We need better apologies

Following the sharp pushback he received for his appalling suggestion that Glenn Greenwald should be ‘almost’ arrested (whatever that might mean) for his role in the Edward Snowden affair, Andrew Ross Sorkin issued a sort of apology, saying he ‘misspoke’. Greenwald has accepted the apology, as the recipient in such situations is always obliged to do to avoid being seen as ungracious.

But I am under no such constraint and I find Sorkin’s apology to be wanting.

While this apology is better than the popular non-apology of the “I am sorry that some people were offended by my comments” kind, Sorkin’s type of apology also has problems if the apologizers do not specify what they actually meant to say, and instead leave it up to the listener to infer what they meant. It is the equivalent of the “My remarks were taken out context” excuse in which the speaker doesn’t specify what the context was that might change the meaning significantly.

When such apologizers don’t offer an alternative, it is usually a sign that there is no way to plausibly rephrase the original comment or the context so as to have it mean something more benign than what was said and make it seem to be a mere slip of the tongue. It is the kind of apology that reveals that the original statement was close to the true intentions of the speaker.

I personally think that what Sorkin is really sorry about is that he confirmed what people have long known, that he is someone who sees his role as to be a servant and cheerleader for the government and the oligarchs. He really would have liked to see Greenwald arrested but is sorry that he blurted it out.


  1. Corvus illustris says

    Where is Greenwald physically? He could contribute to the Guardian and have communicated with Snowden from almost anywhere. Given that G^2 resides in Brazil, finding charges on which he might be (even almost) arrested and a jurisdiction that would arrest him might be an interesting exercise.

  2. Mano Singham says

    I don’t think the government relishes trying to arrest Greenwald. He now has too high a profile and may even relish the opportunity to challenge the government’s attempts to criminalize investigative journalism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *