“Whataboutism” is a good name for some of the laziest, most specious retorts to information that doesn’t fit a person’s preferred narrative.
Political reporting is the primary home of “whataboutism,” but you can see it in college sports too. When Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was caught on video trying to run from the police after he had one too many “hard Gatorades” fans from other teams lined up to make fun of him. Oklahoma fans couldn’t really defend Mayfield’s actions. He was caught on tape and it wasn’t a good look.
So all Sooner fans could do is engage in expert level “whataboutism.” “What about” when Oklahoma State let a player who was arrested for DUI the week before a game play against the Sooners? “What about” (insert list of players caught doing something bad at rival school.)
It is easy to do. Our guy isn’t exactly good, but he isn’t as bad as your guy. Or at least, you have no room to talk about our guy doing this because your guy did that.
It is silly and unimportant when it is about athletes and fan bases.
It is more relevant or more damaging when it is about the people we elect or those who support them.
We just crossed the one year anniversary of the release of the video that most sane people thought would finally put an end to the Donald Trump candidacy. In the video, he tells Billy Bush — no relation to me — how he attempted to commit adultery with a married woman and admitted to sexually assaulting other women.
In the recording Trump infamously claimed to grab women in normally off-limit places because, “When you are a star, they let you do anything.”
A dozen or so women came forward after the recording was released to tell how Trump had done some of the very things he bragged to Billy Bush — still no relation to me — about.
Trump’s punishment was having to spend the next four years in some “dump” called the White House where his unfortunate current wife feels like a prisoner.
Apparently, many Republicans weren’t that upset by the tape. Democrats were, but just not enough of them.
Republicans were much more upset about recent revelations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein did some pretty despicable things. One of the big reasons Republicans care is because many news organizations have slow played, downplayed or shamed victims in the Weinstein case.
Amazingly enough, the same District Attorney who let two of Trump’s children off on fraud charges despite the existence of evidence in emails, also let Weinstein off the hook for sexual assault allegation despite the existence of an audio tape.
It’s a small world, huh.
Can you imagine a tape existing where a guy admits to sexual assault and nothing happened? Sean Hannity can’t. Then he asked Bill O’Reilly to discuss the situation.
Irony is dead. It is too late to have a funeral, dirt has already been kicked all over that grave.
The Weinstein issue is a little more complicated. Many covered for him because they feared his power and control over their careers. Others were complicit in his horrible behavior because they got to exist in his circle of power and opulence. They got to be in the club. “When you are a star, they let you do anything,” after all.
The problem we have in our partisan world is that we even make sexual assault a political discussion.
That’s why so many awful people represent us. People will overlook any sin — even to the point of criminal activity — in order to make sure more people with Rs or Ds behind their name are elected.
That is how Trump got elected. It is why those 33 percent of the country still support him. If a Democrat — which Trump was a few years ago — did what Trump did during the campaign, after he got elected or even yesterday, the GOP would be ready to file articles of impeachment. Remember Bill Clinton? They tried to impeach him. And guess what the Democrats did. They defended Clinton. Now they want to impeach Trump.
Both should face the same outcry from both sides of the aisle. If your morals depend on party affiliation, you don’t really have morals.
If you are in the media and you gleefully cover Trump’s sexual missteps but you can’t find time to run a story on Weinstein, you aren’t worthy of the platform the First Amendment guarantees you.
Weinstein is awful. Trump is awful. Bill Clinton is awful.
God gave you lots of fingers. There should be enough to point at all of them.
The next time you find yourself excusing bad behavior with a “what about” just stop and recognize that right is always right and wrong is always wrong. It doesn’t matter what the other guy did.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.