A friend shared a story from someone who had been in a very similar position to Dominic Cummings but had followed the quarantine rules. It was difficult for that person to follow the rules, but it was the right thing to do. They were justifiably annoyed that Dominic Cummings had ignored the quarantine rules and potentially exposed a lot of other people to Coronavirus.
The very first comment on the shared post included the phrase "What about..." It's a textbook start for some whataboutery, and then it kicked into an unexpected direction. Here's the post.
In case you can't read the reply, here it is a bit bigger.
It reads as follows:
"Think it's time to move on. Starter is a hypocrite and CANNOT be trusted. What about the French escorting migrants to British eaters and dumping there? Where it the new coverage over this - nowhere and the media wiggle to be the best at destroying someone it goes over their pathetic agenda." [sic]
I told you it was quality whataboutery. It was clearly typed in a hurry by someone in a rush to tick lots of boxes. "Time to move on." they say. I have a lot to say about that phrase. It's the catchphrase of an authoritarian person who does not want to be held to account for their actions. (That's a future blog post right there.)
By "Starter", they actually mean Starmer, as in Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party. Apparently he "CANNOT be trusted". The use of CAPS is beloved of whatabouterists. But who said anything about Starmer? This, again, is an attempt to bring the "other side" in and pretend this is only a political argument. It was heartening to see that subsequent commenters just ignored this libellous comment and avoided the trap of defending Starmer. That's not the subject in hand and the distraction was ignored.
Then we get the "What about...?" Just to clarify, they mean migrants being escorted to British waters, not to British eaters. E and W are easy keys to mix up when you're keen to get your comment in. I thought I'd best explain, just in case you were worried about cannibalism.
I have no idea what relevance the French navy's actions have to the discussion at hand. It's a classic example of an attempt at derailment and deflection - let's talk about another issue! Why isn't that news?
And they're still not finished. This is a real kitchen sink job - everything is going in! As we saw in my previous post, the actions of the media are criticised. They are trying to destroy Dominic Cummings in pursuit of "their pathetic agenda". Again, no acknowledgment that none of this would have happened if Dominic Cummings had not broken quarantine law, or had resigned when the story broke. No, this is all the media's fault. Blame-shifting is an important aspect of whataboutery.
In my previous posts I've blacked out the names of the people making the posts. I almost didn't bother with this one because they sound like a racist and I think people should own their shit when it comes to that sort of thing. But I'm nice. However, I did reply to him, as follows.
"[To Name] I agree it's disgusting that migrants aren't helped safely ashore and cared for. More should be done for them. They shouldn't just be dumped."
They haven't responded to that. That's probably because whatabouterists aren't actually looking for a sensible debate on the points they ask 'what about' about. They just throw stuff into the mixer to confuse the conversation and obscure the point of it. I wasn't expecting a response and did it mainly for my own amusement, and also because I like pushing the buttons of people who blame all the ills of society on immigration.
I'm concluding this mini-series of blog posts about whataboutery here. I suspect we will continue to see a lot of it on social media in the coming months though.