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The Art of The Fake Apology

I am Sorry that You're an Idiot

I am Sorry that You're an Idiot

That’s F-Minus on fake apologies. Click the image for a full-sized version. Original here.

For several “perfect” non-apologetic apologies, read this Bruce McCall piece. Here is just one:

Nobody is sorrier than me that the police officer had to spend his valuable time writing out a parking ticket on my car. Though from my personal standpoint I know for a certainty that the meter had not yet expired, please accept my expression of deep regret at this unfortunate incident. It is hoped that your dismissal of this ticket will mark both an end and a new beginning for both parties, marked by a mutual resolve to avoid such regrettable situations in future. [NYT]

Timely as always, Cracked has a line-up of 6 most insincere apologies of all-time. And there is a great article on False Apology Syndrome by Theodore Dalrymple as well.

By now, you can see a pattern emerging: never say you are sorry for what you did. Never take responsibility for your actions because that’s just nuts! Always feel sorry for what happened. Bonus points for off-topic rambling. It is like apologizing for being caught rather than for stealing, while talking about the poor quality of health-care and the hardships being faced by farmers.

However, it takes effort to get it right. If you just lay it down straightaway in black-and-white phrases (I am sorry that my views were misunderstood), it is quite likely that you will be booed even more than before. It is better to go for statements that are more vague (I am sorry for everything that has transpired since the publication of my article) and then segue into other issues. Your first sentence should typically be an “I am sorry” statement. You could then talk about, say, rising intolerance, then take it to freedom of speech, and after that you can fly it virtually anywhere (see if you can work in some angle on terrorism). You don’t, of course, have to actually feel sorry even about the things you just said you were sorry for.

And though you get bonus points for off-topic commentary, you should try to explore something tangential. If you are accused of being racist, feel free to examine the history of race relations in your country. If accused of financial fraud, talk about Black Swans and quote Nouriel ‘Dr. Doom’ Roubini. You get the idea.

Best of luck with your future apologies.

Note: I am sorry if this post was too long or too complicated for you to comprehend it all at one go. I often find it hard to de-intellectualize my posts, or to shorten them so that they can be grasped by just about anybody. The internet has given ADHD to all of us, and there are far too many links for every little thing. This culture of distraction has naturally led to a cyberspace dominated by websites that provide us with instant, vapid soundbytes. And it is doing us no good.

Pro-tip: These days, regardless of which country you are in and what you are accused of, it is a good idea to quote something from Obama’s speeches. Even a mention of his name can lead to a remarkable softening in people’s attitudes towards you.

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