Monday, January 11, 2021

The Word Whataboutism Caught My Eye

by Eileen Davis

This weekend I read many social media posts about “whataboutism.” The term caught my eye because it seemed so interesting. And it seemed an insult. I figured it meant people asking “what about that?” but I didn’t have much clue.

So here is what Merriam-Webster dictionary says about whataboutism:

Whataboutism gives a clue to its meaning in its name. It is not merely the changing of a subject (“What about the economy?”) to deflect away from an earlier subject as a political strategy; it’s essentially a reversal of accusation, arguing that an opponent is guilty of an offense just as egregious or worse than what the original party was accused of doing, however unconnected the offenses may be.

Upon first reading another explanation, I concluded this was a red herring in logic — or distracting one’s opponent from the issue at hand. But it’s a “you too” or tu qouque logical fallacy. The opponent says that you are guilty of the same crime instead of validating whether the first claim is true or not.

This circular logic is dizzying and confusing.

Now the term makes sense to me in the context of US politics. Some are accusing Antifa and Black Lives Matters protestors of similar conduct as the Stop the Steal protestors. Essentially, people are pointing their fingers at each other.

In my humble opinion, protests turn too easily to riots because bad actors generally appear at some point. Personally, I deliberate for hours until I post my opinion on social media.

Finally, I have P!NK’s song “What About Us?” stuck in my head.

Looking at the cartoon, what do you notice about the figures’ ears, mouths, and heads? What’s over their ears? Are they able to listen to one another?

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