This is a thoughtful essay that brings to mind a morning radio show in Hawaii back in the late 60’s hosted by a guy named J. Akuhead Pupule (Aku=fish, pupule=crazy). He had a segment he called Chickenman — and the screeched opening was: He’s Everywhere! He’s Everywhere!
Whataboutism IS Chicken Man — He’s Everywhere! — especially these days, when we have a President who is one of the greatest liars of all time.
In a CNN interview last night, a Republican congressman was asked point-blank: Do you believe Trump has lied?
Answer: Not to me.
Question: That wasn’t the question. Do you believe Trump has lied?
Answer: Well, nothing comes to mind, but What About James Comey and his lies? He lied under oath, blah blah blah.
The host could not pin down his slippery guest who answered every question with a litany of someone else’s sins (Eric Hansen’s Ad Hominem Laundry List).
Because Nero lied about his violin doesn’t make Trump’s inauguration crowd the “biggest of all time.” Because Bill did not have sex with that woman doesn’t turn Trump’s Epic-Memory-Failures (Think Stormy) into truth.
As Eric pointed out, WhatAbout is often offered up as a legitimate point, or answer, in an argument, whether political or personal. (Q: Why didn’t you come home last night? A: What about your data overage bill? Or Q: Why don’t you put the toilet seat down? A: WhatAbout you leaving the cap off the toothpaste?)
It’s what you say when there’s really nothing you can say.
Toilet seats and toothpaste caps aren’t going to affect democracy. But a constant spewing of untruths can, and will, undermine our Democracy, especially if every answer to your questioning is: WhatAbout?
The Ad Hominen Laundry List is the magician’s sleight-of-hand. Come! Look here! Instead of there!
When you watch tonight’s news, have a beer (or candy bar) every time you hear a guest answer a question with WhatAbout?
I guarantee you will be sick, or buzzed, or fatter - and astonished. Like ChickenMan, it’s Everywhere! It’s Everywhere!