What about whataboutism though?

11 April 2022
what about

What about...? / Monstera via Pexels

There are a number of ways we shut down conversations as human beings. In recent years, we created a term for one of those. We call it whatboutism or whataboutery (or variations on that theme).


“Black lives matter!”

“What about Arab lives?”

“That’s whataboutery. You’re a terrible person!”

There’s some merit in calling out whataboutery because in many cases, it’s used as a foil to deflect criticism. Case in point:

She: Putin is an evil man because he has tortured people!

He: what about US torturing people in Guantánamo Bay?

She: That’s whataboutism!

So let's agree: US atrocities in Guantánamo do not give licence to Putin to do anything similar.

What we forget is that for all of us as human beings, nearly all of our “lived experiences” are derived from the premise that “my pain is greater than yours”.

(If you want a simple example of how this plays out on a day to day basis, go to divorce negotiations.)

So, when you feel very strongly about the war in Ukraine (and I hope you do) and when someone responds saying: “What about the bombs being dropped on Yemen”, perhaps try learning something about what they are talking about, and then perhaps agree that both the bombing of Ukraine and the bombing of Yemen are unacceptable.

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