One thing we’ve learned from the current crop of leaders: there is no value in a public apology. We’ve learned this just as the need for such apologies is on the rise. Not because we’ve changed our standards, but because, as my dear wife has noted, we’ve started, in some places, and a few cases, to apply the standards we always pretended to have. In some places. And precious few cases.
Some cases require no apologies, because those involved are such irredeemable shitbags that there is no need to read. We know their apologies are lies.
But what about the other cases, where we are unsure: is it even possible to publicly apologize? And why bother, when a lie or brutish contempt seems, pragmatically speaking, to accomplish more? Those who have decided for you need no apology, and those that have decided against you will discount whatever you say.
Out of habit or honour, or miscalculation, people continue to apologize. And our response is, as usual, more interesting than the thing itself.
I’ve been quite taken with the arrival of what seems to be a new genre, or set of micro-genres: apology analyses. They flourish every time an apology is issued. The text of the apology is scoured, edited, dissected. In some cases this is quite literal: the apology is edited, re-written, sections crossed out and critiqued in a digital red pen. The apology analysis is often entitled: “There I fixed it for you”. This whimsical pedantry is supposed to be funny and critical at the same time, the author/editor denigrating the apologist while improving thier work. In another version, slightly more serious, we are treated to a list of things the apology should have done (X should have mentioned the victims by name, have not made it about him/herself, etc etc). But in both, the analyst takes the role of a teacher—the last authority the internet will recognize—correcting the work of a bad student.
Apology analysis takes several forms, some better, some worse, but all share the belief that there is a proper way to apologize. I doubt this.
What would a good apology look like? A perfect apology, one that followed all the rules the correctors are correcting for, would look like a lie. I mean, it probably would be a lie, something crafted by a bunch of PR pricks (in this case outsourced: the corrective cloud). It would properly acknowledge the wrongdoing, recognize the other, the rules, express regret not about intention, but action, propose restitution, insinuate the need for growth which did not exploit the wronged party, and would be 100% bullshit.
So, how to apologize? And how to evaluate them, without cultivating a better breed of liars?