.. Third, this was classic “whataboutism,” a favorite Putin tactic in which he compares, for instance, the annexation of Crimea with something unrelated, like Kosovar independence. In Helsinki, however, Putin simply invented the comparable crime.
.. The Guardian deemed whataboutism, as used in Russia, “practically a national ideology”
.. The New Yorkerdescribed the technique as “a strategy of false moral equivalences”
.. the technique is used to avoid directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument. The tactic is an attempt at moral relativism, and a form of false moral equivalence
.. The Economist recommended two methods of properly countering whataboutism: to “use points made by Russian leaders themselves” so that they cannot be applied to the West, and for Western nations to engage in more self-criticism of their own media and governmen
.. By accusing critics of hypocrisy, the Soviet Union hoped to deflect attention away from the original criticism itself
.. Although the use of whataboutism was not restricted to any particular race or belief system, according to The Economist, Russians often overused the tactic. The Russian government’s use of whataboutism grew under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.
.. “Putin’s near-default response to criticism of how he runs Russia is whataboutism”
.. The philosopher Merold Westphal said that only people who know themselves to be guilty of something “can find comfort in finding others to be just as bad or worse.” Whataboutery, as practiced by both parties in The Troubles in Northern Ireland to highlight what the other side had done to them, was “one of the commonest forms of evasion of personal moral responsibility,”
.. it can also be used to discredit oneself while one refuses to critique an ally. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, when The New York Times asked candidate Donald Trump about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s treatment of journalists, teachers, and dissidents, Trump replied with a criticism of U.S. history on civil liberties.[102
.. “The core problem is that this rhetorical device precludes discussion of issues (ex: civil rights) by one country (ex: the United States) if that state lacks a perfect record.”
.. Russia Today was “an institution that is dedicated solely to the task of whataboutism”, and concluded that whataboutism was a “sacred Russian tactic”
.. Garry Kasparov discussed the Soviet tactic in his book Winter Is Coming, calling it a form of “Soviet propaganda” and a way for Russian bureaucrats to “respond to criticism of Soviet massacres, forced deportations, and gulags”. Mark Adomanis commented for The Moscow Times in 2015 that “Whataboutism was employed by the Communist Party with such frequency and shamelessness that a sort of pseudo mythology grew up around it.” Adomanis observed, “Any student of Soviet history will recognize parts of the whataboutist canon.”