(n.) The practice of responding to an accusation by making a counter-accusation, real or imaginary, relevant or irrelevant. Protesting at hypocrisy; responding to criticism by accusing one’s opponent of similar or worse faults. Protesting at inconsistency; refusing to act in one instance unless similar action is taken in other similar instances.

Sound familiar?

Image, W. Esser, Bodleian Libraries via Wikimedia Commons. Translation: “Now I have to go to Elba with my cock, calmly.”

Earliest documented use: 1974. 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. It was widely employed by then USSR as a propaganda technique and is now often a favorite of our current president. It is also known as whataboutism. “Turbo-charged online whataboutery is destroying proper debate.” – Helen Lewis, Nov 26, 2015

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” -Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

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  1. Krista says:

    I like saying this word and hearing how it sounds. It sounds like a fun made up word. I know a few people who are good at using whataboutery and now I have the perfect word to describe what they are doing.

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