A flurry of whataboutery

Whataboutery is a way of dodging questions by raising an irrelevant question to point out the hypocrisy of the questioner. As a political device, it took shape in the 1980s Soviet Union – whenever the United States accused it of human rights violations, the Soviet government replied on the lines of “What about you hanging black people?” By accusing the US of something from the past, the Soviet Union evaded from actually answering the allegations. This method also gained prominence in the 1980s and 1990s during the Northern Island Conflict. And just like any other Western trend, this one too gripped India slowly and steadily and is taking a toll on the Indian television media.

In 2015, when 33 writers returned their Sahitya Akademi awards as a way of protesting against the growing intolerance, the media extensively covered the BJP supporters and spokespersons asking “What about these writers not returning their awards during the Emergency, the anti-Sikh riots or any other incidents when the Congress was in power?” In 2017, during the protests against the murder of Gauri Lankesh, the Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked “What about protesting against the killings of Sangh members in Kerala and Karnataka?”

Whataboutery is a tool of diversion in politics. Not getting distracted by such deliberate diversions is what differentiates journalism from gossip. Unfortunately, most of our television media is occupied by talking heads with their empty rhetoric, dodging every attempt in dealing with serious issues.

Akileish Ramanathan, KAGA News