The McNeil note to Times staff follows the pattern of other such apologies over the last year. We are a long way from the rote “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” apologies of yore, and a long way from “I wish in retrospect I had put that differently” apologies that might make sense, if warranted.
A routine feature of over-the-top apologies is the vast gap between the alleged offense and the depths of the confessions of wrongdoing. The tone and content of many contemporary apologies might be appropriate if, say, Aaron Burr were expressing regret for shooting Alexander Hamilton, or if Andrew Jackson were coming to terms with the enormity of the Trail of Tears.
Instead, we are talking about peccadilloes or non-offenses like McNeil’s using an offensive racial term in a conversation with students after one of them asked whether he thought it was right for a classmate to be punished for using the term as a twelve-year-old.
There is definitely an art to humiliating woke apologies, common patterns that appear across these attempts to appease the gods of taking offense.