Someone must have been telling lies about Marty P, he knew he had done nothing wrong!
To “apologize” is conventionally meant as an expression of remorse, or a distinction between action and essence. What I did, it says, has changed me: I took an action, fully understanding what I was doing and approving of that action, and then — somewhere in the aftermath of that action — I came to believe that what I did was wrong, and I now wish never again to do the thing which I previously did wish to do. I am different now, it says, than I was when I did the thing for which I apologize.
But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.
The column it comes from is as blithely and reflexively bigoted as his stuff reliably is, but expressing regret that Muslims have rights was apparently enough to spur Nicholas Kristof to point out that this is what is called “racism,” the sort of thing decent humans tend to avoid. And when a NY Times columnist calls you a bigot, an amoral narcissist like Marty Peretz has to respond, right? So he did, writing this gem:
I wrote that, but I do not believe that. I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever…So I apologize for my sentence, not least because it misrepresents me.
But note how this is not a real apology: the fault, he wishes to say, is not in me but in the sentence (a sentence of which, by the way, he is the true victim). He might have written the sentence, but it “misrepresented” him; he wrote those words, but he does not, “not now, not ever,” actually believe it.
It’s interesting, parenthetically, that he’s not saying he was misunderstood; if he was less dumb, he might more plausibly have claimed that expressing an opinion on the matter of whether Muslims are worthy of first amendment rights is not at all the same thing as saying they shouldn’t have them. This has the merit of being true: we get those rights not because of but regardless of whether we are worthy of them. Since rights are rights, and you have them regardless of whether you earn them, saying Muslims don’t deserve rights is actually not the same thing as calling for them to be disenfranchised. So that would have been a smarter way out of a statement which, it is clear, he only regrets because it “genuinely embarrasses me” to be called a bigot in the NY Times.
But Peretz isn’t smart — nor, I think, does he really spend much time thinking about what rights are — and so he simply denied having ever thought the thoughts which he merely composed, wrote, and disseminated to thousands. Because, of course, who would expect a writer and an editor to think twice about whether or not the things he wrote were actually things he believed?
The much more obviously plausible way to view this situation is that it’s exactly what it looks like: Peretz is a racist who got caught being racist in public and is trying to weasel out of it without actually recanting that racism which he holds so dear. This sort of thing happens all the time, actually — and people have been pointing out what an odious human being Peretz insists on being for decades now — but what’s interesting about this particular flap is that he’s getting called out on it. Which is why, as always, the point needs to be not that he said or did something racist — though certainly he did — but that he continues to stand by the principles that led him to that point.
An apology is the decision to change, to be a better person, but Peretz likes himself just the way he is, and so he issued a defense for what he had said: after claiming that the sentence he wrote “misrepresented me,” he went on to re-state the truly odious argument of the original column, the claim that Muslims are inhuman brutes who do not value or respect life. On the sentence, “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, especially for Muslims,” he doubles down, claiming, incredibly, that
This is a statement of fact, not value…Every week brings more and more gruesome evidence of this, in the Middle East and Central Asia and elsewhere. The idea that in remarking upon the cheapening of Muslim lives I was calling for the cheapening of Muslim lives, as some have suggested, is preposterous. There is no hatred in my heart; there is deep anxiety about the dangers of Islamism, and anger at the refusal of certain politicians and commentators to adequately grasp those dangers, but there is no hatred, none. In these unusually inflamed days, I am glad to say so clearly.
The way in which an apology turns into the ludicrously immodest claim that “There is no hatred in my heart…there is no hatred, none” is telling, of course, but the real point has to be that he described an entire religion by its indifference to human life — which is to say, he claimed that Muslims are, as a whole, sociopaths with homicidal tendencies — and that, when called out on it, he describes that bigotry as “fact.” It’s not his fault that Muslims are evil monsters; it’s their fault for being evil monsters!