My book Sorry Not Sorry: The Art of Not Apologizing (right now in German only) is in bookstores as of today, and to pique your interest, I want to show you the structure of non-apologies using three recent examples.
Example 1: #Laschetlacht (#Laschetlaughs)
Armin Laschet, CDU politician and candidate for chancellor in the next federal election, came under fire when he was seen in the background with his staff celebrating and enjoying himself after the severe storms in northern Germany during a TV interview with the German president in which he expressed his concern for the victims of the disaster. Under the hashtag #laschetlacht, Germans were outraged by the chancellor candidate’s lack of decorum.
The situation got so out of control that Laschet had to shimmy from one apology to the next. T-Online quoted him as saying
he regretted “the impression created by a conversational situation.”
“I was on the road all day, there were emotional encounters that also really shook me. And that’s why I’m all the more annoyed about those few seconds,” Laschet regrets his appearance on Sunday evening on WDR
Sorry Not Sorry shows that the word choice of the apology makes it a non-apology. Laschet applies the following artifice:
- 17. Artifice: People are just too sensitive (…some got “the impression”…)
- 6. Artifice: It happened, but for a good reason (…was on the road all day … emotional encounters…)
- 13. Artifice: It happened, but I am the real victim (…I am even more annoyed…)
Example 2: Camel Driver
At Tokyo 2020, the summer Olympics that did not take place until this year because of COVID, the sports director of the Federation of German Cyclists, Patrick Moster, was caught shouting the words “Get the camel drivers!” twice after cyclist Niklas Arndt. By “camel drivers,” Moster had meant the North African competitors ahead of Arndt. This racist gaffe led to an “apology” from Moster shortly afterwards, as reported by the German Die Zeit:
In the heat of the moment “and with the overall load we have here at the moment,” he said he had misspoken.
Moster told dpa afterwards:
“We have many acquaintances ourselves with North African roots, as I said, I’m sorry.”
Again, Sorry Not Sorry shows that the word choice of the apology makes it a non-apology. Moster applies the following artifice:
- 6. Artifice: it happened, but for a good reason (…in the heat of the moment…)
- 14. Artifice: Can’t be at all, because I’m also like that or not (…we have many acquaintances with North African roots ourselves…).
Example 3: Juventus
The Juventus Turin women’s team, on the other hand, attracted attention with a tweet in which one of the players wore a Chinese hat and used her index fingers to make her eyes look like “almond eyes. Such depictions of “slit eyes” are (rightly) seen as racist and discriminatory by Asians, and the outrage was not unexpected and great. Shortly thereafter, the image was removed from the team account and the following “apology” was issued:
“Wir entschuldigen uns aufrichtig dafür, dass unser Tweet, der keine Kontroverse auslösen oder einen rassistischen Unterton haben sollte, jemanden beleidigt haben könnte. Juventus hat sich immer gegen Rassismus und Diskriminierung ausgesprochen.“
The legitimate question that arises is, what purpose, if any, did the posting have, if it was not intended to cause controversy? Anyway, Sorry Not Sorry sees here again the following artifice in action:
- 17. Artifice: People are just too sensitive (…might have offended someone…)
I show exactly how these tricks work, and why we should take a closer look at these excuses, using many examples in the book.
Finally, the table of contents: