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Chris Gayle and Jamie Briggs: the dark art of the non-apology

An apology can make you bigger, or make everything infinitely worse.

 Nobody enjoys making an apology. It's an acknowledgment that you screwed up, that you have done harm to someone. That's why some of us find them so difficult and messy, as though saying sorry were akin to birthing one of those Alien chest-bursters the hard way.

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Cricketer Chris Gayle says sorry for his comments made to journalist Mel McLaughlin, but says it was a 'simple joke' blown out of proportion. (Vision courtesy ABC News 24)

The throat locks up, the chest heaves, a few gargling noises emerge and boom! The awful thing erupts into the world and leaves an even bigger mess behind before it escapes in a high speed slither with a phalanx of journalists in hot pursuit.

Chris Gayle's chest-burster on Tuesday was arguably the most gruesome in a week during which we've been treated to some choice examples. Gayle was unfortunate in screwing up in front of a large television audience, and doing so spectacularly. His sexual harassment of Ten Network sports reporter Mel McLaughlin was so awesomely cringe-making that seismographs at the CSIRO may have to be re-calibrated to correct for the convulsive shudder running up the national spine.

But having screwed up in such epic fashion, the ageing sportsman did what so many of us do when we try to make amends. He made it worse; attempting to excuse the offending behaviour as a joke, insisting "there wasn't any harm done" and claiming his comments has been "blown out of proportion". It was the very opposite of an unreserved apology.

Meanwhile, Network Ten executives were in furious agreement that Gayle's comments were "highly inappropriate" and in need of immediate redress, probably so that we'd miss their own highly inappropriate revelry at his oafishness, celebrating his nightclub mojo on Twitter with the hashtag #dontblushbaby.


Whenever someone has done something worthy of a really grovelling apology, you can bet they had a mate nearby, egging them on. And you can double down on the bet that their mate will abandon them, or even narc them out, when everything turns to custard.

"There wasn't anything at all meant to be disrespectful toward Mel, or offensive. If she felt this way, then I am really sorry for that," said Gayle.

Yes, Chris. I'm sure you are. Now. 

Apologising "for any offence" is a popular way of handing off responsibility to the offended party. Former minister Jamie Briggs resignation letter was a master class in the form, framing his downfall as an unfortunate consequence of a young woman's overly sensitive feelings, rather than his own boorish behaviour. The enthusiasm with which other Neanderthals and boors took up Briggs' weasel words only goes to show how venerable is the tradition of treating an apology as a chance to get in a few more kicks. And releasing her photograph after the apology? Briggs could take gold for Australia at the special Olympics for insincere beg-pardons.

Neither Briggs nor Gayle seem to understand that a gracious apology can be a performance of such finesse as to render the original infraction little more than a opportunity to demonstrate one's incredible zen cool and maturity. An apology delivered with enough sincerity and even style can even begin to blur the connection between whatever vulgar shenanigans occasioned the need to say sorry, and the penitent wonder delivering the amende honorable

Peter Dutton surprised us all with the alacrity of his regret at mistakenly texting News Corp journalist Samantha Maiden that in his considered opinion  News Corp journalist Samantha Maiden was a "mad f---ing witch". His apology, springing from undoubtedly sincere mortification was swift and unequivocal. The self-deprecating wit - "I'm expecting a tough time in her next column" - did not hurt either and Maiden's graceful acceptance embiggened them both.

Apologising "for any offence" is a popular way of handing off responsibility to the offended party.

Twitter: JohnBirmingham 


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