what·​about·​ism ˌ(h)wä-tə-ˈbau̇-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce whataboutism (audio)
plural whataboutisms
: the act or practice of responding to an accusation of wrongdoing by claiming that an offense committed by another is similar or worse
The exchange is indicative of a rhetorical strategy known as whataboutism, which occurs when officials implicated in wrongdoing whip out a counter-example of a similar abuse from the accusing country, with the goal of undermining the legitimacy of the criticism itself. Olga Khazan
By whataboutism I mean the way any discussion can be short-circuited by saying "but what about x???" where x is usually something that's not really equivalent but is close enough to turn the conversation into mush. Touré
also : the response itself
They accomplish it by muddying the waters and distracting from international criticisms with whataboutisms such as telling the world that there's nothing exceptional about America. Alex Zeldin

called also (chiefly British) whataboutery

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Word History


what about [X]? + -ism

First Known Use

1978, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of whataboutism was in 1978

Dictionary Entries Near whataboutism

Cite this Entry

“Whataboutism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whataboutism. Accessed 30 Sep. 2022.

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