The Disingenuous "Confession" of Imperfection
One of the many tragic elements of the sordid, damning revelations that followed in the wake of the #MeToo movement is how unsurprising so much of this damning new information generally felt. We all knew Harvey Weinstein was a world-class sleazebag. We just didn’t realize he was the fucking devil. Rumors that Louis C.K. jerked off in front of mortified women similarly trailed the formerly beloved cult auteur for years until that ugly, liberating day it became impossible for C.K to deny a very ugly truth that sent his previously charmed career careening instantly into a brick wall.
On a similar note, before the big New York Times piece on him ran, I basically knew Ryan Adams exclusively as a prolific and controversial singer-songwriter and as a world-class creep a lot of people hated for good reason, in the industry and out of it. So when The New York Times wrote an utterly damning article about Adams’ history of predatory and manipulative behavior towards younger women I did not have a hard time believing it at all.
Adams’ initial response to the bombshell New York Times expose was to release a tweet reading “Happy Vanentines day @nytimes I know you got lawyers But do you have the truth on your side. No. I do. And you have run out of friends. My folks are NOT your friend. Run your smear piece. But the leagal eagles see you. Rats. I’m fucking taking you down. Let’s learn I bait.”
To really drive home the sense that this was a Tweet that could only have been written under the influence of strong, terrible drugs or some manner of nervous breakdown, the official communication from Ryan Adams is accompanied by an image of Adams with donuts covering his eyes.
Adams, or more likely his “people” obviously realized that if you don’t want the world to think that you’re the creepy, controlling, threatening and unwell monster an exhaustively researched newspaper article has depicted you as, putting out a cryptic, creepy, controlling, threatening and seemingly unhinged tweet attacking your critics will not help your case or win you public sympathy.
Unsurprisingly, the tweet was deleted. In full-on crisis management mode, Adams tweeted, “I am not a perfect man and I have made many mistakes. To anyone I have ever hurt, however unintentionally, I apologize deeply and unreservedly.” He went on to assert, "But the picture that this article paints is upsettingly inaccurate. Some of its details are misrepresented; some are exaggerated; some are outright false. I would never have inappropriate interactions with someone I thought was underage. Period.”
When awful men like Adams, or Bill Cosby, or Harvey Weinstein or R. Kelly, are confronted with damning evidence of their crimes or transgressions, it has become depressingly common for their mealy-mouthed, half-assed, non-apology to begin with some variation on the phrase “I am not perfect” or “I am am not a perfect man but…”
I wouldn’t be surprised if they encourage students in crisis management courses to trot out “I’m not perfect” early and often because it gives the vague appearance of humility, vulnerability and honesty without actually offering anything real in the way of humility, vulnerability or honesty.
“I’m not perfect” gives the impression that you’re grappling honestly and forthrightly with your faults when all you’re really saying is that you’re not God-like, or Christ-like in your complete lack of imperfections. Congrats! Literally everybody in the world is imperfect.
“I’m not perfect” as a defense implies that you’re being criticized not because of the very specific things you’re being attacked for but rather because society builds celebrities up to a ridiculous extent and then punishes them disproportionately when they fail to live up the image of perfection society has thrust upon them.
Here’s the thing: Adams is not in deep shit because, like everyone else in the universe, he is not perfect. No, he is in trouble for treating vulnerable women like shit, manipulating would-be proteges and making everything sexual in a really gross, deeply misogynistic and controlling fashion.
People like Adams need to realize that they’re in trouble for damn good reasons and not because they fail to live up to a standard of perfection no one, not even the fucking Pope, or Mr. Rogers can actually meet. “I’m not perfect” is almost never a legitimate excuse for anything, really, particularly the kind of transgressions Adams and his ilk are very credibly accused of.
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