bookmark_borderThoughts on “whataboutism”

Often during political discussions and debates, when one person points out another person’s inconsistency or hypocrisy, he or she will be accused of “whataboutism.” This has always struck me as a wrong and disingenuous argumentative tactic.

After last week’s protest at the Capitol, accusations of “whataboutism” have proliferated. Numerous people have correctly pointed out the inconsistency of those who condemn pro-Trump protesters’ breach of the Capitol despite having said nothing to criticize equally violent and destructive protests by members of the Black Lives Matter movement. Frequently, the person being criticized responds by accusing his/her critic of “whataboutism.” The implication is that the critic is somehow doing something wrong by pointing out this inconsistency. The focus needs to be on the topic currently under discussion, the argument goes, and bringing up things that have happened in the past detracts from the real issue. People who make this argument place such importance on condemning the protest at the Capitol that they consider it irrelevant to consider whether their condemnation is proportional and fair when compared with their reactions to other events. 

These types of arguments are disingenuous and wrong. Thinking logically, noticing inconsistencies, and pointing them out are important parts of discussing a topic. If two people are debating, and one of those people employs double standards or other inconsistencies in reasoning, that person’s opponent has every right to point that out. It is wrong to criticize right-wing protesters more harshly than left-wing protesters if both groups acted similarly, just as it would be wrong for a teacher to give one student a better grade than another when both students turned in similar quality work, for an employer to pay one employee more than another if they both have the same job and perform equally well, or for a judge to give one person a harsher sentence than another if both people committed similar crimes. 

It’s important to treat people in a fair and unbiased way. This is particularly true if one is active in the field of politics, public policy, or law, or writes about these topics for a living. Being inconsistent is a problem that does real harm to those who are being criticized or punished disproportionately, while giving a free pass to those who are more deserving of criticism and punishment. Making allegations of “whataboutism” is a way of deflecting attention from one’s own inconsistency and hypocrisy. When someone uses the term “whataboutism,” they are saying that pointing out inconsistency is the real problem, as opposed to the actual inconsistency itself. 

bookmark_border“Snowflake” hypocrisy

When it comes to masks, my opinion is simple: if you want to wear one, do. If you don’t want to wear one, don’t. Either option is fine. If it’s your body, it should be your choice.

In one of the latest instances of someone on the left-hand side of the political spectrum personally insulting and ridiculing people with differing opinions, Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham tells the story of encountering a person while hiking who was not wearing a mask. This individual told Abraham and her family to take off their masks because they “need the oxygen.” In her column, Abraham points out that the man “was not just opting not to wear a mask himself, but proselytizing against it.” This is a legitimate point, and a good distinction to draw. The mask-less man was within his rights not to wear a mask, and Abraham and her family were within their rights to wear them. Just as it would have been wrong of her to criticize him, it was also wrong of him to criticize her. 

But then Abraham spends the rest of her column criticizing – often in incredibly offensive and insulting ways – people who opt not to wear masks. First, she writes, “and they call us snowflakes,” implying that those on the right-hand of the political spectrum are the true “snowflakes” of the world. Then, she characterizes the mask-less man on the hiking trail as “parroting the idiotic anti-science rhetoric of the president and his cult.” Next, she complains about how conservatives “mock liberals for being weak, then whine about how uncomfortable they feel with a little cloth on their faces.” Abraham does not stop at ridiculing people who choose not to wear masks; she also ridicules people who traveled for Thanksgiving, characterizing them as “disregarding the pleas of health workers” and “flout[ing] the health guidelines that could protect us all.” She calls choices that are less risk-averse than her own choices “enraging to see.” And referring to a meeting of the New York Young Republicans Club at which members did not wear masks, she demands, “At what point is it OK to demand that people take the personal responsibility that Republicans are always banging on about?” 

So essentially Abraham devotes an entire column to simultaneously criticizing conservatives for calling people weak and irresponsible and also calling conservatives weak and irresponsible. It’s hard to get more hypocritical than that. Here’s a revolutionary concept: how about not calling people who disagree with you weak and irresponsible? How about actually explaining why you disagree with someone’s ideas, instead of personally attacking, insulting, and ridiculing the person?

First of all, none of the actions that Abraham describes are irresponsible. The actions that she describes – traveling, getting together, not wearing masks, etc. – are less cautious and less risk-averse than what she would choose to do, but how cautious or risk-averse an action is has nothing to do with whether or not it is responsible. People have the right to choose how balance safety versus quality of life in their own lives; no choice with regards to this trade-off is more or less responsible than any other choice.

Additionally, we need to get rid of the term “snowflake” other than in the context of describing winter weather. I’ve never understood why people use this term. It originated as a way to express the idea that each person is unique, just as no two snowflakes are exactly alike when examined under a microscope. But people across the political spectrum quickly adopted it as an insult, a way to imply that one’s opponents are somehow fragile, just as a literal snowflake easily melts in warm temperatures. There is no need for this type of personal attack in political discourse.

Furthermore, the terms “whining,” “parroting,” and “banging on” need to be eliminated from our language. All of these verbs presume the truth of what the speaker is attempting to prove. They describe another person’s speech in a way that presumes that the person’s speech is wrong – whining presumes that the person’s complaints are illegitimate; parroting presumes that the person is mindlessly repeating the words of another instead of thinking for him/herself, and banging on presumes that what the person is saying is stupid and/or ridiculous. How about addressing the truth or falsity of what someone is saying, as opposed to insulting the manner of saying it? 

So in conclusion, no one is a “snowflake.” No one “whines,” no one “parrots,” and no one “bangs on.” People say things, and if you disagree with them, you have a right to say so, but you do not have a right to personally insult the speaker in such offensive terms. Columns as unprofessional as Abraham’s have no place in a newspaper, and opinions as cruel, intolerant, and nasty as hers have no place in this world.

bookmark_borderStraight Pride Parade protesters demonstrate intolerance and hypocrisy

On Saturday, August 31, a Straight Pride Parade and rally took place in Boston. This provided an opportunity for so-called liberals to take to the streets and demonstrate their intolerance and hypocrisy.

The protesters chanted things such as “Boston hates you,” “go away,” “f*** you,” and “Nazi scum, get off our streets.” They ridiculed the fact that fewer people attended the parade than the protests against it. And they ridiculed the classical music that played as rally organizers waited for more supporters to arrive, saying “Your music is 500 years old, just like your values.” (What does how old values are have to do with whether they are right or wrong?) They taunted police officers, asking “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” (as if protecting an unpopular minority against a bullying majority is a bad thing). They pointed their middle fingers as the parade made its way down Boylston Street and as the rally began on City Hall Plaza. One protester screamed, “What do you have to be proud of? What have you done?” (Can you imagine what the reaction would be if someone asked this of gay pride demonstrators?)

Continue reading “Straight Pride Parade protesters demonstrate intolerance and hypocrisy”

bookmark_borderRacism in action

Renee Graham’s latest Boston Globe column, entitled “You can read the white rage in their MAGA hats,” might just be the most ridiculous thing I have ever read.

In it, she criticizes as racist a group of “white teenage boys” for wearing “Make America Great Again” hats to the National Museum of African American History & Culture. “Clearly, this was meant as a provocation,” she huffs, immediately prior to admitting that the group “did nothing disruptive” other than simply existing and moving through the museum. Graham characterizes this horribly inappropriate behavior as “trolling” and “denigrat[ing] African-American history.” She describes how African-American museum visitors shook their heads at the group, rolled their eyes, and gave them “side-eye.”

“African-Americans survived the Middle Passage, centuries of enslavement, families torn apart, systemic sexual abuse, lynchings, racist Supreme Court decisions, police violence, and Jim Crow,” she pontificates. “Every effort to dim our light has only made it burn hotter and brighter. We’re still here, unbowed…. We won’t be intimidated by people in MAGA hats – or the noxious president they represent.”

I, for one, am in awe of Graham’s courage. A grown woman was brave enough not to be intimidated by teens – gasp! – holding political views that are different from hers! What incredible grit and strength it must have taken to survive something so horrific.

In all seriousness, Graham’s opinion about the Trump-supporting teens is inaccurate, bigoted, and hypocritical:

Inaccurate because she characterizes the teens’ wearing of MAGA hats as racist when there is absolutely no evidence that this is true. There are plenty of reasons to support Trump, most of which have nothing to do with race.

Bigoted because she assumes the teens must be racist because of their race and political orientation and criticizes them merely for existing in a public place. Graham treats it as an act of aggression for people to wear a particular hat while minding their own business, while in reality Graham and the museum-goers who gave dirty looks were aggressing against an innocent group of people.

And hypocritical because Graham purports to advocate against racism and discrimination while herself being more racist than most of the people she criticizes. It’s past time for Graham to stop using blatantly racist terms such as “white rage” and to start thinking about being tolerant, for once, of people who are different than her.

bookmark_borderMy thoughts on Charlottesville & Boston, and why Trump is 100% right

When you have a crowd of 40,000 people protesting against a rally of a few dozen people, you cannot claim that the few dozen people are the oppressors.

The pictures above show the Free Speech Rally that took place on Boston Common on Saturday (right) and the crowd of people who decided to protest against it (left).

Pretty much everyone agrees that slavery and Jim Crow laws were bad, but our society has reached a point where things have gone too far in the opposite direction. The people who claim to be against hate, discrimination, and prejudice are actually more hateful, discriminatory, and prejudiced than the people they are protesting against. Continue reading “My thoughts on Charlottesville & Boston, and why Trump is 100% right”