The Difference Between “Whataboutism” and Calling Out Hypocrisy.

FKA ES Writer
3 min readOct 1, 2022
Photo by Jack Skinner on Unsplash

I’m tired. Tired of “debate culture,” but also physically tired because I’m not a full-time writer yet. So there’s no appetizer before I get to the meat and potatoes in this dish.

Whataboutism VS. Hypocrisy.

Oxford defines “whataboutism” as “the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counteraccusation or raising a different issue. Oxford defines “hypocrisy” as “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.” Now that we’ve established definitions let’s marry the two words/concepts and then give them the bloody separation they most definitely need. I can see why people tend to intertwine the two. Even in the definitions you can see that there are glaring similarities that’ll link “whataboutism” and “hypocrisy.” The only common denominator is the individual who claims to have moral standards that their behavior clearly doesn’t match.

Raising A Different Issue.

This right here is “whataboutism.” One of the more infamous examples of this is when someone brings up “black on black crime” when the topic of discussion is police brutality towards black people. It’s whataboutism because these are two different discussions. One is about the blatant racism in America’s policing and the other is just a racist projection tool that should be viewed as proximity crime and discussed seriously in good faith for the hope of change. Just because the two issues deal with violence does not mean they are the same thing, therefore should not be seriously brought up in the same discussion. There’s violence against pigs and other farm animals in slaughter houses, would you show up to a September 11th memorial service and say “what about the animals” PETA might say so, but I’m asking you.

Claiming to Have Moral Standards or Beliefs to Which One’s Own Behavior Doesn’t Conform.

When this happens there is no better course of action other than to call out the hypocrisy because why not? We see hypocrisy every day. Your co-worker who jumps on social media during work to complain about you and the other co-workers, calling you out for checking your phone. To them, checking your phone while at work is punishable, but they don’t hold themself to the same standard, that’s hypocrisy. If I were to be reprimanded for my phone usage at work due to Becky’s tattle tailing, yet Becky uses her phone while working to post about her co-workers and I bring up the fact that she also uses her phone on company time that is not “whataboutism.” I’m calling attention not only to Becky’s hypocrisy, but the companies hypocrisy claiming to have a strict standard they are not holding every employee accountable for. Now if Becky and I both got in trouble for being on our phones at work and Becky brings up that Jerome is constantly late to work, that’ll be another example of “whataboutism.” Jerome’s punctuality is not the topic of discussion. The prohibited use of phones during work hours is.

Disclaimer: There are moments people bring up actions similar to their own to escape accountability. In those moments, one would be right in arguing “whataboutism” is being used. For example, I get caught cheating on a test and I call out my classmate, Cindy, who was also cheating on the test, to avoid punishment. That’d be me partaking in “whataboutism.” What really breaks the two apart is the intent. If Cindy and I both get caught cheating but only I was being punished for it or if my punishment isn’t of the same magnitude as Cindy’s, calling out the clear hypocrisy of what the rules say is not “whataboutism.” I’ve repeated myself enough in this piece. Hopefully you all understand what I’m saying.

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