Let’s Talk About ‘whataboutism’

Rioters overturned dumpsters and threw rocks at police on First Avenue North on May 30 in downtown Fargo. Police confirmed Nicholai Westrum, who was charged in connection to the riot, was allegedly the man seen in this photo jumping up and down on a dumpster. C.S. Hagen / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — Participate in a political debate long enough, and you’re bound to hear the term “whataboutism.”

Or “bothsideism.”

Or “false balance.”

These are terms used to describe a situation when someone is trying to mitigate, in some way, something they or someone they support did by pointing out similar behavior from their opponents. It’s a variation on the tu quoque (Latin for “you also”) fallacy.

And it is a fallacy when deployed as an excuse. Whatever activists aligned with left-wing politics may or may not have done in the past does not, in any way, change what Trump supporters did at the Capitol.

Parents should recognize that sort of childish argument. I know my daughter frequently tries to excuse her messy room by pointing out that her brother’s room is also messy.

But “whataboutism” is also deployed as a way to deflect otherwise apt criticism.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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