Fessler notes, is making a feminist point, we are well within our rights to ask why making a feminist point means performing an action that smacks of raw misogyny.

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

I agree Bee's apology is insincere when followed by words that she isn't interested in changing her ways. It would be better if she could admit how good it feels to be self-righteous, at least in that moment, and that feeling was more important to her, and her cultish audience who need their daily fix of wrongness of someone else, more than her claimed issue, which could be substituted for a dozen others with equal passion, while no agency is expressed beyond pointing a finger.

I see David Brooks has a new article about the problems with true believers, using the word "wokeness", whether SJW on the left or the red-pill on the right, defining yourself by what you think you're against makes you vulnerable to self-deception, where you can project your own vileness onto others. "Indignation is often deserved and always makes for a great media strategy. But in its extreme form, whether on left or right, wokeness leads to a one-sided depiction of the present and an unsophisticated strategy for a future offensive."