Monday, May 23, 2016

Sorry, I can't shake the feeling you're insincere--also, you sound like a peevish tween

Longtime readers of The Velvet Blog (ha! ha! also: ha!) may remember a series of posts on the "nonapology apology"--that is, when public shamings prod violators of the social code to to say "I'm sorry" even though they don't mean it in the least. This never goes well. The insincerity of a nonapology apology is always apparent, and you're probably best shutting up rather than apologizing without meaning it.

But there's a flip side to the nonapology apology, one that has become annoyingly popular lately, and that is: starting a headline with "Sorry" when the intent is not to express sympathy or apology but, rather, to say something closer to "you're a poopyhead." I haven't seen a description of this elsewhere yet, so I'm going to go ahead and call this the poopyhead apology.

This has been on my radar for a while now, but it seems to have recently reached critical mass.

What inspired this particular post is a story on the Forbes site. Recently, some websites (I believe the first writer was Alex Kotch over at The National Memo) have noticed that the Koch brothers--right-wing industrialists who are big into funding conservative issues--are pushing a high school curriculum that includes sentiments like this one:
Corporations routinely sacrifice the lives of some of their customers to increase profits, and we are all better off because they do. That’s right, we are lucky to live in an economy that allows corporations to increase profits by intentionally selling products less safe than could be produced. The desirability of sacrificing lives for profits may not be as comforting as milk, cookies and a bedtime story, but it follows directly from a reality we cannot wish away.
Pretty callous, right? But just right for Randian Studies 101, I guess.

The quote (and others like it) became the subject for much jeering from liberal-leaning writers, such as Esquire's Charles Pierce, as well as clickbait-leaning websites, including Salon.

Forbes clickbaited back, with a story that features this headline: "Sorry, Salon: The Koch Brothers Are Actually Right." As you can imagine, the Forbes writer, one Tim Worstall ("I have opinions about economics, finance and public policy" appears to be his slogan, and yeah, Tim, I'm sure you do), thinks Salon is wildly off base and he does not appear to be the least bit sorry if a few kids get, I dunno, exploded by Pop Rocks or something.

So I decided to go off to the wilds of Google News to see just how popular this particular locution has become in headlines, and the answer is: way too goddamned popular. These are the incomplete results, and I'll say in advance that Salon is a repeat offender, but, by far, the worst is The Washington Post (and note that these results come only from May):

Sorry, There's Nothing Magical About Breakfast
Sorry, but We're About to Ruin Diet Soda for You
Sorry, but it looks like the West's once-great future is all behind us
Sorry, Paul Ryan. Donald Trump is now 'Mr. Republican.' 
Sorry, Bernie: I love you, but this is over — and getting embarrassing
Sorry Eric Decker, Tom Brady's suspension doesn't mean the AFC East is 'up for grabs'*
Sorry Google, we just don't want to be friends with you*
Sorry, Donald Trump. Trade policy won’t help you win Sanders voters.**
Sorry, liberals. Elizabeth Warren isn’t going to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate.**
Sorry, Bernie fans. His health care plan is short $17,000,000,000,000.**
Sorry, but that fake pundit isn’t more accurate than Nate Silver**
Sorry, Republicans. There’s no escaping Donald Trump.**

Are there more in the May time frame? Oh, GOD, yes, but if I copy and post any more I fear I may lose my mind.

I know the temptation, headline writers. I've written many a headline in my day, and sometimes it's easy to fall back on some comfortable phrase. But it's really time to retire this one.

*These two also lack the comma of direct address. That's pretty basic grammar stuff, and seeing it missing in headlines gives me a headache.

**All of these are from The Washington Post!

P.S.: I'm tempted to blame this. (I did not remember that Charlie was such a stereotype of a tough guy. He seems awfully unconcerned that his sister is now a widow, though, which is not cool.)


Tim Worstall said...

Not my headline......

Unknown said...

So let me get this straight, the Koch Bros. are saying its OK for a few to die in order for the many to prosper? I think I have an application of that maxim they may not care for.

the devil you know said...

I'm just sorry I don't have something funnier to say here.