January 11, 2016

Is an Insincere Apology Worth Anything?

Sorry in  Sydney, Australia -sky writing, National Apology Day , National Sorry Day 2015 "such unthinkable theft"

During a recent Donald Trump rally in South Carolina, a Muslim woman was escorted out after she engaged in an act of silent protest. Following the incident, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is asking Mr. Trump for an apology.
Donald Trump should issue a public apology to the Muslim woman kicked out of his rally and make a clear statement that American Muslims are welcome as fellow citizens and as participants in the nation’s political process.
Seems like a perfectly reasonable request to me. I just have one question about it. Does the organization making the request believe that Mr. Trump thinks the event staff did anything wrong by escorting the woman out of the event and/or that American Muslims are welcome at his rallies? Does it matter what he thinks?

Obviously, what I am getting at is the question contained in the title of this post. Does it make any difference to us if the apology we receive is genuine vs. insincere? Suppose for a moment that Mr. Trump does not believe that the event staff did anything wrong by escorting the woman out and that he'd gladly have them do so again. I am not claiming that this is what he believes, but it does not strike me as terribly far-fetched that he might believe this. If he did believe this and were to apologize anyway, would his apology have any value at all?

Apologies were demanded of Donald Trump back in July after he made disparaging comments about Sen. John McCain, and I made a similar point at the time.
Social media has been filled with people howling that Trump should apologize for his comments about McCain. Why? If he said what he believes, why should we seek an apology? If he genuinely believes what he said about McCain, wouldn't an apology be a lie? Why would we demand that he begin lying to us now? I'd rather he continues to say what he really believes.
I question the value of an insincere apology, and I do not understand the reasoning behind demanding what seems likely to be one. I would not want an apology from someone who did not believe he or she had any reason to apologize. If I were to receive one after I had demanded it, I'd have no choice but to conclude that I had successfully cajoled the other party into lying to me. Why is that a good thing?

If you want to argue that Mr. Trump should apologize for anything of these things because he should be sorry for them, I can respect that. You wish he'd be more like you, and that is understandable. But unless he really is sorry for them, why do we keep demanding apologies?

Photo credit: butupa (Creative Commons)