Chris Brown -- who was notable for his evasiveness as he went through the apology ritual after he severely beat girlfriend Rihanna -- is back on the violence trail with assertive women. This may cause us to question the value of the traditional redemption process, as well as any anger management classes he attended.

 

The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, March 23, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Chris Brown's Redemption: Thank God Anger Management Works!

I have commented frequently about the usefulness of the ritual cleansing American celebrities - politicians, musicians, and Hollywood stars - undergo after they are found out doing something bad, usually sexual and/or substance-related. One such musical notable, Chris Brown, did something worse - something criminal - by severely beating his girlfriend, Rihanna.

The ritual is this: apologize abjectly, claim to be taking responsibility while actually avoiding-minimizing your actions, enter (or claim to) some form of treatment, allow time to pass - voila - you're back in the high life.

In this mix, Chris Brown was notable for how evasive and non-descript he was in claiming to own up to his offense. In fact, I used him as a model for how to make a televised apology :

  • Avoid details. The image of Brown pounding Rihanna with his fists and choking her are so horrible that Brown never described the beating he delivered his girlfriend. When Larry (King) reviewed some of the details, Brown stared at the table. Most impressive of all, Brown claimed he couldn't recall the beating.
  • Minimize. Although police reported previous beatings he had administered Rihanna, Brown said there were none.
  • Excuse. Brown referred (as before) to his and Rihanna's youth, and described how people get angry in relationships but that he and Rihanna had never been taught ways to resolve conflict. (Brown was sitting next to his mom, who I guess he was accusing of not teaching him not to beat women.)
  • Share the blame. As in the above, make yourself part of a group - youthful men not taught better ways of coping - and gently blame your girlfriend as well.
  • Addictionize. By "addictionize," I mean claim that you weren't in your right mind or able to control yourself - Brown went so far as to say he blacked out.
  • Love, love, love. Always remember - refer to your loved ones. In this case the love object was also the victim, but Brown said he loves Rihanna and could conceivably spend his life with her.

But we never really measure the efficacy of this process, including treatment (Brown surely underwent anger management training). By the time people like Brown resume their careers, we simply assume they have changed, or we forget to care.

Now we have some estimate of the success of this redemption-cum-therapy in Brown's case. Asked by interviewer Robin Roberts on GMA first, what kind of contact he now had with Rihanna, and second how he had changed, Brown effectively stuffed his fingers in his ears and repeatedly screeched, "Album, album, album" - which he was there promoting.

He then went to his dressing room and smashed a window so that glass fell on the ground below the CBS building. Security was called and somehow Brown ended up on the street shirtless. He reportedly also yelled slurs at various CBS staff.

And all this because of some gently-prodding questions by a very proper TV hostess? It is worth noting certain similarities between Rihanna and Roberts. Both are women. Both are black. Both - having had some success in life - are not overly submissive and insist on making their points.

It seems that Brown continues to become enraged when confronted by people with these characteristics.

Perhaps they never got around to dealing with such people in his anger-management sessions.

P.S.  March 24 - It's okay gang - Brown has apologized!

Chris Brown Apologizes for Breaking Window at Good Morning America

Chris Brown formally apologized on BET's 106 & Park Wednesday for throwing a violent fit in his Good Morning America dressing room. After host Robin Roberts inquired about his 2009 arrest for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna during Tuesday's live interview, Brown allegedly went back to his dressing room and smashed a window in a rage. "I want to apologize to anybody who was startled in the office, or anybody who was offended or really looked, and [was] disappointed at my actions," Brown said on the BET broadcast. "Because I'm disappointed in the way I acted." Brown maintained that he thought his appearance on the morning talk show was only to promote his new album F.A.M.E. and "felt like they told [me] this just so they could get [me] on the show to exploit me." ABC News responded by saying there was no agreement that certain topics would be avoided in his interview. Brown went on to say, "I just had to release the anger that I had inside me because I felt like I worked so hard for this music."