Whatever happened to apologies in public life? Rare is the day we actually see an apology – a true, honest to goodness apology. All we get are fauxpologies. Wikipedia calls these non-apology apologies:
A non-apology apology is a statement that has the form of an apology but does not express the expected contrition. It is common in both politics and public relations. It most commonly entails the speaker saying that he or she is sorry for for a behaviour, statement or misdeed, but is sorry only because a person who has been aggrieved is requesting the apology…
I think “non-apology apology” is too wishy-washy. Fauxpology is more accurate – it’s a fake apology. It’s not a real apology at all. It’s someone saying:
- I’m sorry if my statement caused some people to feel distress;
- I apologise if you felt wronged by my actions;
- I regret my words were misinterpreted.
They’re not sorry, they don’t apologise, and they certainly don’t feel an ounce of regret. In every case, they make the recipient of the fauxpology to be the person at fault.
Why did we get to the point where we’re so accepting of fauxpologies in public life? A fauxpology isn’t in any way respectful – quite the opposite, in fact. It’s the linguistic equivalent of someone punching you in the mouth then smiling and helping you dust yourself off when you get up.
Whether fauxpologies originated from people who didn’t believe what they were saying, or from companies seeking to absolve themselves of misdeed without accepting liability, they’re spread like a memetic virus through so much of our lives we barely blink in the face of a fauxpology any longer.
We deserve better than that.