Coping with Apology Fatigue

Bill Maher is tired of all the sorries. Today in the New York Times Op-Ed section he makes a humble request: "Please Stop Apologizing." It does seem to be getting out of hand.

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Bill Maher is tired of all the sorries. Today in the New York Times Op-Ed section he makes a humble request: "Please Stop Apologizing." It does seem to be getting out of hand. Maher is referring most recently to Robert De Niro-gate, in which De Niro made a racially imbued joke about first ladies (Specifically: “Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?”) and people got offended. The current first lady's press secretary said the joke was not exactly appropriate, and De Niro said sorry. Interestingly, Newt Gingrich, who seems to have dubbed himself the Mr. Manners of apologies (recently he said it was "right" for Rush Limbaugh to apologize to Sandra Fluke) said that De Niro should apologize. But we've seen this series play out over and over again with different offenses and different perpetrators. Remember Rainn Wilson's rape joke? Roland Martin's "apology tour"? ESPN and the "Chink in the Armor" incident? Foster Friess's aspirin quip? Bill Maher himself has certainly been involved in some apologies...for one, he suggested that we should all accept Limbaugh's.

In his op-ed, Maher asks,

When did we get it in our heads that we have the right to never hear anything we don’t like? In the last year, we’ve been shocked and appalled by the unbelievable insensitivity of Nike shoes, the Fighting Sioux, Hank Williams Jr., Cee Lo Green, Ashton Kutcher, Tracy Morgan, Don Imus, Kirk Cameron, Gilbert Gottfried, the Super Bowl halftime show and the ESPN guys who used the wrong cliché for Jeremy Lin after everyone else used all the others. Who can keep up?

This is true. The apology is in grave danger of becoming positively meaningless, though not so meaningless that an Op-Ed capitalizing on its endangerment is not timely. And in many ways, as we've mentioned before, the Internet is to blame for all this. In no prior time has it been so rapid and easy to offend widely, be publicly censured, and have to offer up some sad sack "oops, my bad." It's our ritualistic sacrifice of modern times. But as we mentioned back in the days of the Rainn Wilson offense-and-apology, we lose some things when we're always PC-policing. Like, actually being funny. And creative. And the meaning of sorry. At the rate this is going we may have to start sending fruit baskets along with our words. [Ed: What? We hate fruit baskets. Apology demanded.] To combat the neverending cycle, Maher asks to make Sunday a day in which we simply can't be outraged. But that's akin to shutting down the entire Internet which thrives on this stuff. It's doubtful it will happen, because, if we face it, we are NOT sorry about demanding apologies from people who make us mad. We aren't. Sorry.

This is all a wee bit tongue-and-cheek, of course, coming from Maher, who manages in his last graph to offend Canada and poor old Mitt Romney:

I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada. That’s not us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, we’ll end up with political candidates who never say anything but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes and cant. In other words, we’ll get Mitt Romney.

Sorry not sorry, we hope he'd say, if pressured to do something about it.

Image by Shutterstock via MR_MW.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.