Friday, September 18, 2015

Whataboutery and the Corbynistas

World Wide Words is a great site for anyone interested in the English language.

In 2012 it discussed 'whataboutery':
It’s associated particularly with the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Bitter arguments by one side about terrorism were often countered, not by reasoned argument, but by accusations of similar atrocities by the other. 
In 2000, The Scotsman attributed the coinage to the former West Belfast MP Gerry Fitt, and gave this example: “Aye, the IRA might be bad, but what about ...”. That makes clear it’s what about turned into a noun. 
The Belfast Telegraph used it on 29 September: “Both sides are steeped in historical ‘whataboutery’ and they cannot see the historical woods for the modern trees.”
I mention it because whataboutery is pretty much all that enthusiasts for Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party have to offer.

When John McDonnell's comments on the Provisional IRA from 2003:
"It's about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. 
"It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table."
there were numerous tweets like this from Corbyn supporters.
Thatcher's support for the Pinochet regime was an outrage, and if there had been blogs in the 1980s I would have said so.

But reasonable people are against both Pinochet and the IRA. And such people are precisely the ones Labour should be seeking to win over.

If you are one of Corbyn's keyboard warriors, however, such people do not exist. You are either in his tribe or you are a Tory.

Far from seeking to broaden Labour's appeal they seem more concerned with weeding out the Tories in their own ranks.

This is a more extreme version of the use all activists (yes, Liberal Democrats) tend to make of social media. We spend our time telling each other how noble we are and how wicked the other parties are. We resemble a tribe of monkeys grooming one another.

Another factor in whataboutery is a horror of hypocrisy. Our opponents accuse us of things but - look! - they do even worse things themselves.

There is something terribly adolescent about the idea that a charge of hypocrisy trumps all others. Those who make it sound as though they have not yet got over the discovery that their parents are not perfect.

Adult life sometimes involves telling other less than the truth (when they have given you a present you don't particularly like, for instance) and it sometimes means going along with things you don't particularly agree with for the sake of politeness.

A good example of this is that you sing the National Anthem if you choose to attend a Battle of Britain memorial service.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But what about the Lib Dems defending so many of their recent actions by saying that Labour had been worse?