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what about +‎ -ery Originally used in describing political discourse during the Northern Ireland troubles, it has also found use in discussions of the origins of other prolonged sectarian conflicts, such as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.


  • IPA(key): /wɒtəˈbaʊtəɹi/, /wʌt-/


whataboutery (countable and uncountable, plural whatabouteries) (informal, pejorative)

  1. Protesting at hypocrisy; responding to criticism by accusing one's opponent of similar or worse faults.
    • 1998 Gerry Fitt, House of Lords debates Vol.591 col.457 (29 June 1998):
      As the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will know, we have in Northern Ireland what we have referred to over the years as "whataboutery". When one talks about the atrocities of the IRA, someone from the other side will say, "Ah, but what about?" I have lived with that for 30 years in Northern Ireland. There is a lot of "whataboutery".
    • 2011 Graham Spencer, Forgiving and Remembering in Northern Ireland: Approaches to Conflict Resolution (Continuum) ISBN 1441195475 p.101:
      The danger is that remembrance is used for self-righteousness, self-justification, point-scoring and what-about-ery.
  2. Protesting at inconsistency; refusing to act in one instance unless similar action is taken in other similar instances.
    • 1984 Andrew Kakabadse, Suresh Mukhi, The Future of management education (Nichols) ISBN 0893971847 p.9:
      They are skilled in whataboutery: the art of avoiding the issue.
    • 2011 Romesh Ratnesar "In Defense of Inconsistency" Time (US edition) 28 March 2011:
      As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson writes, "War in Libya is justifiable only if we are going to hold compliant dictators to the same standard we set for defiant ones." This line of argument has surfaced in nearly every debate about Western military intervention since the end of the Cold War. The British even have a term for it: whataboutery. If you are prepared to go to war to protect Libyan civilians from their government, then what about the persecuted in Bahrain?


Related terms[edit]



  • Seamus Dunn, Helen Dawson An alphabetical listing of word, name, and place in Northern Ireland and the living language of conflict (Edwin Mellen Press, 2000) ISBN 077347711X