Rep. Todd Akin and the State of the Modern Non-Apology

08/20/2012 8:30 AM |

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If you were out yesterday enjoying the nice weather rather than hitting refresh on your Twitter client (weirdo!), you may have missed the story of Rep. Todd Akin and “legitimate rape.” Akin, who is looking to nab Claire McCaskill’s Senate seat in Missouri, was attempting to justify his opposition to abortion even in the case rape, when he opened his mouth a little too wide:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” [Atlantic Wire]

Hoo boy. The response was rapid and furious. He didn’t apologize, exactly, but claimed he “misspoke.” “Misspeaking”—or saying exactly what you think until you realize it makes you look like a frighteningly ignorant jackass—is just one of the many ways one can wriggle out from saying something factually incorrect without admitting wrong-doing or apologizing.

The non-apology is a cherished part of the life cycle of outrage on the internet, and it’s really getting a workout this political season. Internet outrage is an important ritual that helps the hateful understand exactly how far they can push their ugly rhetoric, and makes the rest of us feel like maybe we have some small power after all. But after getting called onto the carpet, squirming and completely not repentant at all, the sayer of the fucked up thing has so many choices of non-apology. “Misspeaking” is probably the most blatantly condescending. Those with a little more finesse go with:

You’re Taking My Statement Out of Context

Aka “The Tosh”. The context defense is clever because it puts the blame for the entire situation back on the person who issued the call-out. “Sure, I’ll apologize, because I’m a good guy. But this dummy is taking my statements out of context.” Also recently deployed by a Texas congressperson blaming the Aurora shootings on “the ongoing attacks of Judeo-Christian beliefs” and eternal sack of shit Joe Arpaio, who apparently thinks there is a context that makes calling immigrants “dirty” not offensive.

You Don’t Understand My Humor/I’m an Equal-Opportunity Offender

A cousin of the context non-apology, but broadened to imply that anyone offended is kind of a stick in the mud that doesn’t understand fun. Rush Limbaugh falls on this one a lot—that he’s a hilarious guy who likes to make fun of things, and if you don’t get that, well, maybe you can’t take a joke. The Sandra Fluke kerfluffle is the most recent example in a long history of that garbage. Tracy Morgan, also, when he said he’d kill his kid if he were gay, got the “Tracy’s just a wackadoodle saying shit about everyone don’t you understand it’s his persona?” treatment. Which, okay, I’m just a humorless feminist so what do I know, but it seems like the people getting the short end of the “equal-opportunity offender” stick are usually the people who also have it roughest in real life?

“We’re Sorry if Anyone Was Offended”

The original, the ultimate worldwide classic of non-apologies. Nothing beats it. Is there any statement more infuriating to hear than “sorry if you’re upset?” Aag. In any case, Popchips and Ashton Kutcher are a fantastic recent example of this phenomenon.

Dear people who say offensive things: we all know you are saying this offensive thing because you think offensive things. Either own that, or change your worldview. Rolling your eyes while Twitter gives you five swats on the bottom with a ruler does nobody any good. The rest of you: feel free to donate to Claire McCaskill’s campaign.