whataboutery

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

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.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /wɒtəˈbaʊtəɹi/, /wʌt-/

Noun[edit]

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.
    • 1983, Foras Forbartha, Towards a national strategy: issues and perspectives:
      Criticism is stereotyped as 'civil servant bashing' or the weapon of whataboutery is unsheathed: official statements accelerate about inefficient private sector management.
    • 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 p.101:
      The danger is that remembrance is used for self-righteousness, self-justification, point-scoring and what-about-ery.
    • 2014, Cheryl Lawther, Truth, Denial and Transition: Northern Ireland and the Contested Past, →ISBN:
      In terms of dealing with the past, whataboutery is premised on the denial of the truths of the 'other' as a way to highlight the innocence and moral integrity of one's own experiences. Previous commentaries on prospects for truth recovery in Northern Ireland have noted the concern that a formal truth process could become a forum for the institutionalisation of whataboutery (McEvoy 2006).
    • 2017 December 28, Trends Desk, “Twitter users get the hashtag #NowThatsADoubleStandard trending for all the right reasons”, in The Indian Express:
      We know a lot of people around us who would resort to whataboutery or hypocrisy when it is upon them to take a stand.
  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 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?
    • 2017 October 18, D.N. Shree, “This Deepavali, let's do away with whataboutery on crackers”, in Citizen Matters:
      And this also is when activists who advocate eco-friendly celebrations are countered with whataboutery on crackers:“What about animal slaughter done by other religion?” “What about industrial pollution?” “Don’t you pollute air by taking out your car?” “If you are talking against this you should also talk about that, otherwise you are biased,” etc. etc.

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References[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