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Courtney Love’s Facebook Apology

In Apologetic rhetoric, New media, Rhetorical analysis on March 23, 2010 at 11:47 am

Courtney Love recently issued an apology to Billy Corgan, lead guitarist and songwriter for the Smashing Pumpkins. The apology came after Corgan bashed Love in a Rolling Stones interview.

Love's Facebook Apology (Click to Enlarge)

There are three things that are interesting about this apology. First, it’s a rare case of Love actually taking the high road rather than lashing back. For fans of Love or the music industry in general, this aspect alone makes the situation noteworthy.

Second, the apology doesn’t really address any particular accusation. Instead, it addresses the entire tumultuous relationship between Love and Corgan, from their personal lives to their collaboration as musicians. Typically, we think of apologetic rhetoric as intended to address a specific accusation of wrongdoing. This perspective is derived from Halford Ross Ryan’s (1982) influential essay on the inherent connection between apologia (apology) and kategoria (accusation). As Ryan (1982) explained:

As a response to the accusation, the apology should be discussed in terms of the apologist’s motivation to respond to the accusation, his selection of the issues—for they might differ from the accuser’s issues—and the nature of the supporting materials for the apology…. Hence the critic cannot have a complete understanding of the accusation or apology without treating them both. (p. 254)

While this interplay between accusation and apologetic rhetoric is undoubtedly valuable, it is not enough in this case to analyze Love’s apology. What is needed is a deeper analysis of the context relating to Love and Corgan, as well as Love’s image with her fans.

Finally, Love’s apology is an important example of the use of new media (from websites to social networking sites) to deliver apologies. In this case, Love’s Facebook apology is especially important when we consider whom she is really addressing in her statement. Although she clearly states “Dearest Billy” at the top of the apology, we have to wonder why she chose to deliver the apology on Facebook. Is this really the way that she and Corgan communicate? Or does the use of Facebook have more to do with demonstrating to her fans the “higher road” stance that she is taking towards Corgan?

These questions get at some important research opportunities that exist in seemingly everyday apologies, especially when new media is involved as a public record or delivery mechanism. More research in these areas is definitely warranted by scholars of apologetic rhetoric and crisis management.

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