How to “Whatabout” Your Way Around Every Debate


How to “Whatabout” Your Way Around Every Debate

Illustration: Juergen D


hy did you fail in Geography?” the questioning would begin, with me in the hot seat like Mark Zuckerberg. My parents and relatives were everyone else, taking turns to destroy me.

“But dad, what about the fact that the entire class failed?” I would ask. I had no clue where oranges were growing in Maharashtra but even as a 10-year-old, I had mastered the classic Soviet tactic of “whataboutery”, or deflecting the problem by raising another problem, that the New Yorker labelled as “a strategy of false moral equivalences”. If everyone failed then it became acceptable for you also to fail. You don’t have to deal with the larger problem of being poor in the subject if you can raise suspicion over the evil Geography teacher itself. How could she fail everyone?