Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Whataboutisms Still Used By Russia Trolls


On another website, where Russian and pro-Russian trolls infest the comment section, the following “whataboutism” was launched today.

“The following is from Mr. Harding’s webpage.

“US actions are painfully legal, moral, and ethical. Russian aggression is usually not ethical, not moral, and often not legal.”

The statement is a manifestation of an interesting mindset and may be of diagnostic value. The legality of the US’s presence in Syria, for instance, or earlier actions against Libya or Iraq, comes to mind. The word “painfully” certainly applies, if not the other adjectives, at least from the perspective of the residents of those countries.”

These Russian trolls have not seen the angst put into planning sessions, the lawyers hovering over the sessions like hungry vultures. The trolls have not seen all the options considered, the rules, treaties, alliances, and watching international law dissected and applied in ways no mere mortal would consider. These options are briefed, discussed, and, once again, the attornies always seem to tweak the outcome. The bottom line, succinctly, is the United States never does any action without some sort of top cover.

The point of this piece is, however, about whataboutisms.

Whataboutism (also known as whataboutery) is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument, which in the United States is particularly associated with Soviet and Russian propaganda.

Rather than engaging in a real discussion, Russian trolls prefer to deflect the discussion using Whataboutisms. Any attempt at a discussion is attacked, any facts presented are undermined, only THE Russian storyline is allowed.

Granted, there is always more than one perspective in every situation. There are an almost infinite number of them.  But when Russia presents at least 15 alternative theories to the Skripal assassination failure, you often do not know which one to choose as their. position  When Putin, Lavrov, and others deflect responsibility for everything, no wonder Russian trolls choose to do the same. Even Russian leaders use whataboutisms.

Just in case you, dear reader, thought this technique went away with the Cold War, this is a gentle reminder that what was old never fell out of style. Just like the T-34 tank.

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