President Donald Trump’s opponents have learned a new word: “whataboutism.” Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans alike have embraced the term as a weapon against anyone who objects to the double standards that are routinely applied by Trump’s critics in the mainstream media.
Rather than engage that criticism, Trump-haters on both sides of the aisle simply cry “whataboutism,” as if it were a magic spell to ward off rational thought.
Charlottesville is a case in point. The media’s double standards have been evident in the widespread refusal to report that left-wing “anti-fascist” thugs came with the specific intention of using violence to shut down the free speech of white supremacists and other groups. Pointing that out does not mean condoning that speech, nor the horrific act of domestic terrorism that happened later. But it is an important part of the story, even a crucial one.
Our Constitution demands that we respect the First Amendment even — and especially — when it comes to views most Americans find abhorrent. Had Antifa merely staged a peaceful counter-protest, and had Charlottesville police done their duty, the white supremacists’ demonstration might have ended in mockery alone. Instead, the white supremacists are using the violence to recruit new members and planning future provocations elsewhere.
Moreover, amidst the hysteria about what President Trump said, or did not say, in the aftermath of Charlottesville, it is worth pointing out that President Barack Obama never disavowed Black Lives Matter even when killers inspired by that movement executed police officers in cold blood — including five who were shot by a sniper at a protest in Dallas. That does not justify murder in Virginia, but it ought to temper the destructive hysteria of Trump’s critics.
The charge of “whataboutism” is nothing more than an attempt to shield one-sided criticism of Trump. That is why members of the failed NeverTrump movement love it. During the election, they refused to accept the obvious fact that opposing Trump, or supporting a third-party protest vote, meant helping Hillary Clinton. Today, many refuse to accept that criticizing only Trump means boosting the double standards that are deployed against all conservatives.
Those double standards are deeply corrosive of democracy as a whole. The fact that the mainstream media, for example, overlooked or defended mistakes by Obama that they treat as impeachable offenses by Trump means that legitimate criticism of the administration is often taken less seriously.
Rather than shout “whataboutism,” Trump’s opponents should apply the same standards to all, and protect the principles that we should all hold in common.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.