Whataboutism

.. 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”

..  Jill Dougherty called whataboutism a “sacred Russian tactic”,[26][27] and compared it to the pot calling the kettle black.[28]

..  the technique is used to avoid directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument.[42][43] The tactic is an attempt at moral relativism,[44][45][9] 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.[7] The Russian government’s use of whataboutism grew under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.[75][76][77]

.. “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.”[98] 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”,[23] 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”.[112] 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.”[65] Adomanis observed, “Any student of Soviet history will recognize parts of the whataboutist canon.”[65]

 

Propaganda of the deed

Propaganda of the deed (or propaganda by the deed, from the French propagande par le fait) is specific political action meant to be exemplary to others and serve as a catalyst for revolution.

It is primarily associated with acts of violence perpetrated by proponents of insurrectionary anarchism in the late 19th and early 20th century, including bombings and assassinations aimed at the ruling class, but also had non-violent applications

.. These “deeds” were to ignite the “spirit of revolt” in the people by demonstrating the state was not omnipotent and by offering hope to the downtrodden, and also to expand support for anarchist movements as the state grew more repressive in its response.[2]

.. Some anarchists, such as Johann Most, advocated publicizing violent acts of retaliation against counter-revolutionaries because “we preach not only action in and for itself, but also action as propaganda.”[4] It was not advocacy for mass murder, but a call for targeted killings of the representatives of capitalism and government at a time when such action might garner sympathy from the population, such as during periods of government repression or labor conflicts

 

North Korea, Trump and Human Rights

United Nations report on North Korea in 2014 described “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” and added that in this respect North Korea “does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

North Koreans have told me how the police periodically turn off all the power in an apartment building, thus locking any video or DVD inside the machine playing it. Then the police search unit by unit to see what is in the machines — and if it is, say, a South Korean soap opera, then the entire family may be shuttled off to a labor camp.

.. The Loudspeakers issued constant propaganda along the lines of:

On his first golf outing, the supreme leader shot five holes in one, not long after scoring a perfect 300 his first time bowling! The brigandish American war-maniacs are committing ever increasing crimes with their despicable flunkeyist puppet traitors in South Korea. A magical white sea cucumberthrew itself into a fisherman’s net to celebrate the wise rule of the Workers’ Party.

.. Radios and televisions can tune only to North Korean stations. On the black market, technicians can be found who will tinker with the devices so that they can receive South Korean or Chinese stations, but possession can get one’s family sent to a labor camp. Some 100,000 people are said to live in these prisons.

.. “In my opinion, conditions in North Korean labor camps are as severe and brutal as the Nazi camps were,” said Thomas Buergenthal, who served on an International Bar Association panel investigating North Korean prisons and is himself a survivor of Auschwitz.

.. On my first visit, officials denied that there were any prisons or labor camps. Now they acknowledge them but insist that Western reports about North Korean abuses are vastly unfair and exaggerated.
.. For example, triplets are regarded as auspicious in North Korea and so are given to the state to raise. To me, this is coercive.
.. Trump could encourage Kim to accept Red Cross visits to labor camps, or to release family members of those convicted (right now, the whole family is often sent to a camp). These are difficult issues and we don’t want to make the nuclear negotiations harder, but let’s never forget that North Korea is not just another nuclear state — and that what’s at stake is not just warheads, but also human lives.

Fifty Shades of Orange

 In a performance that would have embarrassed the most obsequious lackey of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Vice President Mike Pence delivered an encomium to his boss, who sat across the table with arms folded over his chest, absorbing abasement as his due.

“I want to thank you, Mr. President,” Pence said. “I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America. Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more. And we are making America great again.” The president thanked him for his kind words, and Pence replied, “Thank you, Mr. President, and God bless you.”

.. Trump and establishment Republicans adopt one another’s worst qualities. Trump, who campaigned as a putative economic populist — even calling for higher taxes on the rich — will soon sign into law the tax plan of the House speaker Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randian dreams. The majority of elected Republicans, in turn, are assuming a posture of slavish submission to Trump, worshiping their dear leader and collaborating in the maintenance of his alternative reality.

.. From a secular perspective, Pence, like many other Republicans, appears to be a person inclined to authoritarianism.

.. Erich Fromm, a German-Jewish psychoanalyst who fled Nazism, described authoritarian personalities as simultaneously craving power and submission. “The authoritarian character loves those conditions that limit human freedom; he loves being submitted to fate,” he wrote. Fate, in his formulation, can be the laws of the market, the will of God, or the whims of a leader. According to Fromm, authoritarians might make a show of valuing freedom and independence — watchwords of the American right — but long to be ruled by a stronger force.

.. Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, spoke of his “love” for the president, who he described as “one heck of a leader.” He added, “We’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to make this the greatest presidency that we’ve seen not only in generations, but maybe ever.”

.. Either Hatch really believes this, or he believes in the utility of unabashed sycophancy. Neither possibility suggests he will be an ally in preserving democracy.

.. participating in the ludicrous fiction that there was a pro-Hillary Clinton conspiracy afoot in the F.B.I., an entity led by a succession of Republicans and described by one agent during the election as “Trumpland.”

.. If Republicans were as loyal to the country as they are to the president, they’d want to know exactly what had Strzok so alarmed.

.. It is, as they say, not normal for erstwhile law-and-order Republicans to attack the F.B.I. for being overzealous in its pursuit of Russian subversion.

.. Nunes’s inquiry appears similar to Trump’s voter fraud commission

.. Hannah Arendt once wrote of this sort of policy-as-disinformation: “Totalitarianism will not be satisfied to assert, in the face of contrary facts, that unemployment does not exist; it will abolish unemployment benefits as part of its propaganda.”

.. a lot of us have assumed that Republicans are putting up with Trump out of fear of their base or lust for tax cuts. We’ve imagined that beneath our mutual partisan loathing lies some remaining shared commitment to liberal democracy.

.. But there’s another possibility, which is that a critical mass of Republicans like being in thrall to a man who seems strong enough to will his own reality, and bold enough to voice their atavistic hatreds. Maybe Trump is changing Republicans, or maybe he’s just giving men like Pence permission to be who they already were.