Word: Whataboutism

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 8 11:04:52 UTC 2014

Nothing in:
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian (1821-2003) and The
Observer (1791-2003)


An unverified Google Books snippet:

Educating the intelligent child - Page 24
Victor Serebriakoff - 1990 - Snippet view
However, we have to beware of what I call 'But- what-about?-ism\ There
is an absurd concept of morality which says that no good thing shall
be done for anyone unless it can be done for everyone. Because, sadly,
there are people with no legs ...


Google Groups

June 2000
You say that " history is very important as it causes
the issues of modern time."   I agree.    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

Wikipedia: "Seamus Frederick Mallon (born 17 August 1936) is an Irish
politician who was the first deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
from 1998 to 2001."

Sept 2000
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.

Oct 2000
This paragraph contains almost everything to be expected from an
Israel cheerleader: the `whataboutism' (`the Palestinians' attacking

Feb 2002
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. Islamic
fundamentalists may have bombed the World Trade Center, but whatabout.?

Oct 2002
So we move quickly past a condemnation of mass murder to a cascade of
whataboutism. Americans died on 11 September, that¹s terrible, but what
about the victims of American foreign policy? In the present, Palestinians
and Iraqis. Half a century back, Iran. For decades, Soviet apologists were
quick with their riposte to Americans: ³What about the Red Indians?²
Whataboutism is the stuff of feuds, not politics. It is not an engagement
with reality, but a retreat from it into stampeding certainty.


A 2007 World Wide Words newsletter:

WHATABOUTISM  Barry Rein found this in The Economist of 29 October.
It means to change the focus of an argument or deflect criticism by
raising a different issue - "never mind this injustice, what about
... ". It's not quite a neologism. There are various examples to be
found in discussion forums online, though it is vanishingly rare in
print. One online post said it was used in Northern Ireland during
the Troubles by Seamus Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labour
Party, who called it "the curse of Northern Irish politics".



As an aside, the 2008 Economist article says:

For example: A caller to a radio program asks, "What is the average
wage of an American manual worker?" A long pause ensues. Then the
answer comes: "U nich negrov linchuyut" ("Over there they lynch
Negroes")--a phrase that, by the time of the Soviet collapse, had
become a synecdoche for Soviet propaganda as a whole.

A brief 2008 Russian discussion of it (which mentions the WWW
newsletter) under the title includes this (Google translated) reply:

[Begin Google translation]
And I remember the bearded anecdote, where it was " and you hang Negroes . "

The short version:

Nixon says Brezhnev: "You in stores empty! Salaries small. Books of
interest could not be found ..." Brezhnev retorted: "And you hang




The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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