Whataboutism is always wrong

Whataboutism is a rhetorical strategy — a kind of counter argument — made popular during the Cold War. Back then, the US would assail the USSR over human rights violations, and instead of responding to the charges, the Soviets would say, “But what about your own abuses of the homeless? What about your treatment of women? What about etc. etc.?” Whataboutism is a tool for distraction and deflection.

The Cold War is (mostly) over, but whataboutism is still going strong. Our president is a big fan of it, and so are carnivores, apparently. People learn that I’m a vegan and ask, “How can you care more for animals than people? What about all the starving children in Africa/Asia/Appalachia? What about people dying of cancer?”

The obvious answers that line of questioning is “Do you think I can only care about one thing at a time?”

A recent study has shown that I’m not alone in my thinking. In fact, it’s not only shown that people can care about the welfare of multiple groups, it’s shown that people are more likely to do so. The big takeaway:

“In other words, concern for human suffering seemed to feed concern for animal suffering, and vice versa. It’s the suffering, not the species, that matters to many….

Compassion begets compassion. The response, both in argument and in practice, to ‘what about X?’ is ‘yes, that too.‘”



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