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  • Writer's pictureAndré Delicata

“But you did it first!”

There's a tactic used in politics which is a particular favourite of those in the Labour party. It's called "whataboutism".

Whataboutism is a tactic whereas a person responds to an argument by deflecting, obfuscating, discrediting and distracting, rather than by addressing the argument at hand. Simply put, whataboutism is the bringing up of a past issue in order to distract from the argument being discussed.

Whataboutism, also known as whataboutery, is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent's position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument. According to Russian writer, chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov, "whataboutism" is a word that was coined to describe the frequent use of a rhetorical diversion by Soviet apologists and dictators, who would counter charges of their oppression, "massacres, gulags, and forced deportations" by invoking American slavery, racism, lynchings, etc. Whataboutism has been used by other politicians and countries as well. Whataboutism is particularly associated with Soviet and Russian propaganda. When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Soviet response would often use "and what about you?" style by instancing of an event or situation in the Western world. The idea can be found in Russian language: while it utilizes phrase "Sam takoi" for direct tu quoque-like "you too"; it also has "Sam ne lutche" ("not better") phrase.

Labour are particularly fond of this logical fallacy. Here are a few examples below.

But wrong cannot be absolved by another wrong or alleged wrong, because two wrongs never make one right. But for Labour, it works that way. Whataboutism goes beyond merely being a tactic for PL, it is a sacred ideology.

In a sea of scandals, these types of arguments are the best that Labour can bring. It is PL's only possibility of absolving itself from its brazen corruption, sleaze and poor governance. Unfortunately, they have become so expert in the use of whataboutism, that it works incredibly well with its followers.


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