Friday, June 25, 2010

A short note on staged apologies 

I've never once "demanded" or even gently requested an apology from somebody who has, possibly, offended my dignity in some respect. I very much appreciate an apology freely given, but if none is forthcoming sua sponte then I am not interested. Worse, a demand for an apology is itself inherently false: It is rarely a genuine attempt to bury the hatchet, and usually intended, consciously or otherwise, as an escalation of the conflict. This business of demanding apologies is "honor culture" bullshit, and I do not traffic in it. You want to live that way, move to the Middle East.

Not surprisingly, I deplore as irredeemably tedious the staged, forced, or career-groveling apologies from public figures who have said something mean-spirited, sarcastic, candid, or un-PC. Who needs or wants an apology? I'd much prefer a moment of self-recognition along the lines of "I'm a moron to have [insert "flapped my gums," "insulted that powerful dude or constituency," "given voice to my actual opinions" or -- the Eliot Spitzer version -- "bought sex"]." We all do stupid things. The question is whether you know you do stupid things and whether you are brave enough to acknowledge that to yourself, much less the general public. Or are you the sort of person who believes that being "tired, angry, and hyperbolic" is exculpatory?

I mean, why do I notionally hide behind a nom de plume? I write stupid things, that's why!

Anyway, with that in mind go off and read David Weigel's laughable non-apology apology and Tom Maguire's response thereto. They are both funny, in the laugh-at and laugh-with senses, respectively.

And if either of them gets it in mind to "demand" an apology from me, screw 'em. I'll meet them both outside.


By Blogger Stack Trace, at Fri Jun 25, 11:17:00 AM:

My favorite public apologies are the "I'm sorry I got caught doing [X]" as well as the "I'm sorry you're offended that [X]."

Both are basically non-apologies, always said through clenched teeth, and about as sincere as crocodile tears.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Fri Jun 25, 12:37:00 PM:

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for the way my words have been taken. When I spoke, I was unaware that anyone could interpret them in a way that could be considered offensive, but now I am aware of the certain groups that were offended, and I know better. Regardless of the truth of my previous statement, it does appear that these groups have become offended at these words, and for this I would like to extend my complete and total apology to the people at large. And I say with the deepest sincerity I hope this apology will help us put this whole sordid affair behind us, and we can move forward.

Yeah, public spokesman I’m not. I’d have a very short career, ending in fire.  

By Blogger Ray, at Fri Jun 25, 01:08:00 PM:

Heh. Don't think of them as apologies in the usual "I really am sorry" point. Think of them as exercises in public theater and humiliation for somebody involved :)  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Fri Jun 25, 03:09:00 PM:

My non-apology was so lame, even the New York Times has better. And Conrad Black. Even Ehow has an article on how to write one. Or you could look one up in the excellent book by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). Heck, even the Pope has one (from Wikipedia) Pope Benedict XVI expressed regret for the reaction to his comments, and a statement from the Vatican indicated that he "sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions".

I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better next post.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Fri Jun 25, 10:34:00 PM:

As Eleanor Roosevelt said: "No One can make you feel inferior without your consent".

People who are "highly-offendable" are usually that way because they recognize, down deep, they are REALLY inadequate.

Personally, I am proud to be essentially unoffendable. If you act like an ass around me, I will smile and move on, leaving you alone and ass-like.  

By Blogger Noumenon, at Mon Jun 28, 08:37:00 PM:

notionally hide behind a nom de plume

I have no idea who you are or where you work, FWIW.  

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