The “Whataboutism” Defense

This would be laughable, were it not so dangerous.

By Anatole d’Ecotopia

Photo: Mika Baumeister

Among the many factors contributing to the swift and decisive defenestration of Liz Cheney was her obtuse unwillingness to turn the upcoming January 6 Commission into an opportunity to examine the role played by Antifa and BLM in… well, something… anything.

With Big Liz now sidelined, the unindicted congressional co-defendants in the January 6 insurrectionist riot are relatively unrestrained from turning the entire commission into one long and tedious exercise in “whataboutism” — because as long as there is even the slightest evidence of political violence carried out on in any other part of the political spectrum, it remains — in the view of those unindicted co-defendants — an unfair exercise in persecution to expect that the traitorous white supremacist trash for which our disgraced former president has express his undying love… might ever be held to account.

At present, negotiations to even hold commission hearings are stalled on this point — with Republicans insisting upon being able to ask “well, what about Antifa?” A special gift in this pointlessness: The revelation that one of the participants in the January 6 riot was a member of Nation of Islam. What about that, eh?

The only problem is that it happens to not be true.

The individual in question, Noah Green, claimed to be a member of Nation of Islam — but Mr. Green claimed a number of things… prior to being shot by police in April after ramming his vehicle into a police barricade. Even though Nation of Islam subsequently set straight the matter of Green’s non-membership, the whataboutism persists. It has, in fact, only gotten started.

This is partly fueled by persistent disinformation claiming the January 6 insurrection was actually the work of Antifa, a claim with no more basis in reality than the persistent “Big Lie” that sparked the insurrection in the first place.

But a larger factor is that membership in the Republican Party is now contingent upon belief in what effectively amounts to an alternative reality in which Donald Trump is the actual president of the United States. Worse and further: The litmus test for party leadership has become fealty to the party’s Dear Leader in Exile. Those who fail to journey to Mar-a-Largo to kiss the ring… run the risk of following Liz Cheney out the window.

This would be laughable, were it not so dangerous. The current political structure of the United States requires two fully functional majority political parties that agree to occupy the same universe — even if they can agree on little else. As long as Democrats have only a slim majority in Congress and Republicans have only a slim grasp of reality, the primary means of getting anything done will be an aggressively active president with a willingness to take executive action.

So far, we are lucky enough to have exactly that. Joe Biden has not only exceeded the low expectations of progressives, he has shown that his predecessor’s description of a “sleepy” Joe Biden is no more true than any other of the would-be dictator’s slanders.

But this is not a state of affairs that can continue. An activist president will only engender further resentment and resistance from those who subscribe to the lie of his illegitimacy. A narrow congressional majority in favor of progressive change is not sufficient to accomplish the widespread change this country requires.

A real January 6 commission, focused on the real events that occurred that day and fundamentally refuting the lies leading to those events… is absolutely necessary. Republican attempts to deflect those events into a wider discussion of political violence, while seeking to simultaneously discredit legitimate acts of resistance and legitimize treason… are themselves a further act of treason.

“Whataboutism” is just the latest Big Lie, the latest attempt to defend the indefensible. Until those lies are defeated, defused, and repudiated… the risk faced on January 6th is a risk that remains.

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