I recently stumbled over an issue. One answer in a comment mentioned "Whataboutism" and I thought to myself "What the hell is that?".

It is claimed even in Wikipedia that the word was used in a Cold War context. I looked some of the claims up and it seems that this term gets more and more en vogue since the article of "Whataboutism" from Edward Lucas 2008 in the "Economist". The problem is that there is no reference of this term neither in the Oxford Englisch Dictionary from 1989 nor is it encountered in Google Ngrams. It simply isn't used until 2008.

The problem I have is that I feel duped. Most articles using now the term are in recent history and almost all reiterate the claim that it was already used in the Cold War. I condensed my findings in this answer.

Carpetsmoker pointed not without merit out that it does not answer the question. How should questions be handled which use (even unknowingly) deceptive usage of words? Should the deceptive use pointed out? Is it important enough to merit an answer or should it always be a comment risking that someone deletes it?

Sorry, I did not find the duplicate if it exists. But pointers to other questions with similar problems are welcome.


2 Answers 2


Philipp summarized it up very well, but I see yet another factor that may improve the OP's experience at StackExchange, so posting it here. The very same thing happens to me occasionally as well, so I think I know what I'm talking about.

The problem is, you haven't read the question's body well enough and so you've been answering the question's title.

The OP was asking, how to withstand a specific phenomenon that happens in political discussions and drives them useless. For clarity, the OP has chosen a certain term which may or may not be relevant (someone may say it's just a "logical fallacy" or "demagogy", you name it).
Your answer was about the term, probably because the title was confusing, and it appeared totally off-topic for a political site. The terminology section could be a part of an answer if it proves the main point of your answer, but it appeared the single idea within.

And yes, the Moderators can single-handedly delete the posts which are unlikely to salvage. Since you always see your posts, even the deleted ones, you can re-use any information from within.

Summary: when answering questions, make sure you clearly know what the OP needs. If in doubt, better clarify it in a comment (and wait for the OP's reply) and only then post your answer.


I'm sorry, but this observation is completely off-topic as an answer to the question and even off-topic for Politics.SE in general (which is why I deleted it).

The question when and how the term "whataboutism" entered the English language might be relevant on English Stackexchange but it is rather irrelevant on Politics.SE (even though it is a phrase which describes discussion culture which might be about political topics).

If you don't find the term appropriate to phrase the question, you can point that out in the comments to the question or even better suggest an edit with a more appropriate term. But I don't see how the term is inappropriate. Everyone seems to understand what the question is about. Whether the term was introduced into the English language 100 years ago or 10 years ago and the factual correctness of the Wikiedia article about it is pretty much irrelevant. I also don't see anything deceptive about the term. It is just a neologism which is a synonym for the Latin phrase tu quoque, but more accessible due to the English etymology.


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