Columns

Can We Have a Word About Whataboutism? Because People Are Getting It Wrong

AP Photo/John Minchillo

The cautions against engaging in whataboutism from some people on the right need to stop. Either they don’t understand the term or want you to believe history started on January 6th with the breach of the United States Capitol Building. Engaging in whataboutism requires trying to excuse people’s bad behavior by pointing out similar behavior among those you disagree with. That is not what is happening.

Last week’s assault on the Capitol has been roundly condemned by every mainstream commentator and politician on the political right. Individuals with smaller platforms and voices are likewise horrified by what they saw and have said so. The right wing is generally horrified by political violence no matter who is doing it.

Instead of letting this be a moment of unity where there could be bipartisan agreement, Democrats are spending their time trying to hold broad segments of the country accountable. They seem to think that it is justified to hold an entire political movement responsible for the inexcusable actions of a few hundred people. Worse than that, they seem to believe they hold some kind of moral high ground.

They do not. Once someone has made it clear they condemn what happened on January 6th and believe the participants should be held accountable as required by law, they can’t engage in whataboutism. What they are calling out, when they give specific examples of members of the media and leaders in the Democrat Party excusing widespread street violence this past summer, is the gobsmacking levels of hypocrisy.

During the riots that followed George Floyd’s death, the death toll was at least thirty as of early August, including two DHS officers, one fatally shot execution-style. Retired law enforcement officer David Dorn was also murdered trying to help a friend secure his business during riots in St. Louis, Missouri. One was an 8-year-old, Secoriea Turner, who was shot in Atlanta when her mother was trying to drive away from the chaos. More than 700 local, state, and federal officers were injured nationwide, many of them seriously.

According to the DHS, 150 federal buildings were damaged, and countless businesses, small and large, were destroyed. Black and minority-owned businesses were hit hardest, with an estimated $2 billion in insurance damage alone. That doesn’t consider the long-term damage in these communities. Areas of Los Angeles have still not recovered from the Rodney King riots in 1992.

During the entire summer, leading Democrats excused, endorsed, ignored, or justified the violence. A Media Research Center analysis found that 99.3% of broadcast media coverage ignored the murder victims. President-elect Joe Biden didn’t condemn the violence until after Don Lemon announced on CNN that someone needed to address it because the issue was showing up in the polls—and even then, didn’t name the groups responsible.

This violence was condemned across the entire right-wing media and social media ecosystem. We acknowledged the right to protest peacefully but wanted people committing crimes held accountable. Here is a snapshot of the typical response from the corporate media:

Democrats have also endorsed aggression and violence against political opponents. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris told host Stephen Colbert that the “protests” were not going to stop and should not stop even after the election. She and The Squad tweeted out links to fundraising campaigns to bail rioters out of jail. During the three-day siege on the White House, complete with arson, breaking through barricades, and over 60 officers injured, Democrats and the media criticized the administration and law enforcement. Same for the DHS officers defending a days-long assault on the federal courthouse in Portland. The idea of the National Guard being deployed to bring chaotic cities under control was met with horror.

Oh my, how times have changed. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants Republicans ejected from the House because, in her words, half of Congress could have been killed. Kind of like a baseball field in Virginia where a Bernie Sanders supporter tried to gun down the entire Republican caucus. No one on the right held Senator Sanders responsible. But every Republican must be held accountable for January 6th. And 10,000 National Guard troops stand ready in Washington, D.C.

Pointing out these and other facts is not whataboutism unless you attempt to excuse the rioters at the Capitol. No one in the mainstream is doing that. Instead, we are pointing out the rank hypocrisy of the other side. They do not hold moral authority here. In fact, it is the opposite. For those who apply a consistent principle to political violence, there is no reason they should accept lectures, accusations, or accountability from the left for a single second. It could be argued that we are required to point out their obvious cognitive dissonance.

The organization Blue Lives Matter put it perfectly:

They see you, Democrats, and the media. So does a large segment of America.