Using Whataboutism to avoid addressing accusations

What is Whataboutism?

A way to avoid addressing accusations

Sometimes people do bad things, are called out and asked to explain their behaviour. To avoid authentically engaging with and addressing the issue, the accused can return fire with a “what about” style attack; “Oh, you’re criticising my actions? But what about the bad actions you’ve taken? How can you criticise me for doing something bad when you yourself have also done something bad?”. By using Whataboutism the accused moves conversational focus on from the bad thing they did, framing the accuser as hypocritical for attacking others while they themselves are imperfect.

A way to authentically point out hypocrisy (sometimes)

Whataboutism is not always a form of information disorder; sometimes it is authentically used with the objective of pointing out the injustice of hypocritical accusations. However, we also know that Whataboutism is employed by threat actors who pretend to be outraged by the hypocrisy, but really just want to stop talking about the bad thing they did. In such situations, their inauthentic narrative is intentionally crafted using the Whatabout tactic.

A way for politicians to dodge questions which could create rifts in their support base

Whataboutism can also be useful for people who don’t want to be seen to condemn a bad thing as bad. Populist politicians “like to be vague but appear straight-talking at the same time” as being “too specific on a policy or a position risks creating rifts within that base of support. Pointing to a common enemy, on the other hand, is a great way to unify a group.”

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