Cancel Culture Has Destroyed the Power of the Apology

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

The latest victim of cancel culture has come from the world of college football. This time, Cale Gundy, assistant head coach and receivers coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, resigned from the program after using an offending word during a film session.

“Last week, during a film session, I instructed my players to take notes. I noticed a player was distracted and picked up his iPad and read aloud the words that were written on his screen. The words displayed had nothing to do with football. One particular word that I should never – under any circumstances – have uttered was displayed on that screen. In the moment, I did not even realize what I was reading and, as soon as I did, I was horrified,” Gundy explained in a statement.

We don’t know what the exact word was that Gundy used — we can guess that it was probably a racial or gay slur — but he took himself out before the cancel-culture mob could.

(Update: ESPN is now reporting that Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables says that Gundy “read [a] ‘racially charged word’ aloud multiple times to players.”)

Most of the time, when cancel culture claims another victim, it doesn’t work this quickly and efficiently. Normally, the woke mob will set its sights on a victim and demand that the person or organization issue an apology. That apology usually isn’t enough, and the person will be fired or the corporation will face boycotts and shaming. It’s how the graceless religion of wokeism dispatches cancel culture to demand sacrifices.

When an apology is sincere, it can be a powerful thing. A genuine apology can mend relationships and heal mental and emotional wounds. But what cancel culture promotes is forced apologies, which can cheapen authentic repentance and contrition. That’s the point of a Substack column by Stephanos Bibas, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Related: Wokeism Is a Religion Without Grace

Bibas, a Trump appointee, writes:

We all depend on apologies and forgiveness to go on living with one another. Husbands and wives admit their faults and patch up their differences. Kids on playgrounds say they’re sorry and then get back to recess. Coworkers talk through misunderstandings. As Hannah Arendt argued in The Human Condition, we wrong one another every day, and we learn to forgive constantly so that we can start afresh. The alternative is trapping ourselves in endless cycles of vengeance.

He relates the story of Majdi Wadi, a Palestinian-American businessman who faced the wrath of the woke mob when his daughter, an employee, posted content on social media that offended the wokes. The daughter’s apologies weren’t sufficient, and it wasn’t enough that Wadi fired his daughter. Wadi himself apologized, but that didn’t stop the woke mob from trying to run his business into the ground.

Bibas states that, while genuine apologies seek to make things right between the offender and the offended, “Today’s demands for apology, though, are dangerous. They debase the coinage of apology, masquerading as the real thing. Far from healing, they can sow bitterness and discord.”

The arbiters of cancel culture don’t seek healing or reconciliation. They want to destroy their enemies with a completeness that rivals that of God’s charge to the Hebrews to utterly destroy the pagans in the Promised Land.

Bibas makes the case that freedom-minded people shouldn’t allow the woke bullies to cheapen apologies and quotes Douglas Murray, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Tom Petty to prove his point. In his stirring conclusion, he writes:

Coerced apology will bring neither you nor your community redemption. Instead, it will encourage the bullies. And if we speak what is in our hearts, without regard to what is on our Twitter feeds, we will be able to look ourselves in the mirror. When someone tries to force you to apologize, without first convincing you that you made a mistake and wronged someone, just say no.

Let’s all work to reclaim the apology. By doing so, we’ll ensure that the bullies don’t win.


Trending on PJ Media Videos