Sunday, 11 September 2016

What About Whataboutery

Let's picture a  conversation between Gandhi and the British in  pre-independent India

Sounds stupid, no? Perhaps that's why the British didn't pursue that line of reasoning at the peak of their atrocities. Imagine a Raja Ram Mohan Roy resorting to this rhetoric when Sati was the norm rather than a social anomaly. Imagine him telling the wretched women something to the tune of, "But what about Muslim men who routinely murder their errant wives for infidelity with the sanction of Islam?" These might sound like laughably juvenile scenarios that could never possibly happen in a world of grown-ups who have even a hummingbird's ability to reason, but apparently, reason is a thing of the past. Welcome to Modi's India where "what about" is the currency in every discourse, no matter how serious the issue. The expression has become so ubiquitous we even have a name for it – Whataboutery. 
Rather pedestrian, but then so is the 'whataboutery' itself.
Whataboutery is such a powerful tool, that it is a staple in the arsenal of every lazy debater and social media foot soldier (remember, we talked about the sangh and social media). In fact, it has already toppled rationale and wit as the panacea for every losing argument. The more ridiculous your stand, the better whataboutery works. The shallower your argument, the more indispensable whataboutery becomes.
Zakir Naik is spewing bile against non-Muslims and inspiring terrorism. Damn that's a smoking gun! There just can't be any refuting that one, can there? I mean his speeches are all in public domain, his vitriol is as pervasive on YouTube as a teenage vlogger's iPhone unboxing video. How do you defend your messiah against such an armor-piercing shot? Easy, just try, "But what about Sadhvi Prachi? What about Parveen Togadia?" And just like that, you decimate all arguments the naysayer might ever have.
Similarly, how do you defend your master if he happens to be a Togadia who can't stop having very public wet-dreams about a "Hindu Rashtra"? Simple – What about Zakir Naik who claims Islam is the father of all religions and that Krishna and all other Hindu Gods came out of Islam? There's no way your stupid opponent is gonna withstand this assault of whataboutery even with all the wit and reasoning in the world at his disposal.
Pellet guns? What about terrorists? Ahmedabad? What about Godhra? Beef ban? What about pork (no matter how idiotic this one sounds, it works)? Ghar wapsi? What about "love jihad" (whatever that means)? Mother Teresa's charities for the destitute? What about the conversions? A Muslim girl celebrates Rakhi with her Hindu neighbor in Lahore? What about the Christian family killed in Pakistan for insulting Koran? You see, the sorcery is omnipresent and omnipotent. No matter what you throw at it, whataboutery tars over your intelligent, factual and relevant argument. Every. Single. Time.
Someone I follow avidly recently asked his followers a very inconspicuous open question: "How comfortable do you feel about the amount of nuisance and noise pollution in the name of religious festivities every year." This was not about Ganesh Chaturthi or Moharram in particular. This was as secular as it gets. At least to me. But then, we live in a country where questioning asshattery in the name of religion without offending anyone is not for the faint of heart. Into the valley of death did he valiantly ride. The very first comment to his post went something like this: "If I can handle the 5.00 AM assault to my ears in the name of morning aazaan everyday, I think I can also handle the once-in-a-year Ganapati inconvenience."  Self righteous, pompous 'Whatabouterartist'. Yes that's a word, I say it's a word. What about 'Whataboutery'? Haan.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely piece of writing. Thanks for sharing.