MINOT, N.D. — Participate in a political debate long enough, and you're bound to hear the term "whataboutism."
These are terms used to describe a situation when someone is trying to mitigate, in some way, something they or someone they support did by pointing out similar behavior from their opponents. It's a variation on the tu quoque (Latin for "you also") fallacy.
And it is a fallacy when deployed as an excuse. Whatever activists aligned with left-wing politics may or may not have done in the past does not, in any way, change what Trump supporters did at the Capitol.
Parents should recognize that sort of childish argument. I know my daughter frequently tries to excuse her messy room by pointing out that her brother's room is also messy.
But "whataboutism" is also deployed as a way to deflect otherwise apt criticism.
Here's an example from CNN talking head Don Lemon, arguing that it's not appropriate to bring up the left-wing violence we saw over the summer — vandalism and beatings and deaths often, but not always, taking place at Black Lives Matter demonstrations — in the context of the violence at the U.S. Capitol inspired by disgraced President Donald Trump and perpetrated by his supporters.
"One is built on people, on racial justice, on criminal justice, right, on reform, on police not beating up — or police treating people of color differently than they do whites. OK? That is not a lie. Those are facts. Go look at them," he said, referring to the left-wing violence. "What happened at the Capitol was built on a lie perpetrated by the president and the people who support him. So, just on that one merit, if you want to call it, it’s not comparable. That things are not comparable. So they should not be doing it. And stop this whataboutism."
To buy this line of reasoning is to stipulate that protests for racial justice and against law enforcement abuse must also include, say, destroying a car dealership in Oakland.
The BLM protests, and the riot at the capitol, are not equivalent movements.
At the heart of the BLM protests was a righteous cause (even if you or I might disagree on some of the particulars).
The insurrection at the Capitol was motivated by an off-the-rails political leader promoting false conspiracy theories about the election.
Still, some used the BLM cause to justify violence against innocent bystanders, including business owners who had to deal with burned-out storefronts and broken windows amid an economic environment already addled by the pandemic.
That's not OK, and it wasn't OK for left-wing commentators and activists to try and downplay or excuse this violence. It wasn't OK when they did the same during the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline here in North Dakota. Even if you oppose the pipeline, the tactics of mayhem and pain, and fear deployed by many of the activists who came to our state was inexcusable.
It is not acceptable to use violence to scare people into supporting, or at least not opposing, your cause even if that cause, considered on its own merits, is just. Shouldn't we all agree on that?
It is not "whataboutism" to point that out.
In fact, it's an act of rank hypocrisy to deploy accusations of "bothsideism" as a way to deflect this line of criticism.
To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.