Heard this played on Unfilter (which, in episode 343
, starting from somewhere around 20 mins, contains a good compilation of the media reactions to last week's protests). It's Don Lemon talking to Chris Cuomo:LEMON: ...there was a lot of whataboutism today that didn't necessarily have to happen. Stand on what is happening right now. Don't go back to what happened this summer. Again, I think it's apples and oranges. Don't talk about the Black Lives Matter. Don't talk about the protests -- we can all deal with that. Let's talk about what happened today.
It made me reflect on what I've gradually — although embarrassingly late — come to realize about the word whataboutism
. Like many other charged words, this word itself is a rhetorical device. The kind of argument that this word is referring to is a perfectly valid inference technique for establishing general rules. Consider the common example that used to be in wide circulation several months ago. A black kid, the argument went, is far more likely to be arrested for the crime of possessing (or dealing or whatever that was) drugs than a rich white kid. The argument did not deny that what the arrested kid does is a crime under the law of the land. But what it did was to covertly smuggle a whataboutism: if the police is so tough on the poor black kid, then what about that rich white kid they completely ignore? From the discourse of the time, I believe that particular whataboutism was accepted as a valid argument.
Fast-forward to the present day. One might think that the way the media and the politicians treated the BLM protests over the last half of the year would be important for setting the context of discussion of the latest Trump protest. That if you've been making the argument that protests are an important part of your political system and that protests, by their nature, don't have to be peaceful (was it Cuomo who said that?), then you would have the grace to either review your argument or to extend it to the Trump crowd. Insisting that there's no comparison between the two, that they are apples and oranges, is bewildering and demonstrates that it's not a rational analysis but a partisan propaganda.
BTW, saw this tweet in a developer's feed recently. Presumably, the narrative that it is intended to illustrate is how Republicans appealing to unity and to leaving the disagreements behind are untrustworthy hypocrites, but I think it also captures the media turning on a dime quite accurately: