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Humanities Section => Philosophy & Rhetoric General Discussion => Topic started by: Shiranu on May 27, 2021, 04:12:07 AM

Title: A Rebuttal to "Whataboutism" (Tu Quoque/Red Herring)
Post by: Shiranu on May 27, 2021, 04:12:07 AM
"Whataboutism" at it's core is a mix of tu quoque and Red Herring fallacies; it intentionally tries to muddy the argument and shift the discussion away from the subject and aim it towards either the opponent themselves or more often the perceived social group of the opponent.

To summarize...
- Person A claims statement X is the truth.
- Person B in return claims that Person A and/or Group A have done things that are inconsistent with claim X.
- Ergo claim X is false.This does not serve to answer if X is true or false; it shifts the argument away from understanding the truth.

However, if we continue using the fallacy it actually still can be used to prove if the claim is true or not, simply by staying on topic and acknowledging their statement.

Let's use theft for an example.

A = Person A , B = Person B
A. It's bad when a politician steals $10,000.
B. You say theft is bad, but whatabout that time you were accused of stealing $100? What right do you have to judge?
A. If you believe that the time I was accused of theft was bad and thus I have no right to judge, then you are agreeing theft is bad. Therefor if you logically find my act of stealing $100 to be bad, then the act of stealing $10,000 must be even worse.

Ultimately, confronting a whataboutism with it's logical outcome either corners the opponent in to admitting your initial remark was correct or forces them to continue to deflect; however at this point it has been made obvious what they are doing, and anyone who does not see that cannot be reasonably persuaded as they are not thinking logically but purely emotionally. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do at that point other than hope it slowly sinks in.

Long story short; don't get mad when people use whataboutisms and play into their hand by leaving the original topic, instead reverse-uno them by agreeing with their statement and use it as a tool to prove yourself right. You can even find their rebuttal absolutely insane and completely detached from reality, but by acknowledging it (regardless of it's accuracy or not) you still give yourself the upper-hand in the debate.
Title: Re: A Rebuttal to "Whataboutism" (Tu Quoque/Red Herring)
Post by: SGOS on May 27, 2021, 07:33:02 AM
I don't think refuting a whataboutism can be understood by the whataboutist, and whataboutism, even as a fallacy, remains a powerful argument to the whataboutists.  They don't see a fallacy, they see a valid argument.   All during the Trump years, whataboutism was an action to justify the hate crimes of the white majority.  Black lives matter was wrecking America, they claimed, because it was a violent form of protest.  You may say that it was not whataboutism, because it was not a direct response to a clearly stated claim, but whataboutism before the fact, was the justification for what they wanted.  So killing pedestrians as in the Charlottesville car attack, is legitimized, along with the Capitol insurrection by white supremacists who would overthrow democracy.

These people are either incapable of logic, or hate it, so don't expect them to consider a logical fallacy, which has nothing to do with their life agendas.  Whataboutism was pointed out time and time again to Baruch.  He never once acknowledged his fallacious thinking.  Instead, he would immediately make more whataboutist statements.  Granted, he may have been smart enough to know what he was doing, and was simply using his abuses as a way to anger others.  But either way, arguing logically against illogical thinkers, or just plain assholes has little effect.
Title: Re: A Rebuttal to "Whataboutism" (Tu Quoque/Red Herring)
Post by: GSOgymrat on May 27, 2021, 09:27:26 AM
But either way, arguing logically against illogical thinkers, or just plain assholes has little effect.

We are all illogical thinkers. Logic is a useful tool but it isn't the way people normally make most decisions-- we don't typically operate using logical proofs. Pointing out logical fallacies is one method of persuasion but in my experience it isn't the best because it tends to come off as patronizing and adversarial. Revealing logical fallacies is best in a debate when trying to win over an impartial audience, not change the mind of the opponent or people who are emotionally invested in an outcome. This is why it isn't very effective with Trump supporters, who are very emotionally invested.

If the goal is to persuade someone to change their mind, it's more effective to guide rather than confront. The thing I like about Shiranu's approach is that he's finding commonality.

Quote
B. You say theft is bad, but whatabout that time you were accused of stealing $100? What right do you have to judge?

I'm glad we agree that theft is bad. As someone who has been accused of theft, I understand how serious it is to make that charge. That's why I'm so concerned that someone who is in a position of public trust and influence has been accused of stealing such a large amount of money. Can we agree that a public official stealing a large amount of money is something we should be concerned about?
Title: Re: A Rebuttal to "Whataboutism" (Tu Quoque/Red Herring)
Post by: Hydra009 on May 27, 2021, 03:39:04 PM
We are all illogical thinkers.
While that's true, there's often a bit of a gulf in terms of magnitude.  It's one thing to think that maybe space aliens exist somewhere, it's quite another to think that the President is secretly a reptilian alien.

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Pointing out logical fallacies is one method of persuasion but in my experience it isn't the best because it tends to come off as patronizing and adversarial.
*whistles innocently*

Gotta put that logic 101 class to use somehow.  And it's a great way of finding weak links in someone's argument and therefore have good cause to object to the conclusion.  (Not to imply that fallacious logic automatically means the accompanying conclusion is false, only that the conclusion is questionable)

Also, it gives me a good bead on a person's character - if they acknowledge a weakness and attempt to revise the argument or conclusion, I know they're strong thinkers.  If they complain about "being attacked" or just double-down on the unsound argument, I know they're weak thinkers.

Quote
Revealing logical fallacies is best in a debate when trying to win over an impartial audience, not change the mind of the opponent or people who are emotionally invested in an outcome. This is why it isn't very effective with Trump supporters, who are very emotionally invested.

If the goal is to persuade someone to change their mind, it's more effective to guide rather than confront.
If you know of any way to get through to those people, let me know.  Personally, I think that changing their minds is borderline impossible, so I focus on the audience.  I doubt many people put much thought into analyzing the structure of arguments presented to them and instead focus on whether or not the conclusion is "reasonable" from their perspective.  This can lead to people agreeing with faulty arguments simply because they agree with the conclusion.  So taking a step back is absolutely vital to avoid getting suckered in by a bad argument.
Title: Re: A Rebuttal to "Whataboutism" (Tu Quoque/Red Herring)
Post by: Hydra009 on May 27, 2021, 03:50:11 PM
Kind of off topic, but have you guys noticed a correlation between brevity and soundness?

In the OP, Shiranu kept it clear and concise.  That's a great sign of strong thinking.
Sometimes, I read walls of text with UPPER CASE and no punctuation and I think to myself this person is NUTS!
Title: Re: A Rebuttal to "Whataboutism" (Tu Quoque/Red Herring)
Post by: Shiranu on May 27, 2021, 04:01:44 PM
Quote
I don't think refuting a whataboutism can be understood by the whataboutist, and whataboutism, even as a fallacy, remains a powerful argument to the whataboutists.

Agreed and disagreed.

While I think there are a lot of people who use it maliciously because they genuinely are not interested in debate but just screaming their opinion, I have noticed more and more that even people genuinely interested in a topic will use this argument, and when you point that out they actually will concede your point.

I think quite a few people who use that argument just legitimately do so because it's how they were taught to view the subject in question and not out of a deep conviction of their own. You kinda just have to guess and hope for the best, but generally the people who are not at all interested in debating are easy-ish to pick out.

It's not even guaranteed to make them change their mind, but by kinda offering a peace branch by agreeing with them it forces them to think about the position they hold a little bit more which, to me, is always a good thing (especially if the alternative is just keep yelling louder and louder at one another).
Title: Re: A Rebuttal to "Whataboutism" (Tu Quoque/Red Herring)
Post by: Shiranu on May 27, 2021, 04:09:06 PM
Quote from: GSOgymrat
Revealing logical fallacies is best in a debate when trying to win over an impartial audience, not change the mind of the opponent or people who are emotionally invested in an outcome.

Quote from: Hydra009
Personally, I think that changing their minds is borderline impossible, so I focus on the audience.  I doubt many people put much thought into analyzing the structure of arguments presented to them and instead focus on whether or not the conclusion is "reasonable" from their perspective.

Exactly this.