B1 Intermediate US 11 Folder Collection
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The A-Z of ISMs... whataboutism.
Whataboutism – also known as whataboutery –
is a way of criticising and, in some people's minds,
defeating an opponent by accusing them of hypocrisy.
What about x, what about y?
As a political tactic, it was employed by the Nazis in the 1930s.
When Nazi Germany was censured for annexing territories in Europe,
its officials countered by saying that
Germany was only doing what countries like Britain and France
had been doing for centuries in Africa and Asia.
The practice was continued by the Soviet Union in the 1950s
in the area of human rights.
Challenged on the murder of Soviet citizens by the state,
Soviet officials countered by saying that black people were being lynched
every day in the USA.
The term whataboutery was also used in the 1970s in Northern Ireland,
when Republicans and Loyalists pointed to their own sufferings
as a justification for supporting violent action.
All these instances are dramatic,
but ignore the fact they're based on an invalid argument -
the notion that two wrongs make a right.
Whataboutism is not a useful or logical form of debate,
because it relies on the idea that two wrongs make a right.
And while there is a lot of support for this notion –
see also an eye for an eye –
it's a false analogy.
Doing a bad thing cannot be excused
by the existence of another bad thing.
If I steal your car, you should tell the police.
Stealing my car is not an appropriate response.
Also, it's generally just an excuse.
The Nazis didn't invade Poland as a protest against British imperialism.
The Soviets didn't murder their own people
as a reaction to American racism.
You didn't steal my car because I stole his car. And so on.
In the last few years, whataboutism has resurfaced,
partly because it's easier to point fingers away from yourself
than at yourself,
partly because the internet is not always a place
for high-quality debate,
and partly because there's always room for one more idiot
on the stupid bus.
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What is whataboutery all about? | A-Z of ISMs Episode 23 - BBC Ideas

11 Folder Collection
Fibby published on May 19, 2020
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