Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

The sorry state of the modern apology

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I think I would like to apologise for this article in case someone who reads it takes offence. I will not mean the apology, of course — it will simply be an attempt to get me out of the mess occasioned by own words. It will not get me out of the mess, however, but make things worse, because an apology is an admission of guilt.

This is Type One of the Modern Apology — meaningless and counter-productive, usually something enforced by employers or party bosses, people in charge. A desperate attempt to save one’s skin which always, always, does the reverse. It is usually accompanied by a painful explanation, along the lines of: ‘I deeply apologise for any offence I may have caused. In my tweet last night I had meant to say that Chinese people were “lovely”. Inexplicably I typed the word “ghastly” instead. Anybody who knows me will attest to my total commitment to anti-racism. I have been under great stress recently and am currently wrestling with my demons (will this do, ed?).’

Type Two of the Modern Apology is when somebody important, such as the Prime Minister, says sorry for something that happened a long time ago and for which he bore no responsibility whatsoever. It is then every bit as bogus as Type One and indeed worse, because instead of intending to be self-exculpatory it is a merely a variation of that most au courant of fetishes, virtue-signalling. Tony Blair, for example, apologised for slavery and the Irish famine. Mr Blair did not, so far as I am aware, engage in the traffic of slaves and nor did he eat all of those potatoes. With the Type Two apology, everything is seen through the tyranny of Now — stripped of context and sometimes stripped of all truth.

Boris Johnson is currently being coerced to deliver a Type Two apology.

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