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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 34, Issue 2, Fall 2020

Eoin O’Connell
Pages 243-254

Whataboutery

A person points to a situation, A, and says that A is morally repugnant; A ought to be condemned; we should do something about A. In response, another person says, “Well, what about B? B is analogous to A in that it is equally morally repugnant. If we ought to condemn and do something about A then we should also condemn and do something about B.” This “what about” response is an argumentative strategy, sometimes called “whataboutery” or “whataboutism.” In popular discussion, whataboutery is condemned as a fallacy, in particular an instance of the tu quoque fallacy. I will present an analysis of whataboutery showing that, to the degree that this is a fallacy, it is a red herring. But this argumentative move cannot always be dismissed as fallacious. Sometimes the imputation of fallacious reasoning attempts to cover over political commitments.

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