I've been considering how etiquette has changed around insincere apologies lately. I think this is an improvement in etiquette but I can't tell.
I think, these days, if you don't believe what you did was wrong, it's better not to apologize. I know people have said this was a rule of etiquette for a while, but they were, demonstrably, lying. Apologies were routinely demanded and extracted from public figures and no punishment was made for their transparent insincerity.
I've been thinking about the most bizarrely insincere apologies, and I think I found the one I want to focus on for an example today: ED Hill's apology after referring to Obama's totally innocuous bro fist on FOX News as a "terrorist fist jab". Now, in context, you'd note she's saying that's one of several names other people use... except if there was a single utterance of those words preceding that program, I've yet to see evidence of it, and seemingly neither has anyone else.
The apology is really something else, and it's worth noting that this was considered to meet her basic obligations enough to allow her to currently work at CNN:
I apologize because unfortunately, some thought I personally had characterized it inappropriately. I regret that. It was not my intention. And I certainly didn't mean to associate the word 'terrorist' in any way with Senator Obama and his wife.
This from the network that, two days prior to the apology, had an on-screen graphic describing Michelle Obama as "Obama's Baby Mama". Because the word "apologize" is not some type of Harry Potter spell that turns me into a moron, I decline to describe this as sincere. "I apologize that some thought I personally had X" is not an apology for anything, and that X is not even the thing people were surprised by. This wasn't an error – it was, at best a fabrication. She wasn't sorry. And she currently works at what I think I can safely describe as a fairly liberal news outlet now.
Somewhat bizarrely, the internet has dramatically expanded the scope of public figures, and (even if people weren't more demanding of public apologies) we were bound to see a tidal wave of new examples, enough to help us tell bad from good from best.
And I think it's clear the people who get the best responses are those who apologize only for the things they're actually sorry for doing or saying, and explain where they're coming from for the rest. This shouldn't be a surprise to any normal person who's been wronged and sought an apology.
The thing I'd like to see more of, if I can be so bold to ask, is a sincerity of forgiveness matching the sincerity of public apology. People seem to quick to judge and blame, and I think we should be just as quick to forgive. I, personally, find such conversations boring, and will just automatically forgive any slight too small to matter. Perhaps everyone is like that and they truly believe the unbelievable nitpicking is necessary. But even then, we're all in this together, and I hope we can open our hearts to each other – usually, but not necessarily, beginning with those in the wrong.