Tag Archives: deflections

On “Whataboutism”

“Shut up! How dare you point out my hypocritical double standard!”

I am abashed to admit that I read the term “whataboutism” many times without having a clue regarding what it meant. Properly used, the term could have been a useful one. I often wondered what to call it when, say, Newsbusters, would run one of the stories like this one (there have been far worse. but this was the most recent):

FLASHBACK: CNN Didn’t See GOP Winning Governor Races in 2009 As Referendum On Obama

What does CNN’s analysis eight years ago have to do with whether its analysis regarding 2017 election results are persuasive or not? Nothing. It’s a deflection without substance: “Oh yeah? Well, why should we pay attention to your claim that the GOP losing State House races is ominous for the party now when you didn’t say the same thing when Democrats lost elections under Obama?” It makes no sense, especially since those losses were a warning for Democrats, who got clobbered in the 2010 mid-terms.

That’s real “whataboutism”: an intellectually dishonest argument that changes the subject to avoid dealing with the issues. It flourished during the Obama years, especially in the comments on political blogs. Virtually any discussion about Obama’s myriad botches and failures were routinely countered by, “Oh yeah? Well, Bush lied and people died!”

This kind of “whataboutism” involves the use of Rationalization #2, Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad,” and #22 The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

The idea, again,  is to avoid honest consideration of fair criticism by pointing somewhere else.

But progressives and liberals are very good at stifling dissent and argument by constricting language and discourse, so now “whataboutism” is increasingly being used to shut down efforts to point out double standards….and double standards, which are reaching plague proportions, must be stopped, and the only way the stop them is to identify them.  Continue reading

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