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How to "Escape" Confrontations -- Whataboutism (Logical Fallacy)

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For those new to philosophy, a logical fallacy is an error in one's reasoning, in one's thinking. To avoid an incorrect conclusion, philosophy helps us to find fallacies in our thinking. Not only in our own thinking, but also in other people's thinking. If they do not like it, that is a different topic.

The rationale behind this procedure is this: the fewer fallacies we have, the more likely we are to reach correct conclusions in our arguments. How can we expect to better understand reality if we do not fix the mistakes in our thinking? How can we otherwise improve our recognition of the truth if reality can be explained rationally?

Experience alone is insufficient. It is good, and it can certainly help, but the mind must also be more rational.

On with today's missive.

"Whataboutism" comes from two words: "what about." Should you not answer a question you've been asked and instead divert the attention to a different case with a similar issue, that's "whataboutism."

Its fallacy occurs when the question is avoided, by deflecting the same or an identical problem. It is a fallacy because it can be used to blame the other party for the same problem you've been confronted with yourself.

It can be used to call people out on their hypocrisies and avoid confrontations. However, regardless of its popular functionalities, it is fallacious. If a neighbor is noisy and you go complain, they might blame you for being noisy as well. As a result, the issue is resolved with an excuse. Unless you prove to them why it's a fallacy. Sure, you might be noisy too, but who said neighbors should not compromise for some peace?

An improving or good philosopher will avoid distractions and answer the relevant questions. It isn't to say that all questions are worthy of our time (like Tommy Wiseau asking you in public, "How is your s*x life?"), but why should we avoid questions that deserve to be answered? Because of embarrassment? The truth can indeed embarrass...

Politicians... seem to use this fallacy well, to the point of expertise. Am I correct? I once heard of the term "political answer". It is, essentially, an answer that does not answer the question. I guess politicians give these kinds of answers to avoid unnecessary obligations. Especially if they can be recorded and displayed throughout history.

How strange it is to see powerful people use this fallacy so casually. In a way, they normalize this fallacy, and maybe more, and create the delusion that they are not fallacious. Since they're role models to many people, audiences may follow suit. It's easy to learn from respected figures, even though it can be a fallacy of its own...

To avoid this fallacy, all you have to do is not shift the blame to others. "Be a man", per se, and tackle issues directly. If you're a woman, then "Be a woman". It's just an expression encouraging courage. I support gender equality.

If you want, just shift the blame afterwards, and then no rational person can accuse you of this fallacy. Why? Because you already gave them the answer they wanted. "Extra points" if you gave a detailed answer before then.

Who said we could not blame others for their pretentiousness? Just answer an accuser's questions in a logical manner, and then go on with directing it back to them if you'd like. This isn't a cancellation of your speech. It is merely to say that "whataboutism" isn't there to shift the blame without tackling the problem at hand. After all, the question's been answered already.

Did you know? Surprisingly to me, it is a variant of the French expression: "Tu quoque", or "appeal to hypocrisy". It is translated in Hebrew to "So do you" or "Gam Ata".

It basically says that he or she who sins in the same way has no right to blame the same thing on others.

In other words, it's a poor defense mechanism. Unless you don't know what whataboutism is. It's also called deflection.

Some of you may agree with it; I think some may. However, does that mean murderers should not be charged for their crimes if the state is itself a murderer? A Holocaust organizer, Adolf Eichmann, was executed in Israel. Does that mean the Israeli government has no right to punish murderers in the future? This is a honest question. Remember! Some American States execute as well, AKA, give the death penalty. I'm asking because some people may refer to Eichmann's execution, by using this fallacy, thus trying to legitimize the death penalty as a common practice.

Should these States not imprison killers, and thus make the public space safer because they have the death penalty? It isn't to support execution. It's hard to say why such accusations are not counterintuitive. We want to save innocent lives and our own skin, if possible. Right?

Do you think I should make a new category on Philosocom regarding fallacies? I'm asking because I already have a lot of categories. Please let me know. It's part of making the site's content more accessible. Thanks! Either a public comment or a personal message to me will do.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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