Humor & Hubris

Sorry My Apologies Are Sarcastic

The New Yorker's Shouts & Murmurs* column is one of my favorite distractions. Because for me, funny + well written = weekly appointment humor. But this week's version, titled 'We're Sorry', really knocked it out of the ballpark.

'Is it enough to say we're sorry? We don't think so. Because we want to make things right. And that starts with admitting to what we did-owning it-even if it wasn't entirely our fault, because nothing really happened.' And so on, referencing everyone from 'victims' of the #MeToo movement to Facebook, Wells Fargo, and Amazon's Alexa.

This is funny in no small part because it's also true; most good humor is rooted in the absurdity of reality. And at this moment, the corporate apology is seriously on-trend. With Facebook aiding Russian electoral interference, Wells Fargo creating unauthorized accounts in order to meet internal sales goals, and a slew of celebrities getting caught with their proverbial pants down, it barely registered when one family's Alexa recorded a conversation and emailed it to the woman's colleagues. Ooops!

Ellis Weiner's essay captures this all perfectly: the passive voice 'mistakes were made', the lame explanations and excuses, the non-apologetic apology. And it's all hilarious-unless you start thinking about whether this is appropriate behavior from our business, political, and creative leaders.

Are privacy and decency inevitably sacrificed to the almighty profit margin? Maybe. But I know a LOT of small, locally-owned businesses that don't operate that way. Maybe, just maybe, we should all direct our spending toward businesses that show their customers basic respect.

*Meanwhile, if you need a good chuckle, I've linked the Shouts & Murmurs, here: