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Unacceptable apologies

With the latest hysteria over the Mohammed cartoons and the Muslim world's demands that Denmark apologize, I've been thinking about the nature of apologies.

It's a strange form of integrity, I know, but I tend to think a lot of and about apologies. And I have come to some conclusions.

1) An apology should indicate that the action taken was actually wrong in some way.

2) An apology should only be offered if the apologizer was in some way responsible for the offending action.

3) An apology should indicate a measure of remorse for the offending action.

4) An apology should imply that actions will be taken to prevent the offending action from recurring.

Let me cite a few examples:

First, I once accepted an apology I should have refused. Once, in a rather lengthy essay, I made a careless mistake that insulted a lot of people -- including several readers, who called me on it. I realized just how badly I messed up, and made a second posting apologizing for it. Those readers gracefully accepted my apology, but Allen Yackey went too far.

He apologized to me for interpreting my remarks as an insult.

I should have refused his apology, because he did nothing wrong. His interpretation of what I wrote was dead-on accurate -- the problem was not in his reading, but in my writing. Allen, I hope you read this, because you were right in the first place, and had no business apologizing for being right.

Second, the one offering the apology should be in some way responsible for the initial offense. For example, the frequent calls for President Bush or the government to apologize for slavery.

There is not a single person alive today who was alive when slavery was legal in the United States. It's been outlawed for nearly one and a half centuries.

Finally, an apology should involve both remorse for the action, and implications that steps will be taken to keep it from happening again. If I step on your foot, my apology is saying that I should have been more careful, and will be in the future. But if I bull my way through a crowd, muttering "sorry" with every elbow I toss, that's worse than saying nothing. It's saying that I do know what I'm doing is wrong, but I don't care.

To take this from the personal to the global: a lot of Muslims are demanding apologies from the governments of Denmark, and now Germany and France, for the publication of those dozen cartoons of Mohammed. Those governments should not apologize, as none of the criteria above are met:

1) The cartoons were initially published to symbolize the dangers of self-censorship and fear of mob rule. As such, they have made their point admirably.

2) The respective governments had absolutely no responsibility for the publication of those cartoons, and had absolutely no right to prevent them -- or sanction the publishers after the fact. All three nations have laws protecting the rights of free speech and freedom of the press, and what the publishers did was absolutely not illegal in any way.

3) The governments in question should have no remorse for the publication. Remorse would imply that they regretted permitting the publication, and that would be a betrayal of those aforementioned rights.

4) Finally, the governments should have no intention whatsoever of preventing further publication of offensive cartoons. To do so would be to foreswear some of the most critical rights of free people, and any government that would compromise in the face of threats of violence such important principles has no business calling itself the representatives of a free nation.


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Comments (16)

The worst sort of apology:<... (Below threshold)

The worst sort of apology:

"I'm sorry you misunderstood what I said (or did) and were offended . . ."

Translation: "You're one sorry idiot."

Absolutely. I am tired of ... (Below threshold)

Absolutely. I am tired of seeing people on TV saying "I apologize if my actions offended anyone". That's not an apology - how about trying "I apologize for engaging in (or saying, etc.) offensive things". That "if I offended anyone" automatically signals a complete lack of sincerity.

You're not married, are you... (Below threshold)
Cautiously Pessimistic:

You're not married, are you? :)

Seriously, dude, apologize to her. It doesn't mean anything to you, and makes her feel better. Everybody wins.

I apologize for not being a... (Below threshold)
Lew Clark:

I apologize for not being able to come up with anything that adds anything to this discussion. And I mean it! I'm not just saying it!

Amazing, when you actually ... (Below threshold)

Amazing, when you actually look at words and their meaning and use them in context, ideas become very clear indeed!

I'm sorry, I wasn't paying ... (Below threshold)

I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention. Did you say they demand an apology? Well, I'm sorry if they're offended...

Not to take away from your ... (Below threshold)

Not to take away from your "rules" to an apology, which are excellent, I'd like to offer one caveat:

We could, and should as Caustiously Pessimistic implies, say we're sorry to someone who was offended/hurt even if we had no involvement.

Thi really wouldn't be an apology, as much as offering our empathy and so forth to the person who has been hurt.

But so many people hear the word "sorry" and equate it with an "apology".

I heard this one this morni... (Below threshold)

I heard this one this morning from a group of Seattle Muslims:

"We're sorry that The Stranger (a local weekly rag) chose to print those cartoons..."

Read: We'll be hucking Molotov cocktails at your offices shortly...

I regret that I've apparent... (Below threshold)

I regret that I've apparently got nothing to apologize for in this thread. It means I haven't been trying.

Any apology offered to thes... (Below threshold)

Any apology offered to these utter fanatics would simply fall on deaf ears. It's not exactly what they want to hear - but it's a good start.
They don't give a sh*t whether we're sorry or not. They are simply exploiting this situation just like they conveniently exploit everything else where they can make excuses for all their intimidation tactics, threats, murders and self-defeating tantrums.
They are loving every minute of this as it gives their sorry, pathetic, empty and repressed lives a mediocre, retarded and self-ritgheous sense of purpose and reinforces their blind hatred for all that which is not Islamic.
Don't waste a fraction of good intentions or conscience on these hypocritical, childish barbarians.
They deserve only to get in return what they give.
I will never submit to dhimmitude - which is what an apology to them would be.

Maybe the best "apology" re... (Below threshold)

Maybe the best "apology" really is,

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

Some Things Never Change</p... (Below threshold)

Some Things Never Change

The following is an excerpt from a story that Robert E. Howard wrote about 1932:

"Hassim, Kane ruminated, was the very symbol of militant. Islam -- bold, reckless, materialistic, sparing nothing, fearing nothing, as sure of his own destiny and as contemptuous of the rights of others as the most powerful Western king."

Says it all, doesn't it?

I'm just sorry.... (Below threshold)

I'm just sorry.

Whenever you use the name o... (Below threshold)

Whenever you use the name of the great prophet Mohammed, you must also add a blessing. As so:

Muhammed (Piss be upon him)
Mohammed (May he rot in Hell)
Mahammed (Last one to the virgins is a rutting pig)

Oh, and never use his name in a spelling bee. Bad karma.

"Lord, I apologize for that . . ."

Regarding the Muhammad cart... (Below threshold)

Regarding the Muhammad cartoons controversy; I think the GOOD MEDICINE religious cartoons are MUCH funnier! See what I mean; http://goodmedicinecartoons.tripod.com/id3.html

I'm personally much more ap... (Below threshold)

I'm personally much more apt to angle for the "get over it" brand of apology when a group collectively chooses to be offended.

And I do share some of the sentiment here regarding the "I apologize if you were offended" remarks.

But apologies overall have become grossly overrated. Everyone demands an apology for everything, it seems, and when an apology is issued, it never seems to quell the unrest. To hell with all the games. If you mean something, say it and don't back down. If you don't mean something, don't say it. And most of all, don't feel it necessary to offer an apology to soothe the feelings of the perpetually offended.

It all comes down to, if you can't in good conscience substitute "I f***ed up" for "I apologize", just keep your mouth shut. If you feel that the two statements are truly interchangeable, issue a genuine apology, using the guidelines in this original post: admit fault by addressing particular actions, make the apology, and don't repeat the offense.

I don't apologize for much, and I never say "I'm sorry." If that offends you, get over it.






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