‘Whataboutery’ is one of the great ways of shutting down conversation, never mind debate.
It’s one thing to point out hypocrisy in somebody’s position but it can be a kind of paralysis where can’t do something because somebody else once did something ‘bad’ (like the crusades from some perspectives) or because one is not doing something in other circumstances - ie one shouldn’t complain about Isis throwing gays off buildings because one is not protesting about something in Saudi or something that the Westboro guys are saying/doing.
We’ve had a wonderful case in the UK in the last few days where a Labour MP for a Birmingham constituency said on TV:
“very similar situation to what happened in Cologne could be described on Broad Street in Birmingham every week”.
She wasn’t talking about Muslim gangs at all, just ordinary young people going about their celebratory business on Friday/Saturday nights. Remember this is the UK, legal drinking starts at 18, city centres on Friday/Saturday nights are likely to be not somewhere you’d take your grannie for a quiet meal.
Young women in nightclubs in Birmingham city centre are likely to find themselves subject to the attentions of young males, some of those attentions will not be as welcome as some others and young women should be able to feel safe, that is true but it is not Cologne.
Nevertheless, Jess Phillips’ bit of ‘whataboutery’ successfully diverted attention away from what is a subject needing discussion to one that she thinks desperately needs more attention (ie Jess Phillips herself, hey she’s a politician after all) and a subject that does need discussion but gets it anyway (naughty teenagers and 20-somethings).