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Logic and rhetoric
Whataboutism (also sometimes called "whataboutery") is a form of propaganda to counter criticism (usually from "the West") with a "What about …?" question vaguely related to the original question asked. It is a specialized form of the red herring tactic and often involves a healthy dose of tu quoque fallacy and balance fallacy. During the Soviet era, this was usually in the form of "And at your house, they hang black people". In Putin's Russia this propaganda technique has made a comeback, especially since the (ongoing) Ukraine conflict. North Korea and, to a lesser extent, the People's Republic of China are also big fans of this tactic. The fallacy is now also often seen from some defenders of Israel.
- As mentioned, one of the most common examples of this fallacy was Soviet responses to criticism by pointing out the United States' own failings, such as the mob lynching of blacks. "And you are lynching Negroes" (or "And you are hanging blacks", as the term Negro fell into disrepute) was a common joke in the Soviet Union at Murica's expense, used when Americans accused the Soviets of violating human rights. While often just an informal joke, sometimes this argument was used seriously. It's a tu quoque argument and a type of whataboutism. Instead of attempting to justify the behaviour of the Soviet Union, this argument is an easy way to deflect blame onto America by implying they're hypocrites.
- In the current era, the most common use of whataboutism is seen from Zionist defenders of Israel. No matter what Israel does to inspire global protests and objections—such as the 2014 "Operation Protective Edge" that slaughtered over 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza, a quarter of them children—many Israel-defenders try to change the conversation by asking "What about [fill in the blank with Iran, the Ukraine etc.] Some even admit to the whataboutism, but think it is nevertheless at least partially justified: "It is whataboutery, yes, but a legitimate piece of whataboutery I believe."
- Russia invading a nation is okay because IRAQ.
- A complaint about the excessive bureaucracy involved in getting some clothes dry-cleaned was met with a complaint about the difficulty in getting a UK visa for Russian citizens.
- See the Wikipedia article on And you are lynching Negroes.
- The Economist article that popularized the term
- In reference to organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan.
- It is in fact the first usage of the term "Whataboutism", used by the Economist
- This joke first began in the 1920s and carried on to the 1960s; after that, the US civil rights movement started to make the argument seem less and less relevant.