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Feb 20, 2019

Since the beginning of what’s generally called ‘RussiaGate’ three years ago, pundits, media outlets, even comedians have all become insta-experts on supposed Russian propaganda techniques. The most cunning of these tricks, we are told, is that of “whataboutism” – a devious Soviet tactic of deflecting criticism by pointing out the accusers’ hypocrisy and inconsistencies. The tu quoque - or, “you, also” - fallacy, but with a unique Slavic flavor of nihilism, used by Trump and leftists alike in an effort to change the subject and focus on the faults of the United States rather than the crimes of Official State Enemies. 

But what if "whataboutism" isn’t describing a propaganda technique, but in fact is one itself: a zombie phrase that’s seeped into everyday liberal discourse that – while perhaps useful in the abstract - has manifestly turned any appeal to moral consistency into a cunning Russian psyop. From its origins in the Cold War as a means of deflecting and apologizing for Jim Crow to its braindead contemporary usage as a way of not engaging any criticism of the United States as the supposed arbiter of human rights, the term "whataboutism" has become a term that - 100 percent of the time - is simply used to defend and legitimizing American empire’s moral narratives.

We are joined by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept.