Now that Romney has done his part in the ritual by admitting he said a dumb thing, it might be time for everyone else to make a similar admission: The whole uproar was a dumb thing.

It was a vivid example of the indignation industry that drives the modern political-media culture and makes it more shallow and phony. Virtually everyone who is around politics — as candidate, operative or journalist — is familiar with the taking-umbrage business, as both participant and victim.

On both left and right, the cycle of huffing and puffing over the outrage du jour is now so ingrained in daily life that, like a smoker who lights up without even thinking about it, most people no longer pause to notice that nothing about it is on the level…

One big factor in the umbrage arms race is the widespread, and often accurate, belief that the other side is ready to attack any slip of the tongue.

It used to be that Republicans believed they were picked on especially for gaffes that weren’t “politically correct.” But Steve Schmidt, a Republican operative, said that during the last presidential election cycle in 2008, the indignation industry was working overtime in the Democratic campaign. Bill Clinton was accused of being a racist when he questioned Barack Obama’s readiness, and Obama had to fire an aide who said mean things about Hillary Clinton.