Jan 18, 2019 23:33:31

Whataboutism

by @keenencharles | 448 words | 5🔥 | 59💌 | 17💧

Keenen Charles

Current day streak: 5🔥
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With many of the recent hot topics, I've seen a natural inclination by many to revert to whataboutism.

Whataboutism is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent's position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument.

It's almost a natural reflex when confronted with an argument you disagree with. If R. Kelly is cancelled now what about Michael Jackson? If there's toxic masculinity what about the toxic femininity? You're giving money to a cancer charity what about the starving children?

It's a fallacy because two distinct events have no bearing on the wrongness of each other. One criminal getting away with a crime doesn't invalidate every future criminal's crimes. Just as one instance of wrongdoing isn't negated by the existence of any other wrongdoing.


The Law of Whataboutism

For every wrong, there is another wrong, therefore no wrongs exist.

Whataboutism taken to its ends leads to a chaotic view of a world filled with wrongdoing and inevitably no action can be deemed wrong because of this. It's a bleak outlook that I don't think many prescribe to but sometimes the world can seem that terrible.


Change Is Scary

I wonder why we naturally gravitate to these types of arguments. Is it simply the last resort when backed into a corner? Or do we truly believe in these types of arguments?

One reason I've found for this tendency is a desire to defend the status quo. When an issue is raised it usually challenges the status quo in some way. To address that issue requires changing the way things work now with a promise that the change will be better. It's a risk and scary to whoever has no qualms with the status quo. Naturally, you might want to discredit the motivation for change and whataboutism is an easy way to attempt that.

The status quo is a known quantity. It's worked in the past. It's worked for me. Why fix something that isn't broken? Just like software development sometimes you need to change what works to find better. A new design could improve user satisfaction. Changing the UX might help you capture a new demographic of users.

Of course, those changes can always make things worse. Change is risky. But that's where constructive discussions can come in. Rather than resorting to pointing out other wrongs, we can look at the arguments being provided by those who seek change. We can value their personal experience and find the merits within it while contributing our own. It's not easy and resisting our natural gut reactions is a challenge. But wouldn't we all get along a lot better for it?

Originally published at keenen.xyz

  • 1

    @keenencharles but what about people who don't have natural inclination to revert to whataboutism?

    Lucjah avatar Lucjah | Jan 19, 2019 20:40:23
    • 1

      @lucjah I think then it's a bit easier to have a constructive discussion.
      What do you think?

      Keenen Charles avatar Keenen Charles | Jan 19, 2019 16:06:55
    • 1

      @keenencharles but what about people who dont want to have a constructive discussion?
      (Im kinda pushing it, ain't I? :)
      but i agree, holding onto our status quo is a huge power...

      Lucjah avatar Lucjah | Jan 19, 2019 23:52:47
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      @lucjah haha I see what you mean and I think there are a lot of appropriate words to describe those people ;)

      Keenen Charles avatar Keenen Charles | Jan 19, 2019 19:27:46
  • 1

    @keenencharles "One reason I've found for this tendency is a desire to defend the status quo." - building on what you said, I observe that usually people have some past experience that they feel strongly about and want to defend (without necessarily sharing that experience). All the emotions and baggage from those experiences gets projected onto the latest iteration, i.e. triggered. In a way, they are trying to defend their own status quo about themselves/ their experiences. That really gets in the way of constructive discussion but yet having a way to deal with that is integral to the discussion itself. Unfortunately, unless it's face to face interaction, that's really difficult (especially online).

    Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jan 19, 2019 14:55:34
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      @jasonleow good point. Yep I think the lack of face to face interaction makes it more difficult to share deeper insights that can help others understand your position. And it's easier to argue without empathy when it's just a stranger online. I'm not sure how this could be improved.

      Keenen Charles avatar Keenen Charles | Jan 19, 2019 16:05:24
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