A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 05, 2014
Whataboutism

"Whataboutism” is a tactic to deflect criticism by bringing up an alleged defect of the criticizing party. For example, the United States might criticize Russia, only to be told, “What about slavery in your country?”

The term “whataboutism” has been cited in print since at least 2000, when it referred to the “whataboutism” of Northern Ireland politics. (“Whataboutery” is a similar term from Northern Ireland.) Edward Lucas, writing in The Economist in 2007 and 2008, cited Russian “whataboutism.” A weekly Ria Novosti column by Konstantin von Eggert on July 25, 2012 stated:

“Whataboutism, once familiar to diplomats, politicians and Kremlinologists, dates back to the 1960s.”


Wikipedia: Whataboutism
Whataboutism is a term for the Tu quoque logical fallacy popularized by The Economist for describing the use of the fallacy by the Soviet Union in its dealings with the Western world during the Cold War. The tactic was used when criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union, wherein the response would be “What about...” followed by the naming of an event in the Western world loosely similar to the original item of criticism. It represents a case of tu quoque or the appeal to hypocrisy, a logical fallacy which attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, without directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument.

Google Groups: uk.politics.misc
Texas Secession
Steve Glynn
6/17/00
(...)
But I think it was Seamus Mallon, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party in NI (the party which continues to attract the support of the majority of Nationalist voters through its support for unification through democratic and constitutional methods) who referred to the curse of NI politics of “whataboutism”—“what about 1914?” “what about 1648?”.  When you’ve got two groups living in the same place with long-standing and legitimate grievances against each other they can either continue to rake over the coals to no conclusion ever or they can they can say something like “we’ve got very good reasons for not liking each other and not trusting each other, but we’ve got to find some way of living together and running our own affairs in a half-way civilised.

Google Groups: soc.culture.irish
Samaritans - Omagh
Derek Bell
9/11/00
(...)
Thus missing my point - that as soon as someone condemns one thing in Northern Ireland a bout of “whataboutism” starts listing atrocities by other groups. There is an assumption that somone who criticises, say, Republican groups is a Loyalist sympathiser or pro-British and vica versa.

Google Groups: alt.politics.democrats
Liberal (America Haters) are the BIG Losers!
Liberals HATE America,,
2/6/02
LIBERALS HATE AMERICA! LIBERALS HATE AMERICA! LIBERALS HATE AMERICA!
The Losers
February 6, 2002
By: Thomas S. Garlinghouse
(...)
He singled out Edward Said for particular chastisement, accusing the Middle Eastern literary critic of engaging in shameless whataboutism—the tendency to excuse the atrocity of September 11 by pointing to the victims of American foreign policy.

Edward Lucas
MONDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2007
posted by edward lucas at 3:04 pm
diary day one
In Russia’s shadow
The Kremlin’s useful idiots

Oct 29th 2007
From Economist.com
(...)
A slightly less bonkers approach by the Kremlin’s useful idiots was to match every Soviet crime with a real or imagined western one. It was called “whataboutism”: “So you object to Soviet interventions in eastern Europe? Then what about the American assault on the Nicaraguan Sandinistas?” “You mind about Soviet Jews? Then what about blacks in South Africa?”
(...)
Yet “whataboutism” attracted vocal support from some parts of the audience. A student from Pakistan passionately denounced democracy as a sham. Someone from Malaysia praised the Kremlin for standing up to America. A bearded Brit came up with a predictable, “Who are we to judge?”.

The Economist
Whataboutism
Come again, Comrade?

Jan 31st 2008
SOVIET propagandists during the cold war were trained in a tactic that their western interlocutors nicknamed “whataboutism”. Any criticism of the Soviet Union (Afghanistan, martial law in Poland, imprisonment of dissidents, censorship) was met with a “What about...” (apartheid South Africa, jailed trade-unionists, the Contras in Nicaragua, and so forth).
(...)
It would help if Russia had a word for whataboutism. Literally, it could be kaknaschyotism. A crisp remark about lynching also raises a laugh and makes the point.

Ria Novosti
Due West: ‘Whataboutism’ Is Back – and Thriving
19:54 25/07/2012
Weekly column by Konstantin von Eggert
Neil Buckley of the Financial Times, the newspaper’s former Moscow bureau chief and a friend of mine, has written a timely blog post about the resurrection of a forgotten Cold War term.

Whataboutism, once familiar to diplomats, politicians and Kremlinologists, dates back to the 1960s. It was used to ironically describe the Soviet Union’s efforts at countering Western criticism. To those who lambasted their human rights record the Soviets would reply with something along the lines of “What about America, where they lynch blacks?!” or “What about your unemployment rate? Ordinary people in the U.S. (or the UK or Germany) are denied the basic right to work and pay!”

Slate
MARCH 21 2014 4:53 PM
The Long History of Russian Whataboutism
By Joshua Keating
(...)
On the other side, Russian nationalists of Czar Nicholas I’s day, shared with their modern descendants a distinct belief that as their country’s influence grew, it was being cynically judged by different standards than western powers. (Western reporters have referred to this tendency as “whataboutism”—deflecting any criticism of Russia by saying “what about” a different abuse committed in the West.)

Russia Beyond the Headlines
Russian whataboutism vs. U.S. moralism: Is attack the best form of defense?
September 4, 2014 Ivan Tsvetkov, special to Russia Direct
Having evolved steadily throughout the history of Russian-U.S. relations, whataboutism, a propagandistic tool deployed by Soviet journalists and politicians, has become the favorite response by Moscow to America’s increasing moralism in foreign policy.
One of the features of the recent confrontation between Russia and the West has been a notable increase in ‘whataboutism’. But what exactly is it?

The word was originally coined by Edward Lucas, writing for The Economist in 2008, in which he reminded readers of a ploy adopted by Soviet propagandists, who, in response to U.S. criticism, instead of explanations, would pose the question: “And what about you?” Soviet leaders were thus able to shift the discussion to another subject, such as racial discrimination or the Vietnam War.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, September 05, 2014 • Permalink