At this point, you already know exactly what it means to say “Whataboutism with False Equivalence”, as it is the only response to questions of accountability that the right-wing has offered. This may seem a blanket statement and generalization, but it is easy enough to verify for yourself – simple go to any social media platform and make a point about Donald Trump (or any Republican) being held accountable for their actions. You will see it in every response from the right.
Presently, it is being used to rationalize the behavior of the right-wing insurrectionists during their attack on the Capitol which resulted in the death of Capitol police officers, the destruction of property, and the ensuing lose of freedoms that will come in response. The right-wing response is to bring up protestors over the summer supporting BLM. There are a couple of glaring issues with this response, however. First, most of the BLM protests were peaceful. In many of the situations where destruction of property occurred, it was being incited by right-wing saboteurs hoping to incite more violence, so they could rationalize the continuation of their own. Most importantly, Black Lives Matter wasn’t a movement aiming to steal an election through election fraud, violence, and sedition. Black Lives Matter wasn’t plotting to kidnap and hold hostage State Governors. Black Lives Matter was marching as a result of being killed – the right wing marches with the rhetoric to kill. You won’t see nooses and flags from treasonous groups who waged war against America in support of slavery at a Black Lives Matter event.
Mentioning these facts to someone on the right-wing would be pointless. The depths of their confirmation bias is such that most either program themselves to believe anything their political sports-team offers, or they simply play stupid and go along with it because they think that lies, when weaponized against their opposing political sports-team, are “fair-game”. This word is important, because it defines the root of the violence we will see escalate in the coming years.
“Fair-game” means that lies are acceptable if they discredit or diminish political opponents of the right-wing. It means that your lives don’t matter to them. If you are killed by them, the ones doing the killing will be celebrated as a hero. If they engage you online, they do not need to acknowledge any fact you make, or acknowledge any lie they get caught in. Integrity only counts among their own. If you are not a supporter of their exact politics, you are their enemy.
In reality, whataboutism is a counter-productive argument. At its base, it is an attempt to draw a comparison to the bad behavior of your “team” by claiming the other team does it to. When the right-wing use it, the intent is to position their opposition as hypocrites. In reality, it is an attempt to rationalize their own actions by arguing that their opposition are just as bad and corrupt as they are.
“President” Trump’s biggest contribution to the discourse is based in this rhetoric strategy. At any point in his career, “Teflon-Don” deflects accountability by projecting his crimes onto his accusers. If he is accused of corruption, those making the accusations are suddenly corrupt. If he is caught courting foreign countries for help in the election, he simply projects that back on to those that caught him. When being investigated for treasonous acts, those investigators become the traitors. Taking a cue from Trump, tthe right-wing has adopted this policy as the foundation of their political platform. A platform based not on any ideas, but on simple, unrelenting opposition.
There is no way to engage whataboutism with false equivalence in any productive way. No one has ever “won” an argument with those who engage in these tactics, as these individuals will reject any point made. When the whataboutism and false equivalence is called out, they will simply deflect, or ironically accuse you of engaging in the behavior. The only response to it is to call it out, and even then, it is unlikely that “they” are going to learn the error of their ways. They are beyond the point of “productive discourse”, and they engage specifically to bicker pointlessly as a way to either reinforce their belief system, vent political frustrations online, or harass others for believing differently than they.
It is because of this that engaging with the right-wing is a zero-sum game.