A claim which cannot be settled cheaply

by Maria on July 12, 2003

So, Italian tourism minister Stefano Stefani has finally fallen on his sword and apologised for his anti-German comments in defense of Berlusconi. Except that it’s not really an apology at all;

“I love Germany,” Mr Stefani wrote to (German newspaper) Bild. “If, through my words, a misunderstanding resulted for many Germans, I would like to hereby apologise many times.”

Just like his boss, Stefani merely ‘expresses regret’ that the thick headed targets of various insults – ‘Nazi guard’ or “stereotyped blondes with ultra-nationalist pride” who have no sense of humour and pass their time with belching contests – actually interpreted these comments as offensive. It takes a certain amount of pig-headedness to issue an apology that offers fresh insult, but I suppose that’s inevitable when the apology is triggered by political necessity and not genuine remorse.

Marina Warner, in a series of essays for Open Democracy, examines the history and politics of another kind of political apology; the currently trendy apologies made by leaders for long past acts, an easier task than a heartfelt mea culpa for last week’s gaffe. She notes that direct apologies for recent wrongdoings are the only ones that really count, but that they’re mostly in the female preserve. The grand political gestures – Blair’s apology for the Irish Famine, Pope JP II’s millennium apology to women and Jews – may help bind modern day identity politics, but rarely amount to more than words;

“Apologising represents a bid for virtue and can even imply an excuse not to do anything more about the injustice in question. Encurled inside it may well be the earlier meaning of vindication. So it can offer hypocrites a main chance. It can also, as in the case of the priestly self-fashioning of some political leaders, make a claim on their own behalf for some sacred, legitimate authority.”

So it seems that we may have to wait a century or two for our friends at Forza Italia to (hypocritically) bend the knee.

Show and Tell

by Brian on July 12, 2003

Andy Egan at Philosophy from the 617 responds to some of the debate Henry’s Harry Potter post produced, and in doing so brings up an interesting point about how we judge fiction. Lots of people say that in fiction, especially visual fiction but also in written works, the author should show the audience what happens, not tell them what happens. But what exactly does this rule mean?

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Getting Pedantic about the SOTU

by Brian on July 12, 2003

In Josh Marshall’s excellent reporting on the uranium claim in the State of the Union one of the frequent qualifications he makes is that what Bush said was “technically true”. Even if it worked, this would be a fairly pedantic defence if the White House insisted on it. At least in Australia it’s _misleading_ the House that’s the hanging offence, not necessarily _lying_ to it, and presumably the SOTU should be held to as least as high a standard as daily question time. But in any case the defence doesn’t hold up. For what it’s worth, Bush’s line wasn’t even technically true.

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