Scott Tibbs

Good whataboutism and bad whataboutism

By Scott Tibbs, June 26, 2023

It is unfortunate that we have become so tribal that virtually any revelation of wrongdoing by a politician, political pundit or public figure is met with "what about this same action by someone else?" This whataboutism is destructive and poisonous. It erodes and then eventually destroys moral standards, without which society cannot function. We cannot even discuss public policy if one side or the other has flip-flopped, because we eventually hear the "what about X endorsing this position back in X year?"

Basically, our entire political culture has degenerated into a bunch of children whining "He did it tooooooooooooooooo!! He did it tooooooooooooooooo!!"

Obviously, there are bad examples of whataboutism. If someone condemns bad behavior by A, defenders of A will point to bad behavior by B in an attempt to distract from the bad behavior or even to justify or defend what ought to be indefensible.

But are all examples of whataboutism bad? No. Someone who puts principles over tribe can condemn bad behavior of someone in his political tribe. He can do this while also pointing out that the people on the other side are not actually interested in condemning the behavior itself, because they defended the identical behavior of someone they support. It is appropriate to point out hypocrisy and political opportunism so long as that hypocrisy is not used to excuse immoral behavior or abuse of power.

You will notice I have not mentioned any names or specific cases. That is because the principle here is much more important than any specific example of whataboutism. The point is that all of us, on both sides, need to do better. We need to be careful even in exposing hypocrisy that we are not falling into the idolatry of tribalism. Out first loyalty should be to morality, principles and the standards given to us by Almighty God in His Word.

Opinion Archives

E-mail Scott

Scott's Links

About the Author