Monday, June 25, 2007

Cameron Diaz Apologizes for Bag

Cameron Diaz recently apologized for appearing in Peru while carrying a bag that evoked painful memories for the local citizens.

The olive green bag featured a red star along and the words “Serve the People” written in Chinese. The saying (made famous by Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong) evoked memories of the Maoist insurgency in Peru during the 1980s and 1990s that led to the deaths of nearly 70,000 people.

In a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press, Diaz used a balance of evasion of responsibility (by classifying the act as an accident) and mortification.

"I sincerely apologize to anyone I may have inadvertently offended. The bag was a purchase I made as a tourist in China and I did not realize the potentially hurtful nature of the slogan printed on it."

Diaz went on to say: "I'm sorry for any people's pain and suffering and it was certainly never my intention to reopen what I now know is a painful wound in this country's history."

Diaz also mentioned the beauty and warmth of the Peruvian people, and said she wished "for their continued healing."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Edwards Defends Nonprofit Connection

Speaking to reporters in Reno, Nevada, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards denied accusations that the Center for Promise and Opportunity has been used to promote his presidential campaign.

Using a strategy of transcendence, Edwards stated that his work on behalf of the nonprofit organization was aimed at raising the minimum wage in states, helping low-income students attend college, organizing workers into unions, and engaging young people in the fight against poverty.

"All of this was an effort to try to deal with the issue of poverty in America, which is the cause of my life," he said. "What I've been doing is not only significant and there's nothing wrong with it, it's something I'm very proud of. Everything we did was not only completely legal but we did a lot of good."

According to Kenneth Burke, William Benoit, and Ware and Linkugel, the rhetorical appeal of such transcendental remarks is that they shift the focus away from the particulars of the situation and, instead, position a person’s actions in relation to larger, abstract ideals that society views favorably.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Jones Accepts Responsibility

Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones issued a statement that he is dropping his appeal of a yearlong suspension and is pledging to repair his image as the poster child for NFL misconduct.

Jones was suspended after 10 encounters with police and five arrests since he was drafted in 2005. His suspension was the most severe of those handed down last spring as part of commissioner Roger Goodell’s crackdown on player misbehavior.

In his announcement, Jones employed a mortification strategy by acknowledging wrongdoing, accepting responsibility, and taking steps to make amends in the future.

"I understand my responsibilities to my teammates, the Titans and my fans, and I am committed to turning my life around and being a positive member of the NFL," said Jones through a statement delivered by agent Michael Huyghue.

In reference to his meeting with the commissioner, Jones said that he told Goodell "about the steps I have taken to change my life since being suspended by the NFL. I accept the discipline that's been imposed on me and I am withdrawing my appeal."

Jones is also planning to use the time away from football to go back to school; he’ll reportedly take courses online from West Virginia University, where he played.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Duke Prosecutor Resigns

North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong resigned and admitted that he got “carried away” during the prosecution of three Duke lacrosse players for allegedly raping a stripper at a team party in March 2006.

Using aspects of the mortification strategy described by Benoit, Nifong said he regretted making improper statements about the players.

"Whatever mistakes I made in this case were my mistakes. But they're not all the ones that the bar says I made, but they are my mistakes," Nifong said.

In addition to mortification, Nifong used a strategy that Goffman describes as a variation of denial—that is, admitting that the act occurred, but that he isn’t ultimately responsible for the negative outcome because it wasn’t foreseeable or intentional.

In response to claims that he withheld DNA test results from the defense, Nifong said that he didn't know additional DNA information was missing at first. However, months later, he realized the mistake.

"My first reaction was a variation of 'Oh crap. I didn't give them this?"' Nifong said.

The missing DNA results indicated that no evidence was found from any lacrosse player. Despite knowing these results, Nifong pressed ahead and won indictments against Seligmann, Evans and Finnerty.

State prosecutors later concluded that the three players were not only innocent, but were also victims of Nifong’s "tragic rush to accuse."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Privacy International Responds

The London-based advocacy group Privacy International (PI) issued an “Open Letter to Google” in response to Google’s alleged accusation that PI has a conflict of interest regarding Microsoft.

In the letter PI employs the apologia strategy that can be described in Erving Goffman’s terms as denying that an act occurred. According to PI, “Privacy International is a fiercely independent organization that has never shown fear nor favour. Again for the record, we have been fierce and relentless critics of Microsoft since our inception as a watchdog.”

In addition, PI Director Simon Davies, responded in kind to Google with his own attack of the attacker strategy: “Can I be so bold as to suggest that your company's actions stem from sour grapes that you achieved the lowest ranking amongst the Internet giants?”

Perhaps this isn’t the last we hear of this public battle of accusations and apologiae.

Google Attacks Attacker

Google is in the news again. This time, as the worst Internet-based company at protecting consumer privacy, according to a report issued by the London-based advocacy group Privacy International. The report by Privacy International (PI) explains the ranking in part because the group believes it has “witnessed an attitude to privacy within Google that at its most blatant is hostile, and at its most benign is ambivalent.”

This report ultimately served as a kategoria (or an accusation, as described by apologia scholar Halford Ross Ryan). Google allegedly fired back, by contacting journalists and claiming that PI did not name Microsoft as the worst company because it has a conflict of interest with the software giant.

This alleged tactic can be described in apologia terms as: condemnation of the condemners (Sykes and Matza 1975, Scott and Lyman 1968), shortcomings or misdeeds of accuser (Schonback 1980), or attacking the accuser (Benoit 1995). As Benoit explains, the rhetorical power of this strategy is that if the credibility of one’s attacker (in this case, PI) can be reduced, the damage to the accused’s image (that is, Google’s image) can be reduced as well.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Scooter" to Serve 30 Months

Former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby is back in the spotlight after being sentenced to 30 months in prison for lying and obstructing the investigation of a CIA leak.

Libby’s case is particularly interesting because his apologia was handled largely by third-party participants. For instance, one of his attorneys, William Jeffress, is offering a denial defense by stating that the obstruction charge hasn’t been proven. "No one was ever charged. Nobody ever pleaded guilty," Jeffress said. "The government did not establish the existence of an offense."

In addition, another one of Libby’s defense attorneys, Theodore Wells, offered a bolstering strategy by asking the judge to consider Libby's career service to the country. A number of prominent figures have also added to this strategy, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who said: "My hope and prayer is that his outstanding record, his many contributions to our country and his value as a citizen, will be considered carefully."

As for Libby’s direct contribution to his apologia strategy, he offered only brief remarks that hinted at the bolstering strategy already established. “It is respectfully my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life,” said Libby.

Based on the sentencing given by the judge, the apologia strategies offered by the third parties failed to diminish the offensive of Libby’s actions enough to escape jail time.

According to Hugh Keefe, a Connecticut defense attorney who teaches trial advocacy at Yale University, that’s not surprising. “The only thing any sentencing judge wants to hear is remorse, and if they don't think it comes from the heart or they think they're only sorry for getting caught, for losing their job, or for going to jail, it doesn't count,” said Keefe.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Andrew Speaker Apologizes

Andrew Speaker, the Atlanta attorney quarantined with a dangerous strain of tuberculosis, apologized to his fellow airline passengers in an interview on Good Morning America.

If we understand that the underlying assumption of an apology is the accusation that a social value has been broken, then we must ask ourselves, first, what value Speaker is accused of breaking and, second, whether he adequately responds to that accusation. In reading public sentiment about the situation, it seems clear that Speaker is accused of selfishly placing his own health and wellbeing over his fellow airline passengers. That is, for breaking the maxim: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

In response to that accusation, Speaker employed a combination of strategies as described by William Benoit, including “mortification,” “defeasibility,” “good intentions,” and “scapegoating” strategies.

To begin with, it’s important to note that Speaker acknowledged wrongful behavior and asked for forgiveness (mortification): "In hindsight, maybe it wasn't the best decision,” said Speaker. "I am very sorry for any grief or pain that I have caused anyone." And later “I just hope they can forgive me."

Despite this mortification, Speaker’s apologia relied largely upon “defeasibility,” and “good intention” strategies.

For instance, Speaker insisted that he didn’t know he was contagious and, therefore, is not to blame (defeasibility). "I never would have put my family at risk, and my daughter at risk. I repeatedly asked my doctors, 'Is my family at risk? Is anybody at risk of this?'" Speaker said. "They told me I wasn't contagious and I wasn't dangerous."

The issue, however, is not so much Speaker’s initial trip to Europe, but his return trip to the U.S. Speaker was contacted by the CDC while in Europe and told to turn himself in immediately at a clinic there.

"He was told in no uncertain terms not to take a flight back," said Dr. Martin Cetron, Director of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.

In response to criticism for his return flight, Speaker suggested that he acted with only good intentions, to save his life. For instance, Speaker stated "I thought that if I went [to the clinic in Europe], if I waited until they showed up, that meant I was going to die" and "it's very real that I could have died there." In addition, Speaker solidified his good intentions strategy by saying "I don't expect for people to ever forgive me. I just hope that they understand that I truly never meant to put them in harm."

Finally, Speaker grounded his apologia in a strategy of scapegoating. According to statements made by Speaker and his wife, the reason he had to risk the return trip was because he felt that the CDC "abandoned him," adding that he and his wife were “scared out of our minds." In addition, his wife offered the following narrative: "Imagine sitting in a foreign country with your husband and your government saying they were going to leave you there."

Whether Speaker’s apologia is ultimately accepted is up to the society as a whole. Judging by some public sentiments, it may not be.