There’s nothing inherently wrong with the phrase “out of an abundance of caution,” but it has a dubious track-record in recent times. It tends not to be altogether sincere.
CBS announced today that they would no longer be posting on Twitter due to an “abundance of caution,” in light of Elon Musk’s takeover of the company. It was a cynical move by CBS which inspired mirth and mockery online. But note that particular wording: “an abundance of caution.”
Recall that during Covid, one heard more and more the phrase “Out of an abundance of caution…” It was usually the beginning of bad news. Something or other was being closed or they would no longer be providing services.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we are closing the gym facilities.”
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have closed the dine-in option, but are still available for takeout.”
This phrase means that an individual or organization is not only being cautious; but frankly, they are probably going overboard, just to make sure that you, the customer, is safe. Your safety is beyond doubt because of this abundance (meaning a big amount) of caution. Cambridge Dictionary defines an abundance of caution as “being extremely careful to avoid a particular risk, even if the risk is small.”
(Cambridge Dictionary definition)
Yet there is often an element of hypocrisy to this phrase. For example, if the gym in an apartment complex is closed, is it really out of an “abundance of caution,” or is it out of an abundance of laziness? After all, now they don’t have to maintain it.
This is my point.
Also, our caution may become so “abundant” that it borders on cowardice. This is not to suggest there wasn’t a real problem. Yet one cannot have 100 percent security in any circumstances. This hankering for complete safety is a trifle unbecoming and frankly unmanly.
Undeniably, the phrase is associated with the annoying Covid restrictions.
CBS Leaves Twitter
CBS explains their petulant decision to stop posting on Twitter:
"In light of the uncertainty around Twitter, and out of an abundance of caution, CBS News is pausing its activity on the social media site as it continues to monitor the platform."
Fox News mocks CBS, stating that they are merely “triggered” by the Musk takeover. The “caution” here is really their own invention. As usual, the phrase is as cynical as could be. What was the “caution” about?
Charles Kessler writes that “an abundance of caution” has gone so far as to threaten our liberties, leading us to search grandmas at airports, not to mention the Covid protocols once again. Other times, such as the case with CBS, it is used as an alibi.
I don’t want to make quite that moral a case, but rather more of an aesthetic distinction. When I hear someone state they acted out of “an abundance of caution,” my ears prick up and then my eyes roll.