Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Nonapology Apology

Typically when a local politician is rebuked for saying something that is deeply offensive, stupid or wrong, he or she would issue the non-apology apology. The non-apology apology is the means by which an offender can express his or her deep regret or profound sorrow for the hurt which the offended feels without blaming him or herself. Our Congress man or woman, senator, and president can do no long, lest his or her opponent hold that against them when he or she runs for a re-election.

I believe the non-apology apology has no place in our political discourse. The person, persons or organization which is accused of wrongdoing either committed an offensive act or he/she/it/they did not. But as long as it remains a part of our political discourse we should at the very least expect our news organizations to hold themselves up to a higher standard. We expect "straight talk" from them. News editors and reporters make their livelihood around getting the facts.

Tonight, the editorial writers at The New York Post, a conservative news tabloid headquartered in New York City, issued its own non-apology apology. They apologized to those who were offended by a political cartoon which as two policemen who, after shooting a chimpanzee, say another person will need to write the next stimulus bill. "It has been taken" (that is, by those who saw it) "as a depiction of President Obama).

In other words, the writers would have us believe they did nothing wrong. Those who saw the cartoon in the paper believed the worst even if it wasn't warranted. This seems like a disingenuous evasion for the caption specifically refers to a person writing the stimulus bill not the stimulus bill itself. Someone else, the cop says, must be found to write the next stimulus bill. Nowhere in the non-apology apology is there a profound expression of regret for publishing something deeply offensive. Nowhere is there an acknowledgment that they were being racially insensitive.

Worse, the non-apology apology doesn't even sound like an apology. I can't help but think that it was meant to be read aloud in a defiant tone. It is so curt, so vehement in its denial and so full of defiance to be read as an apology. Included within it is a caveat. Those who are trying to bring the paper down, those who are trying to score some political points off of this bad publicity do not get an apology.

If the writers at the editorial board couldn't write a sincere apology, they shouldn't have wasted their ink, time or print writing one at all.

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