First, allow me to apologize in advance if anything in this editor’s letter offends you. Chances are something will, since it seems that a day doesn’t go by without some offended party demanding an apology for some arguably outrageous slur. In Congress, Republicans have been calling on Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson to apologize for saying that the Republican health-care plan essentially comes down to: “Die quickly.” Of course, the Grayson brouhaha was preceded by Democrats demanding that Republican Rep. Joe Wilson apologize for shouting “You lie!” at President Obama. I’m sure some people were genuinely offended by both remarks. But the real point in demanding these apologies is not to actually get one, but to score points in the Outrage Game: Your side is nuttier, and more offensive, than my side.
If you’re worried that our leaders are growing thin-skinned, take heart: The phenomenon is global. In recent days, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the U.S. to apologize to Iran for claiming that its newly revealed nuclear plant is for making bombs. In Canada, native groups demanded that Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologize for saying that Canada “has no history of colonialism.” Nigeria wants an apology from Sony over an ad that jokes that if everything on the Internet were true, “I’d be a Nigerian millionaire by now.” Much of this faux outrage can be dismissed as pandering, but sometimes the eventual apology makes the charade worth it. Former Rep. (and convicted felon) Jim Traficant was once asked to apologize for comparing lawmakers to prostitutes. “I want to apologize,” he said, “to the hookers.”