Another very common means of deflecting criticism is ‘whataboutery’ where the supporter of the criticised viewpoint leaps up with a tangental or even totally unrelated problem you have not criticised. For example, you might criticise homeopaths for making dodgy claims and a homeopath comes back with “What about thalidomide?” with the intention of derailing the discussion to thalidomide and away from homeopathy.
The first time I recall encountering whataboutery was off-line. I plonked myself on a bus-seat and noticed some hand written notes had been left there, so I read them as you do. Turned out they were some fascist’s notes for a speech criticising a documentary’s coverage of their activities in Welling. One phrase still sticks in my mind: “The Reds go on about Stephen Lawrence but what about Yvonne Fletcher?”
The writer went on at great length about how terrible lefties were for not making the programme about the activities of Gadaffi’s thugs instead of BNP thugs in Welling. The point being to get away from a point the writer had difficulty defending (one not widely supported) to one (widely supported) that they felt comfortable attacking. The sentence also contains an ad hom – claiming that all the BNP’s critics are ‘Reds’ a term commonly used for communists by people who are unable to spell the word. I am not saying that Stephen Lawrence’s murderers were BNP members incidently, just that BNP propoganda and activity in the area could have encouraged racist thugs.
Whataboutery is not in short supply in the comments on this blog. Helen PHillips-Batman, in slagging off my criticisms of the UCKG reminded me of the above fascist:
“these opinions are pathetic, banging on and on about little Victoria Clumbe is the only thing you can think of really, when 4,000 attempts at downloading child pornography is attempted in England everyday and 3 children die of neglect every week, outside the church dear”
Or, paraphrasing: “Because you don’t mention child porn and child neglect you don’t care about her really”. The obvious answer here is that the existence of child porn and other child killings does not mean Victoria’s murder should be ignored. Plus there is world-wide police action against internet porn and precious little against the activities of the likes of the UCKG so my publicising the activities of the latter is a useful contribution I can make whereas there is little if anything I can do personally about child-porn.
‘alvaro’ also employs whataboutery against criticisms of the amount of money the UCKG retains:
“Why don’t you give a Glance to Vatican? Do you know how many Trilions they have, in name of Social Care, and Benefecial Institutions? What about Church of England?”
He would much rather talk about wealth the older churches have accumulated over centuries than the wealth the UCKG is accumulating in mere years.
The most irrelevent bit of whataboutery has to go Krishna who seemed to think that because astronomers changed the definition of planet in such a way that excluded Pluto from the list, doctors must be wrong about homeopathy. This example demonstrates that ‘whatboutery’ is a sub-class of the non sequitur (does not follow) logical fallacy.
What these examples, and many others, show is that the employers of whataboutery are uncomfortable with the subject under discussion and wishes to shift the argument elsewhere; at the very least to where they are on more comfortable grounds and prefereably to where their critic cannot possibly disagree.