How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes

I’d like to issue a sincere apology. It’s the thing to do these days — everyone’s sorry for something. For example, Benedict Cumberbatch apologized recently after he had the gall to advocate for minorities in show business. His great crime was using the unacceptably outdated term “colored actors” instead of the utterly unrelated and vastly dissimilar approved phrase “people of color.” For this unpardonable sin (formerly known in less enlightened cultures as a “slip of the tongue”), Cumberbatch was rightly commanded to abase himself at the stern and glorious altar of public opinion.

But Cumberbatch obviously isn’t the first — apologizing is so hot right now. It’s practically a spectator sport. Jonah Hill, Alec Baldwin, Christian Bale — they’re all buying into the craze. That many glamorous people can’t possibly all be wrong, so today I’d like to get in on the fun. I’d like to say that I’m really, really sorry.

But the thing is, not all apologies are created equal. You can’t just bat your eyes insincerely and put on your poutiest face. That is certainly not what being a celebrity is all about! No, to really apologize with the big dogs, you have to get down on your knees and beg for mercy. Luckily, The Atlantic is here to help: when Cumberbatch performed his act of penance, Atlantic staffers took the opportunity to enlighten us about how to really repent at the feet of the American press. So I’m going to use the Atlantic’s doctrine to make sure I get my own apology right. After all, Our Journalistic Overlords know best (peace be unto them).

For one thing, when I’m apologizing, I won’t dare suggest that the media goons howling for my blood over a transitory non-issue might be the tiniest bit hyper-sensitive. “Implying that anyone who took issue . . . was overly touchy” is just another way of trying to weasel out of taking responsibility for your filthy, reprehensible crime, explains The Atlantic. Saying “I’m sorry if you were offended” implies that the Left might not have every right to be outraged at your despicable bigotry. After all, it’s your fault if people are ripping you to shreds for using a term that is literally in the name of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. You’re the one who had the audacity to be white and say words.

And I definitely won’t “walk into the chagrinned-white-person trope of referencing [my] non-white ‘friends’” when I make my apology. I wouldn’t be caught dead trying to pretend that routinely being kind to people of other races in any way excuses me from the charge of virulent racism. What a laughable idea! Obviously loving your neighbor is nowhere near as important as using the precise terminology that our Great Thought Masters deemed intellectually sanitary and appropriate all of five minutes ago. As Cumberbatch himself said while undertaking his cleansing ritual of contrition, what matters most is the “need for correct usage of terminology that is accurate and inoffensive.” In other words, it’s no good actually being a decent human if you don’t let the Left tell you exactly what words to say at all times.

So when I make my apology, I’ll make sure not to say “I’m sorry” to any real live human beings whom I could actually have conceivably hurt. Instead I’ll be issuing my apology to a nameless, faceless collective known as “Anyone Whom I Offended.” That way I will forever remain at the mercy of an undefined mass of people whose imperious outrage gives them the right to judge my every thought, word, and deed at any moment. I will reach out into the beyond to address Anyone Whom I Offended through their divine oracles and representatives on earth: mainstream journalists and late-night talk show hosts. These exalted keepers of the sacred mysteries are the only ones fit to evaluate the worthiness of my repentance.

“Now Spencer,” you may well ask, “what are you sorry for?” I know — it’s difficult to imagine what it could possibly be. After all, I’m awesome. Could it be that, like Cumberbatch, I committed the grievous offense of saying an unapproved word? Or, like Billy Crystal, am I guilty of the thought-crime of holding a “socially engrained attitude” towards homosexuality “in the gut rather than the intellect”? After all, according to The Atlantic, thinking forbidden thoughts is “part of the same phenomenon that causes discrimination, suicide, youth homelessness, and murder.” So no matter how scrupulous I am, I probably thought something bad one time, and that’s the same as killing someone. I’d like to apologize. Here goes.


To Anyone Whom I Offended within the mysterious ether: I am desperately and passionately sorry for my impure thoughts. I offer my frantic apologies to all of the innocent babies who were slaughtered mercilessly in their sleep by my wayward words and feelings. I know that I can never undo these deplorable acts because I am myself a scourge on the very universe, lowlier than a worm. However, as a symbol of my righteous self-loathing, I hope you will accept this speech, which I will recite nightly on my knees before the twin altars of People magazine and The Tonight Show. I also promise to wear a hair-shirt under all my runway suits for the duration of my career, and to offer five Our Fathers a day to Al Sharpton, to whom I am apparently accountable for some reason. I will embrace suffering like a lover and pain like an old friend, to the eternal glory of Progressivism. Amen.

I feel better already. If you’re reading this out there, beware! You may have unrepented sins (such as saying something mean about Lena Dunham or thinking unflatteringly about Perez Hilton) on your conscience. I implore you to make amends by posting a heartfelt apology in the comments section of this article as soon as possible. And may Jimmy Fallon have mercy on your soul.


This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion:


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