Sorry Situation

Why even the worst fauxpologies still do the world good

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That last point, unfortunately, is not lost on partisans and advocates, who now collect sorries from their adversaries for lapses--real, imagined or trumped up--like battlefield trophies. But here too the disingenuous apology does a service. It's a pressure valve: it allows a sentence short of summary firing for every hasty tweet or nutty interview, lest we cull the world of every last intemperate but interesting personality.

I realize that arguing in favor of insincerity is morally unsatisfying. It encourages cynicism and opportunistic outrage; it makes a farce of every time I've told my kids they needed not just to say sorry but also to mean it. Guilty, guilty, guilty: the phony apology is an imperfect solution for an imperfect world. If I'm settling for too little, if I'm defining contrition down, I apologize. Though not necessarily to you.

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