I think a better choice would have been for the magazine's editors to sit down, do some hard thinking about the substance of the response it generated—not just "How do we deal with the fact that we're under attack?" but "Do they have a point?"—and then write an introduction that would accompany the photos on their web site. It could say something like, "When we decided to do this photo shoot, we knew it was provocative, but we now understand that we didn't put enough thought into it. There has been a strong response, and here are some of the most incisive critiques of our choice that we've seen." Then discuss the best arguments people have been making against the photo shoot. It's tempting to find the stupidest things people have said and respond to those, because that's easy. But looking for the most serious ones would show that you're not just being defensive or hoping the issue goes away quickly, but you actually want to hear what your critics have to say, with the appreciation that the critics might be right. And then finally, they could have said, "We've decided to leave the photos here on our site—they're all over the web now anyway—so you'll be able to look at them if you choose, and contribute to the discussion."
Instead, Vice offered up the same kind of apology we nearly always hear in situations like this, saying they "apologize to anyone who was hurt or offended." The trouble with this kind of rote response isn't that it's necessarily insincere, though it often is. The trouble is that it doesn't take a stand on whether you were actually wrong to have said what you said. That's a very hard thing to do, which is why people do it so rarely, particularly in public life. None of us think our own motives are bad, so we always have what seem to ourselves to be perfectly good reasons to have acted or spoken the way we did. The pro forma apology leaves us with no idea what the people at Vice now think about all this. And at this point, that might be the most interesting thing to learn.
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