Oh yeah? Well, what about the other guy, huh? - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Oh yeah? Well, what about the other guy, huh?

December 7th, 2017 development
Oh yeah? Well, what about the other guy, huh?

If you derive joy from following politics and the news media – the hobby equivalent of putting your hand in a moving garbage disposal because you love “tinkering” – you’ve no doubt heard the term “whataboutism” a lot lately.
Smart pundits have begun tossing around the label like President Trump tosses off Twitter insults. Suddenly, like bitcoin and anthem kneeling, whataboutism is a thing. Except whataboutism has always been a thing. At least among those of us who had a sibling or have ever been 4 years old. Which is pretty much all of us – with apologies to any 3-year-olds reading this.
If whataboutism sounds confusing, it’s actually a simple rhetorical power move. Whenever someone makes an accusation – “It’s disgusting that the Republicans keep backing Roy Moore, who’s accused of being a child molester” – the person facing the accusation responds not by answering the charge, but by firing off a different accusation –“What about Democrats who have stood by Bill Clinton after everything he’s been accused of sexually?”
You say: “This Trump-Russia thing literally undermined an American election.” They say: “Yeah? What about Hillary’s 33,000 emails? Didn’t she undermine national security?”
Or they say: “It’s pathetic the way the Republican-led Arizona Legislature has shortchanged our public schools and education.” To which you say, “Uh huh. What about how the Arizona Democrats are pawns of the teachers’ union and the anti-charter- school crowd?”
Most eggheaded analyses of whataboutism include an etymological timeline of the term, which the Oxford English Dictionary traces back to the 1990s, and a reference the old Soviet Union Communist propaganda machine.
The Russkies raised whataboutism to an art. In the 1980s, whenever critics portrayed the Russians as repressive and brutal, they didn’t deny it – they simply pointed to American segregation and lynchings or South African apartheid and said, “What about that?”
In no media reports have I read references to the Leibowitz family of Queens, New York, where whataboutism was a staple of family life during the 1970s, along with Fonzie imitations and Kiss posters. Nor have I read about your family, where surely whataboutism happened and continues to happen. See, whataboutism relies on a nasty quality of human beings which we seem to have in everlasting supply.
Practitioners of whataboutism love to point out hypocrisy as a way of diminishing their own failings and flaws. Me, I did it whenever my parents disciplined me for anything I did wrong back in the day. I didn’t clean my room?
Well, what about Matthew, my brother? He didn’t put away his Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle or his G.I. Joe with Kung Fu Grip? What about him?
I got graded unsatisfactory for behavior? Well, what about Matt? Didn’t he get a U in geography? At least I know where North America is.
Even now, I use the tactic on my wife all the time. She hints maybe I should drive my car another 10,000 miles, rather than eyeballing a new vehicle. I immediately deflect: “Yeah, I’m surprised Amazon doesn’t open a fulfillment center in our living room. What about that, eh?”
Look, I’m not proud that I’ve been acting 4 years old for almost 50 years now. In fact, the opposite is true. The sooner we recognize whataboutism as the strategy of children, and instead demand a frank conversation not about hypocrisy, which everyone practices, but about deeper issues – like sexual harassment, presidential lying, school funding and my burning desire for a new car – the better off this nation will be.
If I’m hypocrite for pointing that out, well, all I can say is … yeah, what about it?
– David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact david@ leibowitzsolo.com