The New York Post issued an angry non-apology for Sean Delonas' monkey cartoon. The New York Times issued a mealy-mouthed non-apology for its winking John McCain(*cough*SEX*cough*)-lobbyist story. Please; it's very important to non-apologize correctly:
- Don't say 'If you were offended...'—Or words to that effect. Which is what the Post did, essentially. People aren't all that smart, but they're smart enough to detect the inherent insincerity in this formulation: "Sorry you're so sensitive."
- Don't let the lawyers write it—Lawyers do nothing but cover your ass (and theirs). Apologies are simply not what they're made for. Vicki Iseman, McCain's lobbyist friend, is now pissed at the Times for issuing a lawyer-crafted note about the story, then immediately crowing to staff that they didn't apologize. So how can you ensure that your non-apology is satisfactory?
- Exhibit a thin, perceptible veneer of contrition—A good non-apology must allow both parties to salvage their own pride. This is done by using insincerity coated in a thin candy shell of contrition. Overly broad words help everyone swallow the thing. "I am sincerely sorry for this incident." Why are you sorry? Doesn't matter! Maybe because the other party is such a chump, who knows. But don't outright imply that, see? "We sincerely regret that this ever happened." You can apply these to any situation, almost!
- Let it be known QUIETLY that you had no reason to apologize—Don't just blast out a note to the whole world mocking your own non-apology as some legalistic bullshit. Just drop that fact very smoothly in the course of conversations with people who you feel should be made to understand that you're not guilty of whatever. You can even wink, in real life, as you do so!
- Both sides must tacitly agree to accept that they won—The recipient of the non-apology is entitled to walk away telling everyone that he was proven right. The giver of the non-apology is entitled not to have their face rubbed in it to the extent that they're tempted to be honest about how fake it was. It's like playing basketball with a child, and graciously letting them win. It's fine as long as they're a good sport. If they start getting too proud of themselves then you have you REJECT them, and then the crying starts, and it's all a big mess. Just learn to get along with your enemies, and save everyone a headache.
We sincerely regret that you had to read this entire post.