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What’s whataboutism?

作者: 沧州翻译公司  发布时间:2017-05-19 14:22:27  点击率:

 Reader question:kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Please explain this headline: Trump Embraces One Of Russia’s Favorite Propaganda Tactics — Whataboutism (NPR.org, March 17, 2017). What’s whataboutism exactly?kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

My comments:kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

You criticize someone for doing something wrong, and they say “What about you?”kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

In a nutshell, that’s whataboutism, a retorting tactic turned into an art form or, seriously, an ideology, an ism.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Without going into detail, we may infer that in our example, the article talks about all the times when US President Donald Trump is criticized for something, he talks back with, say, “What about Obama?”, or “What about Clinton?”, Hillary Clinton that is, Trump’s presidential opponent.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Or “What about Bill?” Bill Clinton, that is, Hillary’s husband and former president.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

In short, Trump just talks tough – without admitting to anything he does wrong or poorly.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

It’s called “Russia’s favourite propaganda tactic” because Russia, or the Soviet Union in fact, used to adopt this tactic quite a lot during the cold war?kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

The cold war? Google it, please. Or Bing it.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Not only Russia, I remember China did the same thing, too. During the 1980s and 1990s, for example, whenever the United States criticized China on human rights, China said more or less the same thing: “What about your record?” Look at your slums and overpopulated prisons, etc. and so forth. In other words, take a look in the mirror.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

It worked. Later, China began compiling its own files on America’s human rights abuses annually and usually published them immediately after the American report was published. You know what, it worked. Nowadays, this topic is much less talked about in the news.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

What we learn from whataboutism is, first, no one is perfect, which is, well, fair enough. Second, as a propaganda tactic, it is notorious, because it doesn’t address the problem in question. Politically, it is merely a propaganda tactic.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Or PR tactic. In America, they say public relations instead of propaganda, because the latter had long acquired a notorious reputation.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Now, let’s read a few media examples of “What about?” or whataboutism to drive the lessons home:kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

1. Two days ago Roger Cohen wrote the following in the New York Times:kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

The magnetism of Silicon Valley may suggest that the United States, a young nation still, is Rome at the height of its power. American soft power is alive and well. America’s capacity for reinvention, its looming self-sufficiency in energy, its good demographics and, not least, its hold on the world’s imagination, all suggest vigor.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Cohen goes on to fret about the waning of U.S. geopolitical power, but let’s stay on the soft power side of things. The events in Ferguson, Mo., have given rise to a new wave of “whataboutism,” a term coined by the Economist to describe Russia’s tendency to respond to criticisms of its policies with tu quoque replies of “what about Iraq?” or “what about race relations in America?”kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Events in Ferguson have caused whataboutism to go global. As Robin Wright notes in the Wall Street Journal a whole bunch o’ authoritarian states have seized on Ferguson to criticize the United States:kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

The U.S. investment of billions of American dollars to promote democratic values around the world has been undermined by the racial unrest in Ferguson. “US can’t tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won’t clear up its own human rights record,” Amnesty International tweeted this week.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Several countries that have faced severe criticism in the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report are now boldly engaging in a kind of diplomatic touché-to-you in their condemnation of the U.S. Some may be expected from autocratic regimes. But the crisis in Ferguson undermines the moral high-ground that the U.S. has long claimed.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

...kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

There are some reasons for real concern. It was The New Republic’s indispensable Julia Ioffe who first observed the application of whataboutism to Ferguson — and she found it very sobering:kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Watching the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, it’s hard not to wince… at our foolish idea of our country. Russian police arrested journalists at protests, not American cops. And, even if the chances are higher that heads will roll here for something like this than in Russia, it’s hard not to notice one thing: Even at the height of the race riots in Moscow, at the height of the crackdown on the opposition, even the Russian police did not use rubber bullets.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

And, like it or not, this is what the world is seeing, the world to which we strive to be an example.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

- Ferguson, whataboutism and American soft power, WashingtonPost.com, August 20, 2014.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

2. Russia is a country where admitting fault is not part of the political lexicon and President Putin has turned the tables, accusing Russia’s accusers of “politicizing” sports.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

“We are seeing a dangerous recurrence of political interference in sport,” he said July 18. “Yes, forms of such intervention have changed, but the essence is still the same: to make sport an instrument of geopolitical pressure, the formation of a negative image of the countries and people.”kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

The state-controlled media have picked up that theme and most Russians CNN has spoken with appear to believe it.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

An article on the website of one TV network blares the headline: “An order from the United States or Rodchenkov’s revenge: Who unleashed the doping war against Russia.”kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Russian anti-doping experts are being quoted in the media, challenging details of the WADA report.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

There’s another attitude toward doping allegations that many Russians seem to share, what used to be called in the Soviet Union “whataboutism,” in other words, “who are you to call the kettle black?”kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Here’s how pole vaulter Yelena Isanbayeva put it to Russian TV:kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

“Doping existed 20 years ago, and ten years ago, and everyone knows it very well because athletes were disqualified, including from other countries, but everyone went out there and competed, and there was no problem. And now the international community all together, including WADA, has turned toward Russia, how can you not say it’s politicized?”kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

The Russian Olympic Committee, also is standing firm, challenging the IOC to make a “fair and unbiased decision” Sunday and allow “clean” Russian athletes to take part in the Rio Olympics.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Meanwhile, farewell celebrations for Russian athletes going to Rio are on hold.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

- Olympic doping ban unleashes fury in Moscow, CNN.com, July 24, 2016.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

3. The firing of James Comey is a perfect example how many conservatives avoided the issue of Trump’s action by focusing on the media reaction.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

“The media is freaking out over something he’s got every right to do!” Nobody in the press outside of hyper-partisan commentators argued Trump lacked authority to fire Comey. The questions raised about Trump’s motives were valid.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

On the campaign trail, Trump praised Comey for his actions, particularly the “Comey letter” as it related to the Clinton email investigation. He then claimed he was firing Comey because of his poor handling of that same inquiry. Two days after firing Comey, Trump reversed himself saying he was going to fire him regardless of the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

The press reacted the way they did because Trump’s official reason for firing Comey (it was spelled out in his letter and by his aides to the press) turned out to be bunk. The press merely reacted to a complete 180-degree turn, and the reaction and criticism that followed were well-deserved.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Trump used his aides and Rod Rosenstein as cover and didn’t care one bit he left them to twist in the wind. If President Obama did something similar, conservatives would lose their minds and rightly so. Instead, so many conservatives jumped in to defend Trump with the straw man argument that he had every right to fire Comey and so who cares what reason he gave.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

It is a similar phenomenon when comparing the behavior of both Presidents.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Trump is impetuous, prone to running his mouth at inopportune times, lies with ease, and can’t get out of his own way which is a good reason why his legislative agenda is sitting there like horse droppings on a Manhattan street during a hot day. The same people, however, never see fit to criticize Trump. They’re more concerned with saying, “Well, what about Barack Obama?kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

What about him? He is no longer the President of The United States.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

……kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

If Trump screws up, he screws up. Comparing him to Barack Obama doesn’t make up for his failure. In fact, it spotlights Trump’s incompetence by arguing what he’s doing is no worse than Obama’s behavior.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Conservatives should beware of lowering their standards for a man who only a few years ago was writing checks to Hillary Clinton.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Donald Trump has no core beliefs. He is an opportunist. He doesn’t deserve loyalty from people involved in the conservative movement for decades. He certainly should not have his behavior excused by saying, “Well what about _________?”kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

- With Trump, Conservatives Cannot Give Into Whataboutism, RedState.com, February 16, 2017.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

本文仅代表作者本人观点,与本网立场无关。欢迎大家讨论学术问题,尊重他人,禁止人身攻击和发布一切违反国家现行法律法规的内容。kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

About the author:kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: [email protected], or raise a question for potential use in a future column.kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)kyq沧州翻译公司-忠信乐译翻译有限公司

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