Holy cow, I wrote a book!
I learned this from Yes, Minister.
They call it the politician's fallacy:
As befits its name, you see it most often in politics,
where poorly-thought-out solutions are proposed for
But be on the lookout for it in other places, too.
You might see somebody falling victim to the politician's
fallacy at a business meeting, say.
Something else I picked up is what I'm going to call
the politician's apology.
This is where you apologize for a misdeed not by apologizing
for what you did, but rather apologizing that other people
One blogger coined the word "fauxpology" to describe this sort of
In other words, you're not apologizing at all!
It's like the childhood non-apology.
"Apologize to your sister for calling her ugly."
"I'm sorry you're ugly."
In the politician's apology, you apologize
not for the offense itself,
but for the fact that what you did offended someone.
"I'm sorry you're a hypersensitive crybaby."
regretted any hurt feelings
his statements may have caused.
Another form of non-apology is to state that bad things happened
without taking responsibility for causing them:
There should not have been any physical contact in this incident.
I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all,
I regret its escalation
and I apologize.
This particular non-apology even begins with the accusation that the
other party was at fault for starting the incident!
What bothers me is that these types of non-apologies are so common
that nobody is even offended by their inadequacy.
They are accepted as just
"the way people apologize in public".
(It's become so standard that Slate's William Saletan has
broken it down into steps for us.)