Cornering Trudeau: Why We Should Accept Apologies

Cornering Trudeau: Why We Should Accept Apologies

Allegedly Justin Trudeau is a racist now.

This article explains and analyses the issue of public apology and Trudeau; why we should accept, how changing positions can be good, populism, why you should never apologise today, and why that’s wrong.

Despite my initial hazing of Justin Trudeau for his recent behaviour, this article outlines the following points:

1) We should not judge people by behaviour from 20 years ago if they have changed and made efforts to change;

2) If we want people to change their opinions and stances, then we must allow them to change their opinions without attacking them for it.

3) Under current circumstances, the smart move is to not change your opinion, but double down, deny evidence, and claim fake news.

4) Due to this, we can see a movement into populism, and without the ability to leave your previous position (which would deflate the number), we shall see nothing but growth in the area.

5) We also highlight successful examples of people who have forgiven others, and brought them away from the radical fringes or suicide cults.

So in short, while it is very funny that Prime Minister Trudeau, a person who has spent a lot of his time trying to be as politically correct as possible, has a list of allegations of racism, sexism, and corruption, we shouldn’t hold his pre-political past against him, but be glad he has moved past it. Dislike him for his economic or immigration policies, sure, but not for things he has apologised for from over two decades ago.

The Amusing Irony of P.M. Trudeau

Let’s enjoy this first, though. Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada has been caught in blackface three times so far, and cannot remember if there had been other instances of wearing blackface (Cecco, 2019a). This is a curious statement; I can easily recall how many times I’ve dressed up as Jesus (once), as a horse in a nativity play (once, and I was the front), and how many times I’ve decided to wear black face (I haven’t). So it leads to the amusing conclusion that there are likely other photos out there of Trudeau being, shall we say, less than racially sensitive.

Especially amusing because Justin Trudeau pinned his politics on equity, equality, and fairness (Kassam, 2019). He also criticised remarks by racist remarks by Trump, saying that’s not how Canada does things (Perreaux, 2019). What is worse; words or actions?

Trudeau is known as a feminist. When asked why he had a cabinet half-female, he responded with his famous:

“Because it’s 2015” (Kassam, 2019)

Again, amusing because in 2000, he groped a female reporter, and apologised for it when confronted. Previous cabinet minister Philpott said that she felt that:

“The whole listening to women, ‘diversity is our strength’, that kind of image…And yet I didn’t feel listened to, and my diverse views didn’t feel like they had a place – those kinds of things were disappointing.” (Kassam, 2019)

The Prime Minister who said he respected the rule of law in the case of the Huawei executive; also found by a watchdog to have unlawfully pressured a prosecutor to not prosecute in a case where Trudeau had a conflict of interest (Cecco, 2019b). This is perhaps the only real criticism we should take seriously; it shows a serious breach of conduct for him to perform his public duty, and it is recent; the other behaviour is nearly 2 decades ago, and he has apologised for all of them as soon as he was confronted with them. He has:

1) Apologised for the behaviour

2) Acted in a manner that would improve these issues; e.g. hiring more ethnic minorities and more immigration, hiring more women on his cabinet.

As such, we could say he has (other than the corruption charge) properly apologised and changed his behaviour enough that he has likely changed as a person, and we could say this regardless of whether we like him or his politics.

It seems that a lot of his behaviours are beginning to be brought to light just before the election. This is nothing new; look at the storm of labels, libel, and ‘Breaking News’ that makes up the U.S. media coverage for the next (and last) election, but we should be more concerned about the pressure that faces him now for other reasons.

The Internet Has No Mercy

Now, everyone who lives online is likely aware of the ‘Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory’, now part of generally accepted internet culture (Krahulik and Holkins, 2004):

That people on the internet are really quite horrible. People on the internet now enjoy ‘tearing people apart’, and people are losing their empathy for other people’s comments, and other people in general. Comments online such as ‘I hope so and so is raped’ as a response for an opinion is not uncommon (Ronson, 2015). In this article, we discussed how people threatened the lives of the Covington High School boys for a perceived slight that wasn’t even true. As Ronson says:

“These days, the hunt is on for people’s shameful secrets, and a person with a good ethical life [with a single bad action, in his example, a tweet] can ruin it all.”

Ronson (2015) makes a point; that there is a rise of people who put ideology over people, and these people want the drama of taking down a bad person by dehumanising them, and then destroying their lives (and many people’s lives are destroyed because they got on the wrong side of the Twitter mob, for example, Justine Sacco or the Covington High School Boys]

Not only that, but we live in a world where the media will twist the truth to sell clicks, or hurt their ideological opponents. People then take this implicit permission by the media attacking individuals to do so themselves.

When faced with threats, insults, and potentially losing your job, no wonder people respond with fight or flight.

Why You Should Never Apologise

One man who has dealt with a massive sustained online backlash is Jordan Peterson, also a Canadian. On Q&A in Australia, Jordan Peterson (2019) said:

If you haven’t done anything wrong, do not apologise”

Peterson (2017) also said:

“You don’t apologise to these people, that’s a big mistake. They read apology as an admission of guilt. You don’t apologise and you don’t back down.”

That’s not wrong. It’s also not a good sentiment. This sentiment is good at protecting the self from the mob that is today’s internet and media, but it leads to circumstances that people cannot change their opinion, and only dig deeper into these ideologies even when confronted with contrary evidence, or a introspective realisation. Let’s assume the following things:

1) People are not going to support you more, especially when they didn’t support you before, because you admit guilt. At best, you will lose no support.

2) Without confirmation, there will be little movement in support:

2.1) People who like you will ignore evidence to the contrary.

2.2) People who hate you will listen to evidence that supports their opinion.

3) With confirmation, a portion of your audience will withdraw support, between 0 and 100% (0%≤x≤100%)

4) If not addressed, the issue ‘will disappear after two weeks’ (Peterson, 2019).

With these assumptions, let’s present a little graph.

Figure 1: Outlining the potential responses to public outrage and outcomes

Look at Figure 1. Under the current paradigm, there is little benefit to admitting fault; denying, ignoring, and attacking back is always a better tactic. Let’s put this together into a game theory; the two variables are admit fault or accept innocence, or attack back; we shall put the two members as ‘The Mob’ and ‘The Individual’. We shall assume three values: 

0-Bad for the individual; individual admits guilt and is not forgiven, and leaves self open

1- Neither worst nor best for individual; opinion divided whether guilty or innocent, struggle.

2- Best for individual; individual is believed innocent, acceptance.

Table 1: A simple outcome table between an individual and the mob

We have provided a simplified form of responses and outcomes. If we were to expand it out to include all outcomes, we would still find that apologising remains the worst choice in today’s political agenda; hence everyone from Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Jussie Smollett (allegedly) and all manner of politicians and public figures doing anything but apologising; it’s the smart move today.

Table 2. An expanded outcome including all options from Figure 1.

Cornering the Animal

We have all written, said, or done something publicly that we look back on and cringe. It is said by quite a few people that growth is looking back on your past and cringing; it means you’ve evolved, grown, and now know better.

Lt. Jackson (2015) tells a story about the U.S. force in Iwo Jima in World War ΙI. There was savage fighting between the two forces and a young Japanese soldier wearing nothing but a loin cloth and boots, and in his hand was a pamphlet. This pamphlet was a pamphlet made by the U.S., that told the soldiers that if they surrendered, they were to be treated well and fed. This soldier surrendered, and he was the Chief Code Clerk for the Japanese commander, who then gave them the information and assistance for the future invasion of Okinawa.

Because the U.S. forces were known for their treatment of prisoners being good, and because the Japanese soldiers knew they could surrender, they did surrender and help the U.S. forces (Jackson, 2015).

What happened when the Japanese felt they couldn’t surrender? The Japanese government told the Japanese citizens in Saipan how the U.S. soldiers would rape, torture, and murder them. As such, the American forces watched as Japanese women would grab their children and jump from cliffs, 4,000 men launched suicide charges, and the young killed the elderly rather than surrender to U.S. forces (Bartlit and Yalman, 2016).

What can we learn from this? We can learn that if people believe that they can join you without harm, they are more likely to do so. If people believe that you cannot be joined, then they are literally more likely to die.

Let us consider what happens when people do a bad thing, and then realise it’s bad, and then apologise, and change.

Figure 2. Outline of progression from negative position to socially reintegrated.

That seems simple enough, doesn’t it? This is the correct way we should deal with people who have non-social behaviour, and encourage them towards better behaviour. The problem is this; people are rational and respond to stimulus to try and achieve the best possible outcome. When confronted with a threat, we have fight or flight. Let’s add the mob who attacks the person who has done wrong.

Figure 3. Outline of progression after public aggression in context of fight or flight

Once you’ve seen someone go through this experience, or go through this experience yourself, it would be insane to try and do so again. If there is no way to be accepted, then the social pressure to remain the same stays; as the only people who will recognise you are those who accept the previous behaviour. Why would you try to understand the point of view of someone who will attack you, mock you, insult you, versus the people who may have horrific points of view, but are kind and accepting of you.

People choose the path of least resistance; make redemption too high a cost, and you’ll have no demand for it.

Allow Surrender; Embrace Change

What if apologies worked? What if a person could admit wrongdoing, and been seen as better for having apologised? We can alter the above table in two ways:

1) If an apology was widely accepted, then he wouldn’t be attacked; even if he was, he would also be defended for his apology. Range changed to between struggle (1) to acceptance (2).

2) If an apology was widely accepted, even if he is seen as a liar, he is given the benefit of the doubt due to his apology. Range changed to between struggle (1) to acceptance (2).

Table 3. An expanded table with revised apologising values revised

As we can see, an effective apology, or an accepted apology can be the best outcome. This can only be the case if we, as a society, decide to allow apologies to be accepted. Otherwise, an apology remains a public image suicide path.

Daryl Davis (2017) is a black man who has managed to convince a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (an anti-black hate group) to befriend this black man, and eventually managed to completely de-radicalise a man who had dedicated his life, his lifestyle, many of his friends, his public image, and rise to the top of this hate group.

Figure 4. Outline of progression toward societal integration with positive inputs via people like Davis (2017)

What can we see in Figure 4? Mr. Davis (2017) places complementary inputs into the equation in three ways (marked above in purple):

1) His friendly, calm, and contradictory presence makes the realisation that their behaviour is wrong more efficiently challenged, and realise it’s wrong.

2) When KKK members did change their behaviour, he was accepting of them, and continued to support them.

3) When the KKK members realised they were wrong, he accepted their robe from them and acted as an agent of society to accept them as they are now, and not who they were. The KKK Grand Wizard quit his position. 

There is a game online called “Trump criticises Trump” (Trump, 2017), where people will take opinions from the President of the United States, and critique his current position using a tweet he made previously.

Source: Trump, 2017

However, this again strikes to a core issue: do we want people who are allowed to learn and change their opinions? There is often a cry; why doesn’t Trump listen to the left? I mean, he has even in the past agreed with Democratic Senator Manchin and Republican Senator Toomey that gun control is needed and they should bring him a ‘beautiful’ bill to restrict some gun rights (Collins, 2018). He even shocked Democrats with how quickly he was willing to move against guns, such as raising the age of legality (Fox and Barrett, 2018). He is called an NRA puppet.

Trump once offered openly to Democrats up to 11 million illegal immigrants to become legal citizens, in exchange for a border wall (and not even the entire 2,000 miles) (Davis and Stolberg, 2018). Obama’s DACA helped 730,000 illegal immigrants; less than 6.5% of what Trump offered (Shear and Gabriel, 2016). Obama deported 2.5 million illegal immigrants (Markowitz, 2016). Trump has deported only 60% of what Obama has done in the first four years of their Presidency, reduced somewhat by a lack of co-operation with local governments, but that cannot explain 40% (Caldwell and Radnofsky, 2019).

Yet Trump is the racist who hates immigrants, and Obama is the blessed one. If these are the two most important issues to his opponents, why haven’t they been thankful to a President who seems to agree with them on a lot of issues? If they were willing to, I wager Trump would be easily swayed to work with the Democrats on most issues. But they so publicly hate him, no wonder he won’t work with them now. So we end up with this model:

Figure 5. Outcomes from societal apology acceptance (or lack thereof)

 The Rise in Aggression and Populism

Davis (2017) says the following sentence:

“You don’t have to respect what they’re saying, and respect their right to say it…We spend too much time talking about each other, at each other, past each other, and not enough time talking with each other”.

Davis’s constant respect for the person, but not the ideas of the Ku Klux Klan, allowed him to de-radicalise the Grand Wizard of the KKK Maryland.

He further says:

“It’s when the talking ceases, that the ground becomes fertile for violence”

Look at the racial tensions flaring in India; with a Prime Minister who dislikes the media and hates his opponents, he has been allowed to fulfil many worrying policies because there is no reason for him to be reasonable; he will not win people who hate him, so why try to gain their support? The massive backlash against people having “the wrong opinions” has led to a massive rise in radical parties in the United Kingdom, as well as across Europe. If you want to defuse this, then we have to be willing to listen to each other and deradicalise the worst parts of society. If we model my findings from here and here onto a graph, we can see why this is the case:

Figure 6. Movement of populations between societal mean and extremes

  But if we remove the ability to return to the mean, and rejoin common society, then the movement towards the extremes will be larger than the ability to return, and society will split in half.

Consider how poisonous conversation already is; without the ability to apologise and return, things will only get worse.

So whatever your opinion on Trudeau, whether his disastrous economic policies, or his poor handling of immigration and the resulting populism, it is unfair to publicly shame and destroy a man for something he did half his life ago, apologised for, and by most accounts of his actions, enacted and made up for via his many policies and personal choices in the goal of multiculturalism and gender equality.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please consider following me on Twitter @LeonDeclis or on Apple News on the Idea Meritocracy channel, or a Facebook page at @IdeaMeritocracyEcon. There is also an RSS feed option on this website for direct updates! Have a nice day!

If you enjoyed the aspect of analysis, you may enjoy this paper on analysing public policies

If you enjoyed reading about the media, you may enjoy this paper on Fake News

If you enjoyed reading about populism and analysis, you may enjoy this paper on the rise of papers in Europe


In all articles, I provide as much information for sources as possible, including links. I encourage everyone reading this article to read deeper, and make their own conclusions. For students, links are here so they can read the original source themselves. Most sources are linked the first or second time they appear in the article.

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Nozick and Smith’s Libertarianism: Perspectives in Public Policy

Nozick and Smith’s Libertarianism: Perspectives in Public Policy

Rawls and Utilitarians: Perspectives in Public Policy

Rawls and Utilitarians: Perspectives in Public Policy