Old Shame: Real Life

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  • Jimmy Wales, original owner and co-creator of Wikipedia, originally made money on the Internet with a site for what he calls "glamour photography" (read: softcore porn), now downplayed for obvious reasons.
  • Henry Ford's outspoken anti-Semitism and coziness to the Third Reich is this to the Ford Motor Company and had a noticeable negative effect on the company's public image in the World War II era. Today, however, with Henry's great-grandson and current Ford family scion William Clay Ford, Jr being an outspoken left-wing liberal and general Cloudcuckoolander and current Ford CEO Mark Fields being Jewish, it is a lot easier for the company to distance itself from this legacy.
    • This trope may also apply to Henry himself near the end of this life. It has been reported that after the end of World War II, he watched newsreel footage of the Nazi concentration camps and was absolutely horrified at what he saw, especially knowing that he contributed to the ideology that brought about their existence. Some accounts even state that watching said footage is what triggered the his fatal stroke in 1947.
  • Hotelier Ian Schrager doesn't like talking about his time as co-owner of Studio 54, which was so infamous it landed him and partner Steve Rubell in jail.
    • In fact in the 1998 film '54', a highly fictionalized version of the story of the club, Rubell (played by Mike Myers) is a major character, but Schrager is never seen or mentioned at all.
  • With all the inevitable misfires you get in the automobile industry, it's rare that a company would consider one particular model an Old Shame. However, General Motors does have a few that it openly acknowledges.
    • The Cadillac Cimarron is one of the most notorious examples of badge engineering taken way too far. In 1982, GM basically took their mid-sized J-Car line note  and tried to make a luxury car out of it. The result was an ugly, underpowered mess. While midsize sport sedans like the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes C-Class, and Cadillac's own CTS are a thing nowadays, the Cimmaron was most certainly not one of those — it was a Cavalier that someone had stuck Cadillac trim on, and it looked and handled like it. While every other Caddy since 1914 sported at least a V-6, and the company hadn't had a model with a clutch since the 1950s, the Cimarron had a 4-cylinder engine with 4-speed manual transmission. They also sold it at nearly double the price of any of the rest of its J-Car siblings — despite looking or driving nothing like a Cadillac. The bad rep Cadillac got from the fiasco nearly sank the entire line. According to legend, Cadillac Product Director John Howell had a picture of the Cimarron on a wall with the caption, "Lest we forget." For comparison: This is an '82 Cimarron. This is an '82 Eldorado 2-door, the next smallest Caddy offered.
    • In 1996, General Motors introduced the EV1 electric car, becoming the first major carmaker to mass produce an electric vehicle in the modern era. However, in 2003 the company controversially recalled and crushed every one sold, with the exception of 40 units which were donated to museums and institutes, a decision which is highly debated both then and now. To this day, GM regrets this decision. Then-CEO Rick Wagoner has stated repeatedly that canceling the EV1 program was the worst decision of his tenure, stating, "It didn't affect profitability, but it did affect image." while then R&D chief Larry Burns stated, "We could have had the Chevrolet Volt ten years earlier." Indeed, GM relentlessly pursuing the development of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid was partially intended to atone for this,
      • To expand on Wagoner's remark, the cancellation of the EV1 program was a long-standing PR disaster for GM that the company spent years digging itself out from under. The EV1 admittedly had its problems; it lost lots of money for GM, and the car itself wasn't a practical replacement for gasoline powered cars (it went less than 100 miles on a charge, only seated two people, and couldn't be reliably driven in states with volatile and cold climates such as GM's native state of Michigan). However, GM's failure to continue to develop and refine its alternative fuel technology is generally seen as a blunder in the wake of rising gas prices late in the '00s, the emerging market for electric vehicles that resulted from it, and the billions GM had to spend to start over and develop the Chevrolet Volt, a much more substantial vehicle that seats four, recharges itself, and can be driven in any climate or weather condition. GM's decision to destroy the EV1s during the launch and heavy promotion of the fuel-thirsty Hummer H2 SUV, a PR disaster in itself (which led to open accusations from conspiracy theorists that GM was maliciously trying to sabotage the idea of electric vehicles under pressure from oil companies), was made worse by the concurrent launch of the second-generation Toyota Prius. The Prius was a major commercial success that gave competitor Toyota the image of being a world leader in the development of alternative-fuel vehicles, despite the Prius being significantly less advanced than the EV1 and Toyota itself not possessing technology that could hold a candle to GM's research at the time.

        When GM lobbied for a government bailout in 2008, critics argued that GM had nobody to blame but itself for its current financial crisis and hung the EV1 over its head as an example of how the company made itself uncompetitive by abandoning long-term business strategies in the pursuit of short-term profits. Later summarizing the situation for Time magazine, automotive journalist Dan Neil wrote that, while the EV1 was a money-loser that was "horrifically expensive to build", by crushing them, "[GM's executives] hand[ed] its detractors yet another stick to beat them with. GM, the company that had done more to advance EV technology than any other, became the company that 'killed the electric car.'" On the concurrent launch of the 2003 Hummer H2, Neil wrote, "One struggles to think of a worse vehicle at a worse time. Introduced shortly after 9/11 — an event whose causes were tangled in America's unquenchable thirst for oil — the Hummer H2 sent all the wrong signals....[GM launching and marketing the H2 while it was removing the EV1s from the road] contributed to GM's emerging image as the Dick Cheney of car companies."
  • Bayer, the German pharmaceutical/chemical giant, invented heroin as what they hoped would be a less addictive substitute for morphine. It succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Needless to say, Bayer does not mention this piece of history anywhere they can help it.
  • Just about every modern German corporation that existed through the Nazi period, such as Mercedes-Benz, Siemens, and the aforementioned Bayer, now treat the time period of 1933-1945 as a blank space in their histories and disown just about any contribution they made to the Third Reich. German automaker Volkswagen, which was founded by Hitler himself as part of a Nazi initiative to provide cheap transportation for the entire German population, takes this trope Up to Eleven by erasing the aforementioned from its own history; indeed, the modern story of Volkswagen's founding from the company itself is so ambiguous that it almost suggests the Beetle appeared out of thin air during the British occupation.
    • As shown by this fake ad made by German film students. Mercedes-Benz was not amused.
  • Mercedes-Benz's official museum in Stuttgart now openly admits the company's complicity in the Third Reich and use of forced labour. However, the racing section conspicuously avoids discussion of why they gave up racing in 1955, despite the fact that the Mercedes driver was completely blameless.
  • Coca-Cola's exhibit of its history at its corporate headquarters makes almost no mention of New Coke, nor of the cocaine that featured in the original recipe.
  • As in Germany, every major Japanese corporation that existed during World War II, such as Mitsubishi, aided that Japanese war effort. They also tend to leave this fact out of their official biographies.

  • The Daily Mail would rather forget the fact that it used to be the 1930s fascist leader Oswald Mosley's mouthpiece, but its critics aren't going to let it forget the headline "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" in a hurry.
    • One can only hope for a future in which the Mail comes to feel the same way about its infamous "Abortion hopes rise after 'gay genes" finding" headline.
  • Another British newspaper, the Daily Mirror, also supported the Blackshirt movement for a time in the mid 1930s; notably, both it and the Mail were owned by Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, who was a supporter of Nazi Germany and a known acquaintance of Adolf Hitler. Nowadays, it's a staunchly left-wing, pro-Labour paper that would like to forget its 1930s ownership and editorial stances.
  • In the U.S., The New York Times took a long time to fully own up to how compromised the reporting of Walter Durante, who was friends with Stalin and suppressed news of things like the Ukrainian famine, was during the 1930s.
  • Germany hates the Third Reich more than anyone on the planet. Interestingly, they don't pretend it didn't happen: denying the Holocaust is a serious crime there, and their justice system is merciless to any groups who show even the slightest sign of Neo-Nazism. They will not tolerate the Swastika unless used for educational or artistic purposes. Or by a Jain, as it was their symbol first — and considering they take nonviolence to a rather insane level (the most devout ones don't eat yogurt since it involves eating live bacteria), most German authorities have agreed to let them be.
    • Averted with Japan's ultra-nationalistic right-wingers, who are still less than willing to admit many of their actions in the war such as the Bataan Death March, the Rape of Nanking, or Unit 731. Thankfully, this trope is played straight with Japan's more moderate citizens.
  • Karl Marx wrote about how one form of capitalist economy was the "Asiatic mode of production," where slave-lords (nobles, kings, etc.) use violence to coerce workers into giving them labour. After Josef Stalin realized that this perfectly described the Soviet Union, he called a meeting of Marxist intellectuals to Leningrad in 1931, which was a cover justification for him censoring all of Marx's works to remove any mention of the AMP.
    • Marx in general was quite a Russophobe, mentioning in passing that no Russian could ever become a railroad engineer, which is why his unabridged works weren't generally available in the Soviet libraries.
  • Remember Alabama Governor George Wallace? Remember how he overtly barred black students from entering a previously all-white school until the President himself sent federal marshals to enforce integration? Wallace wasn't too proud of that in later years:
    Wallace: I was wrong. Those days are over and they ought to be over.
    • Many Southern politicians from the Civil Rights era found themselves in this position. Wallace, for his part, was a Magnificent Bastard who had planned on supporting civil rights once he had secured his position in the political hierarchy much as LBJ did as Vice-President and President (as a senator LBJ continually sided with his segregationist colleagues, working to water down the original Civil Rights Act of 1957).
    • Wallace is a special case, as while his stances were definitely an Old Shame, they were made out of political cowardice rather than any deep-felt racism. He actually was even-handed and fair to black defendants who appeared in his courtroom, and only began banging the segregationist drum after his first electoral campaign. He talked of civic improvement and important issues, his opponent was a Klansman who spoke about nothing but race. When he saw his opponent win by a landslide, he made some shameful political calculations.
    • Hazel Bryan, as noted on the Real Life section of Offscreen Inertia, is forever immortalized as a snarling racist in a famous picture depicting desegregation. Years later she has abandoned her racism and befriended her former black enemies, but the picture still causes her to be remembered as a racist.
  • When the conservative magazine National Review launched in 1955, its articles initially argued that segregation was a states'-rights issue that the federal government should just stay out of. The magazine's staff has since admitted that its stance was misguided, even though they still support states' rights in their more benign forms.
  • During President Reagan's first term as governor of California, he signed an abortion bill into law, which he never quite forgave himself for over the rest of his staunchly-conservative life.
    • He also signed the first modern gun-control law, forbidding civilians from carrying guns on city streets,note  something rather at odds with his position on the issue later as president.
    • Reagan also regretted that he played a villain in the last movie he ever starred in: "The Killers". It was also the only time he ever played a villain.
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron apparently feels this way about his support for Section 28 (a rampantly homophobic policy introduced by the Thatcher government). He's since apologised for the harm it caused, and presided over the implementation of marriage equality in the UK despite some rather forceful opposition from his voter base.
  • The United Kingdom media and government both see their treatment of Alan Turing as this. Turing was an instrumental code-breaker of the German naval 'Enigma' code in World War II, and essentially the founder of the entire field of computer science... until he was outed as homosexual, consequentially subjected to criminal prosecution, and sentenced to 'chemical castration' through estrogen injections, leading to his suicide.
  • The United States looks back with shame for the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII. In fact they paid $20,000 in reparations to all survivors and their descendents in 1988.
    • Also, the slavery of Native Americans and Blacks before the 20th century can be seen as a scar and act of hypocrisy in the United States.
    • The interesting thing about this is that nowadays, the notorious former head of the FBI J Edgar Hoover gets a little extra leeway whenever anyone finds out he opposed the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent back during WWII, whereas Franklin Roosevelt's name gets tarnished for being the primary proponent of said internment. Back during WWII, OTOH, the general attitudes of both would've been reversed regarding the situation.
    • There's a reason there aren't many films about the Mexican-American War or the Philippine-American War. In fact, you might be hearing about those wars for the first time here.
      • The Mexican-American War does get some screen time... but mostly because it lets the filmmakers show the generals of the American Civil War when they were young. And in the same army.
  • Canada also has its share of shame for the poor treatment of Japanese-Canadians during WWII which included the forcible deportation of thousands. Shortly after the American compensation package was announced, PM Brian Mulroney announced that the federal government would provide $21,000 in compensation to every surviving person who was interned, would restore citizenship to any internee that was deported, and would donate $12 million to the National Association of Japanese Canadians.
    • Canada also has its share of colonial shame of First Nations people under their rule, which some Native people are quick to point out.
    • During the Cold War, Canada had a secret program called PROFUNC which spied on suspected Communists and Communist-sympathizers. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police developed dossiers on 16,000 Communist party members/supporters and over 50,000 suspected sympathizers including details on their families, exact movements, and pre-filled arrest documents that were kept constantly updated. In the event of war with the Soviet Union (the so-called Mobilization Day), the RCMP would immediately round up everyone on the PROFUNC lists and ship them off to internment camps.
    • Pierre Trudeau invoking the War Measures Act, suspending all civil liberties and instituting martial law, during the October Crisis of 1970 is this for some. In response to the backlash, the WMA was replaced by the Emergencies Act in 1988 (which placed far more limits on government power in emergencies).
  • During the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the whole history of China was lavishly depicted, except the last 100 years, including the 1912 revolution, the rise to power of the (still ruling) Communist Party and the founding of the People's Republic. (Not to mention the Cultural Revolution.) Rather strange, given how these feats were usually celebrated in China.
    • Of course, under pure Maoism, only the last hundred years or so would have been considered worthy of mention given its central tenet of breaking with China's feudal past. Currently, the Chinese Communist Party regards Mao Zedong himself as an Old Shame, acknowledging his central role in the revolution but also admitting that Mao was, in fact, fallible and his teachings not to be taken strictly at face value. The current regime is downplaying Maoism in favor of "Deng Xiaopeng Thought" (embracing the free market, decision-making based upon fact rather than adherence to dogma, and limited social reforms). The 2008 Olympics opening ceremony was probably an official public acknowledgement of the transition. Communist nations are/were notorious for these sorts of historical retcons, and China moreso than most of them.
    • China today has no problem with its feudal past. But it does have the problems with its recent history. You will rarely hear the Cultural Revolution mentioned, much less explained or discussed at length, in contemporary China. But that minimalism pales in comparison to the near-silence about the Tiananmen Square protests ... and how they were put down, regardless of how much the rest of the world knows about it.
  • Pretty much every country in which settlers have abused the natives. There have even been apologies for infecting natives with deadly Eurasian diseases, which for the most part was completely accidental.
    • From Australia we have The Stolen Generations. A more recent shame is that it wasn't until 2008 that the Australian government finally issued a formal apology.
  • The Waco Siege was a dark mark on the FBI's reputation in dealing with hostage situations.
  • Bill Clinton has said he regrets signing DOMA (the "Defense of Marriage Act," which sought to outlaw any US recognition of gay marriage), and before it was repealed by the Supreme Court, he said he wanted Barack Obama to repeal it. Congressman Bob Barr (who briefly joined the Libertarian Party before going back to the Republicans) has also renounced his support for DOMA (he was one of its Congressional co-sponsors).
    • Bill Clinton also apologized publicly for the agricultural policies he supported as president that led to economic disaster in Haiti.
    • Bill Clinton has also since regretted the international response to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, admitting that more should have been done to end the violence known to have been unfolding.
    • He also regrets repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, which helped trigger the 2008 recession.
  • George W. Bush sees his 2003 "Mission Accomplished" speech as this, which came mere weeks after he had authorized the military occupation of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein and cripple his alleged weapons of mass destruction. Standing on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declaring major combat operations in Iraq to be over beneath a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished", war critics quickly capitalized on the implications of the speech as Iraq fell into civil war, costing hundreds of thousands of lives in the following decade; Bush has since insisted that the banner was meant for the sailors of said aircraft carrier and regrets the the message it instead came to convey.
  • Russia's bad history of anti-Semitism from the tsarist regime, to the Soviet Union, and even The New Russia note  can fall into this category and is a problematic issue in modern Russia. Even Vladimir Putin took a strong stance against antisemitism and called out on Russia's bad history of it.
  • One of Nikita Khrushchev's first acts after seizing power was denouncing Stalin as, well, a brutal, paranoid tyrant... who Khrushchev along with every other Soviet who wished to remain alive and out of a gulag enthusiastically supported during his 30 years-long rule. The speech also caused a riff in the Communist world, since at that time China and Albania still liked Stalin.

  • The Atlanta Spirit Group considers the Atlanta Thrashers (now the second generation Winnipeg Jets) an embarrassment, removing all references to the team, including the team's lone divisional championship banner and a mural from when the team hosted the 2008 All-Star Game, from Philips Arena. The team would have been less of a joke if the group spent more money operating the team rather than being involved in a 5-year internal legal battle.
  • The Baltimore Orioles Major League Baseball team began playing in 1954. The club doesn't like to admit they actually date back to 1894 as the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1902 they moved to become the St. Louis Browns and played there for 52 years before being sold and moved to Baltimore. Not only did the Orioles change the team's name, but just to further distance themselves from the Browns traded seventeen players to the Yankees. The Orioles acknowledge none of their records from St. Louis, nor do they recognize any of their players from prior to 1954, leaving the former in-town rival Cardinals to honor greats like George Sisler.
    • To further confuse the issue, there was a team playing in Baltimore as the Orioles in 1901 and 1902. They moved to New York in 1903 and are now known as the New York Yankees.
  • During a football (soccer) game between Denmark and Sweden, a man ran in and tried to punch the referee in the face. The referee was understadably pissed, but it caused Denmark to be disqualified. It's not old shame for Denmark, but old shame for the man, who did the deed.
  • Former Oklahoma Sooners and Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth is ashamed of most of his antics during his college years, such as the infamous incident where he wore a t-shirt that read "National Communists Against Athletes" during the 1987 Orange Bowl. However, he especially regrets publishing his autobiography "The Boz", believing that it resulted in the NCAA investigation that ruined Oklahoma's program and destroyed head coach Barry Switzer's career.
  • NBA star Steve Nash is ashamed of a famous picture from his Dallas Mavericks days (though he thanks that unlike Dirk Nowitzki, "it wasn’t me on someone’s back.").
  • The "home run derby" era of the late 1990s and early 2000s saw baseball rise to heights of popularity not seen in decades, with sluggers like Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa becoming superstars almost as big as Michael Jordan. Then it was discovered that most of those guys were doped up to their eyeballs, and a series of exposes and Congressional investigations devastated the sport's reputation. Nowadays, Major League Baseball and American baseball fans rank that time next to such moments as the Black Sox scandal as one of the most disgraceful episodes in baseball history.
  • In 2004, during a game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees at Fenway Park, Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees was hit by a pitch and began berating the pitcher. Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek stepped in to defend the pitcher, and ended up shoving his glove into A-Rod's face, sparking an enormous bench-clearing brawl. Although the incident is considered the turning point for the Red Sox in what would become their first championship season in 86 years, Varitek still refuses to sign copies of the iconic photo.
    Jason Varitek: He started yelling at my pitcher. I knew Bronson [Arroyo, the Red Sox pitcher] didn't hit him intentionally. I told him to get to first base. He yelled back at me, said the F-word a few times, and "Come on", and it eventually came on.

  • Jay Leno occasionally invokes this on his actor guests. All in good fun, of course.
    • Jay has his own Old Shame, Collision Course, a buddy cop movie he did with Pat Morita in the 1980s that he's described as being "a horrible movie".
  • The BBC used to show, among other programmes, the hugely racist Black and White Minstrel Show. Up until 1978. Needless to say, the corporation regrets its attitudes now.
  • <blink>. Lou Montulli issued an apology for accidentally creating the beast, which was left in as an Easter Egg that everybody loved to use. While Opera's the only browser outside the Netscape line to implement the tag, CSS would introduce a standardized alternative - with the caveat that browsers didn't actually have to implement it (most just quietly throw it away); another web standard requires an option to disable blinking (which Firefox buries in about:config).
    • Among old-time hackers, there's only one accepted use for the blink tag: Schrodinger's Cat is <blink>NOT</blink> dead.
  • The Nobel commitee tries to gloss over the fact that they gave the award for Medicine to António Egas Moniz in 1949. They frequently invoke Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness when mentioning he won for discovering "the therapeutic value of leucotomy." To translate: He invented the lobotomy.
    • He also invented one of the world's first brain imaging techniques so that is usually highlighted instead.
    • Made worse by the fact that the prize was his primary motive – his lack of a Nobel had become a source of anxiety to him as his career and years had advanced. After he read the paper on the effects of damage to various parts of the frontal lobes, and realized that it would be possible to duplicate some of these effects deliberately, one of the first thoughts to hit him was "This could get me my Nobel!" He had some specimen brains sent up to his office immediately, so that he could start working out the best way to slice them up.
  • The medical community internationally has some problems with the work done by, uh, certain German and Austrian doctors during the '30s and early '40s. Anatomist Hermann Stieve, for instance, did some groundbreaking work on the female reproductive system and how it responds to stress, among other things demonstrating that the rhythm method is inherently unreliable ... but he got this information by dissecting the bodies of executed political prisoners. Eduard Pernkopf's anatomical atlas is an artistic accomplishment and useful reference ... but it may have been based on the work of executed prisoners, some of them perhaps inmates at concentration camps (and he was an ardent Nazi as well).
  • In a more general example, E-Mail addresses. Many of us on the Internet started using it at young ages (it's getting more accentuated over time), where we thought it would be cool to fool around with random words, references to favourite series/movies and/or vulgarity. Then, flashfoward some years, doing a college or job application, if you didn't bother to change to a less immature one while the efforts needed wouldn't be too much, then it's too late.
  • The Y2K Scare. Particularly those who made apocalyptic omens, and those who thought every electric device was going to explode.
  • December 21, 2012 (the end of the Mayan calendar), for anyone who predicted it would be the end of the world. Especially those who went "all-in": Built a bunker, stocked up on food and weapons, sold almost everything that wasn't vital for survival... Not to mention the deluge of other alleged apocalypses during history. (Point: The world still exists.) If you wanted to compile a list of shamed prophets and untrue prophecies, you'd need a whole new website.
  • People that adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet may look on their life beforehand this way. Conversely, people who took up these diets and found them impractical can view these diets in such a manner also.
  • You've never been a huge fan of anything that's now considered Deader Than Disco, have you?
  • Likely averted with Albert Einstein and his famous quote about introducing the cosmological constant being his biggest blundernote