When is an apology not an apology? In a recent cartoon in the New Yorker magazine, a woman is standing over her sad-looking husband. “I don’t want your apology,” she says. “I want you to be sorry.” This came to mind when I read a story today about a fellow in New York who apparently literally planted himself in a park with a sign apologizing to his girlfriend for some indiscretion. Turns out that both of them are actors and some believe it was a stunt to gain attention. It points out the public manipulation aspect of many of these so-called apologies. In the last few years, we’ve seen any number of governments issue public apologies for various acts committed in the past; famous celebrities have done the same in such numbers that it’s hard to keep track of who’s apologizing for what. Hockey players are sorry they nailed another player in the side of the head; politicians are sorry they lost their temper; actors are sorry they got drunk; televangelists are sorry they got caught fooling around with another woman (or man); car manufacturers are sorry for the way they handled problems. The list goes on and on and on and on. The question is do these high-profile, media intensive apologies carry any weight? Are the apologizers truly sorry? Doubtful. These are stage-managed acts of public contrition which are now as much a part of the reputation management tool kit as happy family pictures used to be. The press asked whether the event in New York in the park was an apology or a stunt. Same could be asked of just about all of the others too.