'I Was Quoted Out of Context' and Other Non-Apology Apologies
You've probably missed the Diane Abbott Twitter scandal.
Diane Abbott is a black, British, socialist MP who Tweeted thus this week:
"White people love playing "divide & rule". We should not play their game."
Abbott has plenty of "form" in this regard. She once said that Britain invented "racism"; that blonde, blue-eyed Finnish nurses were unsuited to work in Britain because they had never met a black person; and that West Indian mothers cared about their children more than white mothers. Had she been white, of course, her latest Tweet would probably have cost her her job. As it was, the resultant furor led to the following non-apology apology:
"Tweet taken out of context. Refers to nature of 19th century European colonialism. Bit much to get into 140 characters."
Ah yes, the old "quoted out of context" gambit, favorite of shyster politicians and dodgy celebrities across the globe. When you think about it, though, it's the lamest excuse ever. Implicit in it is the notion that somewhere out there is, to take the example of Abbott's Tweet, a context in which it is perfectly acceptable for an elected parliamentary representative to make crass generalizations based on skin color. Really? The mind boggles as to what that context might be.
What the "Quoted out of context" excuse really means is "OK you caught me fair and square but I'm damned if I'm going to retract my words let alone apologize because, hey, why should I when I know the 'quoted out of context' line is going to let me off the hook?"
Politicians never make real apologies these days. Perhaps they never did. But they're getting more brazen in their lack of contrition. Master of the non-apology apology is, of course, Newt Gingrich. I particularly cherish his excuse as to why he cheated on his second wife:
"There's no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."
As Andrew Roberts has noted in Standpoint, Gingrich is here ingeniously recasting adultery as patriotic duty. Priceless!