Apology or outrage?

Like many West Virginians, I was upset when singer Bette Midler, angry about Sen. Joe Manchin’s objection to the Build Back Better plan, tweeted that our state was “poor, illiterate and strung out.”


We have challenges of poverty and drug abuse, but it is hurtful when someone, especially a famous person who is not from here, uses our struggles as word weapons to try to make a point.

Midler quickly made amends. “I apologize to the good people of WVA for my last outburst,” she tweeted. “I’m just seeing red.”

For me, the issue was settled. A mistake was made, and what seemed like a sincere apology was issued.

Not that many years ago, I would have made much more of the crass comment by a “Hollywood elite.” Those kinds of stories are easy pickings for a talk show host, because they trigger feelings of indignation.

I know now that’s called “outrage porn,” which has its own tentacles of addiction. A study published in the Journal of Ethics and Philosophy found that we are drawn to outrage — particularly from a safe distance, such as Twitter or Facebook — “primarily for the sake of a gratifying reaction, freed from the usual consequences and efforts.”

Much in our popular culture, especially on social media and some news outlets, fuels the addiction with a steady diet of outrage. Each outrage lasts just long enough until the next one occurs.

The current outrage is over Whoopi Goldberg’s comment on The View that the Holocaust was “not about race,” but rather “man’s inhumanity to man.” It was a comment ignorant of the fact that the Nazis were trying to perfect a superior race by exterminating what they believed was an undesirable race.

Goldberg tried to clarify her statement on a late night comedy show — that didn’t go well — and on Tuesday’s episode of The View, she apologized. The episode also included an appearance by the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League who provided critical facts about the “systematic annihilation of the Jewish people.”

It was a teachable moment.

ABC followed up with a two-week suspension of Goldberg, and that is their decision. However, we need to provide a wide berth for mistakes when they are followed by apologies.

Beverly Engle, a psychotherapist and author, wrote that apologies are critical for maintaining the social fabric. “Apology is not just a social nicety, something we do to be polite,” she wrote. “It is an important social ritual, a way of showing respect and empathy for the wronged person or persons.”

Forgiveness completes the cycle, because it helps heal and rebuild trust. “When an apology is sincere and meaningful and received as the gift that it is and reciprocated by the gift of forgiveness, it is nothing short of a miracle.”

I am not a fan of Whoopi Goldberg, but I am a fan of apologies, and given the choice between outrage and a miracle, I’ll take the latter.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.