Now, for better or worse, there is a response template when you are criticized for tweets or comments on social media that someone finds “suspect” or “problematic.” The template appears to be: Disavow previous comments with vigor, apologize using the most blanket and all-encompassing statements possible, take ‘full responsibility’ for offending anyone who was or was not offended… Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I will not be the first to say this, but, as a PR policy, this is bad. Boilerplate statements and wooden-sounding, disingenuous language does not help your cause. If someone is upset with you, trying to walk it back by apologizing to absolutely everyone for absolutely everything just makes you look desperate, not repentant.
Take the recent case of Netflix star Israel Broussard, an actor in the Netflix original movie “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Broussard had the temerity to agree with some fellows on the internet whom an entertainment reporter at The Daily Beast dislikes. Broussard has, in the past, “liked” tweets from Ben Shapiro, President Trump and Marco Rubio. He has also made some pretty sad and inappropriate jokes on Twitter.
For these crimes, The Daily Beast went after Broussard with both barrels, tarring and feathering the actor just at the moment when he was being discovered by a wider fan base. So, in a knee-jerk attempt to save face, Broussard offered what has become the standard mea culpa:
“I am deeply sorry for my inappropriate and insensitive words and likes on social media… I take full responsibility for my actions and I sincerely apologize. This has been a pivotal life lesson for me. I am dedicated to becoming a more informed and educated version of myself.”
Complete and total preemptive surrender in the face of one reporter’s isolated opinion, lest she get retweeted too much too soon. Broussard may have been right to not try to defend his bad tweets, but throwing down your arms and just unconditionally surrendering is not the way to get them to leave you alone. Unfortunately, in many cases, this kind of response only invites more vitriol.
That’s not to say apologizing is a bad idea or a wrong move. In many cases, it’s a good idea and the best move, but you need good reasons and a good message to send.
Here’s the thing, when it comes to attacks, you need to consider the source before you cede the high ground. A cursory reading of this particular reporter’s Twitter feed shows some retweets of the same people Broussard retweeted, which seems to indicate that the reporter is trying to create controversy to raise her stock online. It’s a fair PR tactic, but, in this case, it’s also patently obvious.
While offering scant evidence, The Daily Beast labeled Broussard a racist, a homophobe, and a proponent of a host of other social ills. By unilaterally apologizing without at least challenging some of these accusations, Broussard seems to be acquiescing to too much too soon.